Are Multi-site Churches the New Circuits?

Resurrection Downtown

The home of the new Resurrection Downtown. (UMNS photo by Fred Koenig)

I just read how Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv is encouraging the United Methodist Church to transform dying congregations into multi-site churches. We are already seeing that start to happen with the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection going into downtown Kansas City. This all leads me to wonder whether our technological age is enabling these multi-site churches to be the circuits of today.

In early Methodism preachers would ride on horseback to several congregations over a large area. The number of ordained clergy was so small that some congregations would only be served the sacraments four times a year. John Wesley, one of Methodism’s founders, himself was known for traveling around Britain preaching wherever he went.

Today, preachers do not need to travel to spread their message to congregations far and wide. Worship services may be broadcast instantaneously across the internet to far flung bodies of celebrants. Nevertheless, these multi-site congregations realize the importance of gathering the people. They typically have local clergy who are in charge of the pastoral care of the people and providing the sacraments on a more frequent basis than was the case in early Methodism.

This multi-site method of congregational development allows for clergy to specialize in preaching, pastoral care or other areas of ministry. Local churches do not need to be formally connected with the preacher’s congregation, but can independently conduct their own program while streaming the sermons from the well known pastor.

I have mixed feelings about this development, but I do believe it is worth exploring. Why not have multi-site congregations if they help to bring the message of Jesus Christ to more people? How would your congregation be able to expand its ministry if the pastor did not need to focus on the sermon each week?

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