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Why Multisite?

We hope you'll take some time to watch this video and check out the info below. It helps explain why we meet in two locations and what we believe God wants to do through us we do.

In the early 2000’s, Central experienced a season of significant growth that brought our Connors Hill facility to its capacity for Sunday morning services. At that time our church worked through a process to decide how to manage the higher numbers of people who were participating in the life of Central. Through over a decade of praying, talking, thinking, trying, and retrying, we increasingly have felt led to adopt a multisite strategy in order to steward the church’s growth and extend God’s Kingdom. We believe it is a practical way to welcome new people, deepen relationships and move on mission together.

“Multisite” refers to one church that meets for worship and ministry in multiple locations. It means a growing family of congregations that share together in vision, staff, leadership, resources and key events in whatever way is most helpful to the Kingdom.

From 2003-2011, Central became a multisite church. During these years we held two Sunday worship services upstairs in the sanctuary concurrent with two “satellite” services in the gym. In 2012, we launched a true “second site” at a different location in southeast Edmonton.

In 2015, our staff and leadership took some time seeking to clarify the reasons that we feel led to walk with our church in this direction. Although the leadership has prayed and talked for years about the “Why?” behind multisite, we believe there is a need to articulate and communicate them clearly. The seven reasons below are the results of the process, and they identify the key reasons that compel us to continue in this direction as a church.

1. Multisite keeps our focus on the Great Commission and multiplication.

Multisite is missional at its core, starting with the recognition that healthy things grow! Throughout Jesus’ teaching we see that multiplication is a Kingdom reality. When Jesus is around, things multiply. Pursuing a multisite strategy pushes us to expect and pursue growth, not for our own glory, but for God’s. It keeps our focus as a church not just on who we are but also on who we are becoming.

2. Multisite is an effective way of moving past facility limitations.

If a church grows there are at least three things it could do: (1) build a bigger building, (2) plant a new church, or (3) start a new congregation (multisite). Each choice allows a church to continue to welcome more people into its ministry, and at different times Central has done all three. We believe that multisite is not only a valid option but also the best option for us to pursue at this time.

3. Multisite has some key advantages to traditional church-planting.

The key difference between multisite and traditional church-planting is that a planted multisite congregation maintains a vital, life-giving connection with the mother church, and this makes a huge difference in the potential for success. In North America, 80% of traditional church plants fail within the first 5 years, while 80% of multisite church-plants are still thriving at the end of 5 years. Research shows that this is due to the incredible amount of effort and emotional commitment that is required to birth a new church and the strength of sharing this burden more fully with a “mother” church, especially in the early years.

4. Multisite honours and continues Central’s legacy.

Since its beginning in 1900, Central has planted over a dozen churches throughout the city. Multisite carries on this legacy in a refreshed and effective way and continues to value the ultimate goals of welcoming new people and birthing new congregations.

5. Multisite helps to maintain the goal of growing deep relationships with other believers.

Many churches seek to increase the size of their building as their congregations grow. While this allows everyone to continue to gather in the same place, we believe it also can make it more difficult to experience warm, deep relationships. Multisite allows for continued growth while maintaining more reasonably sized worship gatherings where people have a greater chance of deeply knowing and being known by others.

We’ve often said our goal is “not too big, not too small.” It’s great to have a community that’s big enough to be able to do things well, especially ministries like worship and kids which can be difficult with too few people. But it’s also ideal to keep the gathering from becoming so big that it’s difficult to know others and be known.

6. Multisite allows for long-term neighbourhood relationships.

We believe the places that God provides for our buildings are important to him. Especially for older, more land-locked neighbourhoods, often the only way to build a larger facility is to move. Although we are a regional church with people coming from many different parts of the Edmonton area, many are increasingly desiring to participate in a church that is closer to home with the good goal of becoming more meaningfully involved in life in and around their neighbourhood.

Multisite allows us to grow more connected to a neighbourhood without feeling that we need to leave if we get too big. Relationships take time, and multisite lets us take the long view and seek to really know and serve our neighbours. Yet as as the congregation grows, multisite continually offers the “release valve opportunity" of launching new congregations in different locations. We believe this honours the place where God has planted us, gives us increased opportunities with our neighbours, and simultaneously allows God to call out and commission people to start new things in other places.

7. Multisite continually provides room to welcome new people.

Multisite keeps us in a place where we always can “handle” growth. When a group of people exit a congregation to start something new, it provides room for new people. There are always more places to meet which means there is always room for the next person. It also has the potential for more organic, exponential growth. Living cells don’t just grow...they divide. One becomes two, two become four, and four become eight. This truly takes us past addition towards the potential for multiplication.

A Final Note. Despite the advantages that we see with the multisite model, we can’t forget that starting new congregations is tough work. Inheriting a farm is a whole lot easier than clearing new land and starting from scratch. We believe it’s wonderful when a new church is born, but we know birth is still painful and babies take a lot of work, especially when they’re young. While we believe multisite is the right approach for our church, we have no expectation that it will be easy or that success is guaranteed. Already in the first decade of our work in this area we have experienced seasons of difficulty for a variety of reasons. In particular, the movement of people between congregations, while fruitful, can be relationally difficult as people find themselves no longer worshipping together with some people they have grown to love.

However, we also believe it’s worth it. We have been called by Jesus to continually have eyes for the next person, to include others, and to share Jesus’ life and salvation with the nations. We know that things that are painful can be beautifully life-giving if they result from following God’s leading. Multisite is a strategic, structured approach that builds the potential for multiplication (and the need to keep talking about it) right into the life and structure of our church. We believe it is a practical way to welcome new people, deepen relationships and move on mission together.