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The Multi-site Tech Myth

I have been debating this post for a couple of days and then decided…hey what are blogs for if you can not share opinions.

So let me clarify a couple of things before I post:
1.  I love technology.
2.  I am positive that Mike Johns is a great person, it just happens to be his comment that sent me over the edge, take no offense Mike.
3.  I think that each church HAS to make individual decisions on tech and how they leverage it.
4.  I love fellowship church (I have a Church Crush on them) attended there, worked there and still talk with a couple of guys there on occasion – except Andy Green who will never call me back:)

So now that I have clarified and can stay the worlds nicest blogger…lets let er’ rip:

There a two myths that are really bothering me:

1.  The technology and crazy math myth.

A comment on multisiterevolution.com recently sent me over the edge:  I will comment back in blue.

Mike wrote:
I agree with Anthony – after having been at many multi-sites around the country so far I have only been to two that have utilized technology to create environments that don’t make me feel like I am back in Jr. High summer camp.

Most churches, not just multi-site churches, in America are not utilizing technology on the scale that NorthPoint and Fellowship are able to.  To somehow set these two churches as the model for how church "should" be done is going to exclude 99% of all churches in America.  Thousands of churches look to these guys (and fellowship connection) as inspiration, but the standard…if that is the case, we better clone Ed and Andy. 

Again it is not that they are wrong – on the contrary – they are right because they are following their vision, but in Summerville SC this weekend 680 people will worship at a Seacoast location that meets in a senior center.  They have about 8 lights and run songshow on a middle screen on a 5k lumen projector.  But their greeters and infectious, their campus Pastor is a leader, their children’s ministry is awesome and their worship is an experience with God.  People just keep coming…they are packed!

By the way most decisions for Christ are made in Junior High.

1) Northpoint Community Church’s Buckhead campus. Talk about doing it right – my brain is constantly fooled into thinking that Andy Stanley is really there.

2) Fellowship Church’s Plano Campus (and their Uptown and Alliance Campus’ if you want to consider the portable venues). Looks like they hired the same designers as Northpoint. Same type of technology and approach. Every detail designed to make me forget that the whole thing is on video.

I guess I did not know the goal was to have people forget it was video.  In fact I think that is pretty much impossible.  I think the idea is that people do not care. (we all knew the Gorillaz were on video at the Grammy’s, we just didn’t care)  Our goal, and I know that it is the goal of the aforementioned churches as well is to reach as many people for Christ as possible in the most Creative ways possible.  If we could do it without technology completely I think we all would.  It is a tool, a disposable tool.  Lets not get so attached that it becomes the hymnal of the 21st century.  Maybe the next generation will just dig a warehouse feel and a overhead projector and no tech at all…(can anyone say emerging)

You have to wonder how much the technology designs at these locations has to do with the overwhelming success of their multi-site locations?

Fellowship’s Uptown campus is still meeting in a High School but has almost 1,000 regular attendees in less than 2 years. What is the average attendance at many other multi-site venues? I have heard approximately 200 per site.

NPCC’s Buckhead and Fellowship’s Plano campus have 5,000 and 3,000

Could it be possible that the overwhelming success is the same factors that made them 2 of the largest churches in the country.

1.  Great Communicators
2.  Large population Base
3.  Great Visionary leadership

But as far as success, since we are throwing that word around…

Seacoast has 45% of it’s attendance off-site.  Our smallest campus, which in the commentors estimation is not a success, is in a small city and still running 7% of our original campuses attendance.  Our average campus runs around 500 people, which is about 13% of our original campus stats.  Given demographics and the commentors gauge for success, (and let me clarify its not mine) a church with say 15,000 at it’s original campus would be running an average of 1950 people to be as successful as our average campus and would need to run 4000 to be as "successful" as our largest video campus.  Sounds like we are all pretty successful!

Also- it is a part of the Seacoast strategy to keep venues smaller.  Here is what we think…

1.  We can do them for a lot less money and more often, thus reaching more people.
2.  People like smaller churches (pastors like big churches)
3.  ROI is a lot less risky.  Defining success when you invest 500k is a little harder than when you invest 75k.

Again!!!  Fellowship is right.  Northpoint is right.  Northcoast is right.  Community Christian is right.  Seacoast is right.

So…there is my rant…

Sorry so long and so ranty…I am sure I am wrong, but that’s whats cool about opinion – we get to be wrong!

2.  The Cool Myth.

I think there is a huge myth in the church world that quite honestly is starting to nauseate me.  It goes like this:

If we can open up our church services with a black-eye pea song, have some flash and dash lighting, some killer sound and people see all the ideas that we ripped off from the latest MTV or Grammy awards we are ‘doing it" right. These are not wrong things and they are a tool – but they are not the RIGHT things.

To all of the churches that think this is where the Mega-church success come from…you just don’t get it.  Perry Noble and the folks at Newspring are kickin it because they Love the daylights out of people, Perry is a great communicator and they have a unflappable vision.  I am convinced that if Ed Young threw up a stage in the Flower Mound Wal-mart parking lot with a mega-phone a couple thousand people would come, and I know that Andy Stanley would be the first person to tell us that NorthPoint success comes from a great presentation of useful biblical wisdom from one of America’s premier communicators and a great small group system. And lets be honest it does not hurt to be in Dallas and Atlanta.  In fact I have heard Ed say that in Dallas if Fellowship does not have thousands they are doing something wrong.

Now please hear me.  I think that these churches are awesome, but technology and pop culture is not what is driving the growth.  It is one tool.

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Filed under: Seacoast Church/Multi-site