Warren Bird Discusses Latest Multisite Church Trends


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warren-birdWarren Bird is the head of research at Leadership Network. This week he published the Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard … the largest study of the multisite movement ever done. This report is full of fascinating insights into this explosive part of the body of Christ. It’s a free download … you should pick it up! Today I’m honored to have Warren on the show giving you some insights into and beyond the numbers.

Warren Bird // [Website]  [twitter] [email]

Interview Highlights //

00:30 // Warren is the Director of Research and Intellectual Capital at the Leadership Network

01:04 // The Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard is the largest ever survey of multisite churches

01:45 // Rich and others contributed to generating the questions asked in the report

02:30 // Warren’s biggest surprise was that 87% of multisite churches saw an increase in lay involvement when they launched.

03:10 // Rich has experienced that the launching of a campus is the best way to mobilize people into service

03:30 // 85% of multisite churches are growing at a rate of 14% per year

04:40 // Multisite is no longer a movement of only mega churches

06:23 // The average church has been multisite for 4 years

08:09 // Size of core group / launch team depends on church size and scale

09:25 // Vast majority of Campus Pastors are hired internally

12:55 // Rich’s question was answered: 57% of multisite plan to launch again in the next 12 months.

13:25 // Email your potential survey questions to [email protected]

Interview Transcript //

Rich – Alright, good morning! Happy Thursday everybody. Hope you are having a great week. You have reached the unSeminary Podcast. My name’s Rich Birch, the host around here. Today we have a real treat. We’ve got Warren Bird on the line. Warren is the Director of Research and Intellectual Property. I believe that’s your title, isn’t it Warren?

Warren – Ya, Intellectual Capital, whatever sounds good, I’ll take.

Rich – Nice. At Leadership Network. And this week you might have heard around the web, there was a report that’s super important. I think every church leader should take a look at this. The Leadership Network Generis Multisite Score Card. And so Warren why don’t we start by you telling us, what is the Score Card?

Warren – Well, we did the largest ever survey of multisite churches. The vast majority were in the United States, then Canada after that, then Europe after that and so forth. And we pulled it all together, then we have the naming sponsorship of Generis, which is why their name gets in the title. And also they did a section later in the report on funding because the money question, probably better the stewardship question, the generosity question is a big part of how do we make multisite work. So they landed in on that part and it’s a great report. It’s got over 25, at least I thought there were 25 big discoveries of ‘Wow!’ We came up with most of the questions by asking people, actually Rich you were among the different ones. We said ‘Hey, what are people wanting to know out there?’ Of course we asked a bunch of multisite leaders themselves and then we built that into the survey.

Rich – Absolutely. Now, like you said, there’s 25 of these kind of surprises, what are one or two of them that, to you as the author, were particularly surprising? That kind of jump to the top for you. Because this isn’t the first time that you have done a report like this. This is the second or third time that you’ve done a report on multisite. What were the things that kind of jumped out this time for you?

Warren – Well, actually one of the few questions we asked a second time, because it was my biggest surprise that we did in the last round in 2010, was about lay involvement. It was a simple question, ‘Since you became multisite, did your lay involvement level increase, remain the same, or decrease?’ And to our absolutely surprise, again the upper 80th percentile, so like 9/10 churches said it’s increased.

Rich – Wow!

Warren – Which really goes against any stereotype that people have ‘it’s just a talking head and a bunch of spectators.’ No! Not at all. A mobilization vehicle as well.

Rich – Hmmm. You know, over the years, that’s one of those things that I have said just in my own church, and to other churches, ‘The best way, the most predicable way that I know of, to mobilize lots of people into service, is to launch a new campus.’ I’ve seen that time and time again in our own context.

Rich – Anything else that jumped out in those top one or two from a surprising point of view?

Warren – Well, another big surprise was how many are growing. 85% of the churches surveyed said they were growing. And not just growing at a small rate. It averages at about 14% per year since they went multisite. Now that doesn’t not mean that becoming multisite makes you start growing. What it does mean, at least the way that we understood it was that these are churches that are going somewhere, they’ve got momentum and multisite became a vehicle to extend that momentum. ‘OK, so the city zoning board says we can’t build bigger. Fine, we will take the church elsewhere.’ Or ‘So there’s a group over here that may not come over to where we are. May not work with our style of building…we’ll take church to them.’ And so it’s disciple making, great commission kind of stuff and it’s just another path to do so.

Rich – Right. Now one of the things that I noticed, that it seems like the size of church that is going multisite is shrinking. And it seems like every time we talk about it in one of these reports, it comes out smaller and smaller. It’s hovering at that kind of 1000 or 1100 or some where in that range. Why do you suspect that is?

Warren – Ok, first just to affirm, yes originally multisite was the domain of mega churches, 2000 and higher and it keeps inching down. The average from ‘when did you go multisite?’ is 1200 according to that survey, but we think that’s high still because we have a disproportionate, because Leadership Network tends to work with larger churches and they tend to therefore do our survey’s more than others. So we’ve kind of got a lopsided effect of bigger churches. Now you really asked the question, ‘Why?’ And I think there’s several reasons. First, because it’s been done out there. People are saying ‘if they can do it, and they can do it, then maybe this is something that our church can do.’

Rich – Right.

Warren – The common knowledge of how to do it. I was part of two books, ‘Multi-site Revolution’ and ‘Multi-site Church Road Trip’, there have been conferences, everything else is out there so that the training is available. The technology get’s simpler and simpler for how do you do multisite. That’s not just video teaching. You may choose to do that. It’s how do we communicate across campuses? How do we share information? How do we make the website so that ‘Hey, pick your campus’ and all that? There are many different pieces of the technology that are becoming easier.

Rich – Nice. That relates to another part of the report where I’ve often wondered, we talk about, I think the oldest church in your survey was 26 years was it, 23 years?

Warren – Twenty three years. We have had several that have been multisite for 23 years but another big surprise was that the average, the median for ‘how long have you been multisite?’ was 4 years. Which says, wow, this is a new, ongoing, recent development.

Rich – I was amazed at that part of the survey where it talked about churches that have been around for a long time. But it seems like the movement has really exploded over the last 10 years, and then if anything it seems to be picking up momentum. It’s a real upswing in people anticipating or thinking about going multisite. Why do you think that is?

Warren – It’s much like years ago when you went to a second worship service. It’s like ‘Oh, we’ve got the facilities. We’ve got the staff. If God is going to entrust some more souls into our care, why don’t we do a second service?’ So ultimately the why is a great commission, disciple making response. Why multisite? Because it’s just one more tool that can easily be used, and that seems in many cases to have good fruit.

Rich – Nice. Now one of the conversations that I seem to find myself in all the time with churches that are thinking about going multisite, is the whole core group size that they are launching out into a new location. Talk us through what you learned about from an industry perspective, what churches are doing on that side.

Warren – Well we asked a few questions on that. First we ask, ‘Tell us the make up of your launch team.’ No surprise. It was 2/3 adults and 1/3 kids. So whatever numbers I am about to give you, just think of them in that ratio. Then people say, ‘Ok, so tell me the average launch team size.” And I don’t want to do that. In the report…which is a free download, and I am not just saying this to get people to read the report, although I think you will benefit a lot more than you will from hearing me… if I give you a number, then you will generalize that for you. Now what we did was we took different church sizes and we said “Ok, what was the launch team size for you?’ So you can imagine a church of 10, 000 is probably going to do a different launch team size than a church of 500 that goes multisite. And also it’s model specific. If you are launching and you are going to have a full service across town where we do everything and it’s a stand alone and you are never going to need to come to the sending campus, well you are going to launch on a different scale than if you are seeding a new area as you are planting a church and building from the ground up.

Rich – Very good. One of the parts, obviously a big part of this is leadership development. Campus pastors are critical in this whole thing, and one of the things that surprised me was the high number of campus pastors that were found internally, partially, just to be honest because we have typically looked outside because we have had a hard time raising those people up internally. Now what have you sensed as patterns? I know you can’t speak to churches specifically but what are some patterns you have seen in leadership development, and raising up leaders, either through this study, or just your interacting with multisite churches?

Warren – Ok first a number, 87% of churches have a campus pastor and the actual number is higher, campus pastor who devotes 3/4 or more of their time to a specific campus. Those 13% who didn’t we asked ‘Well, why not?’ and they said ‘Oh we do, we are just between campus pastors.” Or “We do, we just split the campus pastor between our two smaller sites.’ Also, another question we asked, ‘Who do you hire? Who was the first person hired for your new campus?’ And campus pastor rated the highest. Now ‘Where do you get those campus pastors?’ we asked, and the vast majority as you pointed out are internal. Now internal means two different things. On the one hand it may mean a true homegrown person. We one this person to Christ. They began to lead small groups. They began to coach small groups. There was a pathway where this is a natural progression where you say ‘Great, I think you’ve got the gifts and the calling. Take this next step and lead the campus.’ But campus pastors are also hired in a sense that maybe you were brought on from the outside, but you spend 6 months, a year, two years, really getting the DNA of the church, so that when you go out to launch the campus, you embody who the church is and all about them. So in a certain sense you have hired that person from the outside, but in another sense, they are homegrown and you have really built them into your church first.

Rich – Right, ok. Well Warren I have really appreciated your time today. Just one last question before you go. You are a busy guy, got other people to talk to. What’s one thing, a question, that you’ve come to the end of this report, you have it all printed and it looks nice, the graphic designer hands it back to you and then you are like ‘Gosh, we should have asked that question!’ What’s one of those questions that you wished you would have asked this time around?

Warren – Well first, I had never done a survey this long. We gathered up so many questions from people like you, Rich. You helped us on the survey questions and a lot of multisite people we asked ‘Hey, what do you want to know about other multisites?’ It was very difficult to pare down so we said, let’s just make a longer survey. That’s why we have like 25+ discoveries because we asked so many questions. But even so, yes, there are other questions that I am accumulating. And while I have my interests, I am more interested in people writing to me at [email protected],and tell me what you would like to know and I will put that in my folder of potential questions because that’s how I build all our surveys. We really want to serve churches. What are their felt needs? What are the questions they are asking? How can we put some tools back into their hands?

Rich – One of the questions that I had submitted to you, and it was fun to see it come actually in the final report, it was the question around what percentage of churches are looking at launching a new campus, and I was surprised when that number came out at 57% of churches in the next 12 months. Because in the last report, we didn’t’ have that kind of, we knew what we had, but we didn’t’ know if people intended to launch new campuses and I was, it was encouraging to see that! If people have got a question like that I would encourage you to email that in. [email protected] and you never know. It might end up in one of the world famous, Warren Bird reports in the future.

Warren – The report is a free download and we are just eager to put it in your hands and Rich will give you the link for that.

Rich – Ya, the link will be in the notes. It’s at I am sure you will have a big splash page to find it, but we will also link to it today. Warren, thanks so much for your time.

Warren – God bless you in your ministry, Rich. You are on the front lines. Keep at it.

Rich – Thank you.

1 Comment

  1. […] Warren Bird and Leadership Network have again released a study that church leaders need to pay attention to! This time they’ve set out to study 727 large churches (1,000-30,000 in weekend attendance) through the Leadership Network/Vanderbloemen 2014 Large Church Salary Report. You should take some time to dig through this report, because you’ll find some fascinating insights into the operation of churches making a difference in their communities. Here are some findings that jumped out to me…but I’d like to hear what you noticed! […]

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.