Multi-Sites or Fresh Expressions? Which is Better for Your Church?

One of the most popular developments in church life over the last fifteen years is that of churches having multiple sites, or campuses.  “One church in multiple locations” is the new by-word of growing numbers of churches.

Congregations are multiplying their reach by launching smaller versions of themselves across their cities and, in some cases, in locations as far as several states away.  By doing so, they make church more accessible to more people.

So, this “multi-site” movement might be confused with fresh expressions of church.  After all, we say this Fresh Expressions movement is about taking the church Jesus loves closer to where the people Jesus loves actually are.

These two approaches, however are very different.  Here are some distinctions:

Multi-Site Approach Fresh Expressions Approach
New campuses exist for people fairly similar to those reached by the original campus New expressions of church exist for people perhaps very much unlike those in the original congregation.
The new campuses share staff, budget, and vision with the original campus. The fresh expression of church is autonomous, with a “tether” to the original church.
Most often new campuses have a similar culture (worship style, programs, socio-economics, etc.) to the original campus; probably even an intentionally similar “brand.” Because it is seeking to engage a particular sub-culture, this fresh expression probably looks very different from the original campus.
A new campus identifies itself as a campus of _________ church, and even guests soon figure out that this is a campus of a larger congregation. The fresh expression of church identifies itself as just that—an expression of church.
Although participants have a primary identification with their particular campus, they have a secondary identification with the larger congregation. Participants in a fresh expression of church identify with that particular group of people.,Their connection to another congregation is known to the originators, but there is not a high profile tie to another church.

One church certainly can take both approaches—launching new campuses and new forms of church. For years I was the pastor of a church that did both. My personal experience is that fresh expressions of church are much simpler and cost-effective, and more likely to engage people who do not know or follow Jesus. Both approaches, however, are meaningful means of expanding the Kingdom of God.


Travis Collins

Travis Collins is Pastor of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, and Director of Mission Advancement for Fresh Expressions US. He holds a PhD in Christian Mission and is the author of From the Steeple to the Street and Fresh Expressions of Church.


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