MULTIPLICATION & Why Culturally Diverse Worship Options Increases Evangelism

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/5/15.

A student made some good points when he stated, “I still don’t buy that it’s (the Multiple Generational Approach) the best approach, or always necessary to have multiple generations present in a church. In the end, the church comes down to relationships. We grow because of our relationships and our activity in them. We don’t have true/deep growth because we have the hip program that people want to come to. Because if that’s the case, we die if we ever stop it! That’s not the church, that’s business.”

He made many good points, but it was also evident he was not reading my books. If he had, he would know that I agree with him. But, I also needed to point out that his unfamiliarly with my writings has led to some false assumptions on his behalf.

Let me share my response.


You are right when you stated, “I still don’t buy that it’s… always necessary to have multiple generations present in a church…. We don’t have true/deep growth because we have the hip program that people want to come to. Because if that’s the case, we die if we ever stop it! That’s not the church, that’s business. At SOME point in this model, we have to address knocking down individualized services based on preferences and move towards true connectivity/mutuality/UNITY in our community as a whole.”

Some churches don’t need multiple generations, especially in areas which are growing with one primary cultural generation. And, I list such examples in the book.

Also, I agree that if a church is performance driven it is not an organism, but a mechanization (see what I said about professionalism verses improvisation in “Inside the Organic Church”).

And, you are right that “At SOME point in this model, we have to address knocking down individualized services based on preferences and move towards true connectivity/mutuality/UNITY in our community as a whole.” This is the GOAL! 🙂

But, for a church to reach the unchurched, who are not yet ready for “true connectivity/mutuality/UNITY” we must offer entry level (i.e. evangelistic) conduits that are individualized based upon cultures. But, for people to mature in Christ, we must have processes to bring them into unity, connectiveness, and mutuality.

Thus, individuality in cultural aesthetics is for evangelism. And creating “one out of many” (see my writings on this in Preparing for Change Reaction) is the second part of a two part process. Both are needed, and a church fails without both.

UNITY & How to Maintain A Church’s Unity as It Multiplies & Diversifies

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10-24/15.

A student once shared a very common dilemma.  I’ve attached my response to help students, colleagues and clients struggling with diversifying a church while maintaining unity (and to explain how unity does not trump multiplication).

Here is what the student wrote:

As I helped the church see the need for change to reach younger generations we began to reach a younger crowd. Young people who had left the church were returning. At first it was just my presence of being a younger person myself. As we grew we had to make some difficult decisions about were we were intentionally headed. We didn’t want to neglect the older folks nor the younger folks either. We ended up making a decision to have two services that would meet each of their needs but some of the older more established people didn’t like the idea. Some comments were, “we’re dividing the flock” and “shouldn’t the young people (new people or unchurched) come at 8:00 a.m. instead of the traditional people.” We were running 135 people and could only sit 150 while our parking lot held less. Unfortunately 30 people left the church. I was crushed that so called mature Christians couldn’t sacrifice to see more people reached for Christ and grow in Him. We already had Wed. nights that was traditional, and Sunday nights that was traditional, and Sunday morning was traditional. I guess for some giving the younger folks 1/4 of the ministry focus was asking too much.

Here is my response:

Thanks for sharing a powerful, but unfortunately all too typical story when you said, “as we grew we had to make some difficult decisions about were we were intentionally headed. We didn’t want to neglect the older folks nor the younger folks either. We ended up making a decision to have two services that would meet each of their needs but some of the older more established people didn’t like the idea. Some comments were, “we’re dividing the flock” and “shouldn’t the young people (new people or unchurched) come at 8:00 a.m. instead of the traditional people.” “We were running 135 people and could only sit 150 while our parking lot held less. Unfortunately 30 people left the church. I was crushed that so called mature Christians couldn’t sacrifice to see more people reached for Christ and grow in Him. We already had Wed. nights that was traditional, and Sunday nights that was traditional, and Sunday morning was traditional. I guess for some giving the younger folks 1/4 of the ministry focus was asking too much.”

I don’t think the entire fault lies with those who left, but in the way we “grew” these older generations to understand today’s cultural differences.  Many of these older Builder Generation people grew up in a less diverse, more uni-cultural world.  Thus, they feel like their way of life is ending (it is) by this generational diversity.  We must show them that the message of Christ is, as Charles Kraft says, “supra-cultural,” meaning Christ’s message is not a culture, but is above culture (Christianity in Culture, 1979).

The key to keeping the older generation is to help them see they are a “culture” and that young people are a “culture” too (e.g. the “youth culture,” “counter-culture,” etc.).  Too often Builder-aged people can’t see why young people need things differently, unless we help them see that it is like learning a foreign culture.  If you don’t learn about the foreign uncomfortable for them.

Thus, step one is creating mutual respect.  But, you have to explain it to them in terms of a “culture,” or else they won’t get it.

And, then you just do like a missionary does.  A missionary comes to our churches, shows pictures of the people and their customs, and shares testimonies from these people.  This helps those of alien cultures (USA for example) to understand better the culture of the Two-thirds World.  So, have regular testimonials etc. from the youth culture at your Builder service (you must begin to do this, or risk losing even more).

Secondly, we must have quarterly unity services.  Not services where services are combined because of a low-attendance Sunday, but where we join together to celebrate our diversity.  These unity services must happen at least once a quarter.  Again, pattern this after a missionary service, where the missionary may bring a youth choir to sing in the cultural language and dress.  Remind the Builder Generation that to expect this culture to become like them is analogous to Colonialism, where empires tried to make people like themselves.  We fought wars against Colonialism, including the Revolutionary War and World War II (against Japanese and German Colonialism).

With these two steps, cultural-acclimation and unity-gatherings, you can keep a church diverse, yet united.  If we don’t we will wind up with a church divided and uni-cultural.

HOLACRACY & You Don’t Need to Adopt Holacracy to Get Some of Its Benefits

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Holacracy explains the long-term cohesiveness created by emphasizing small teams or small groups within an organization. But this article also explains why diversity (silos) and cohesiveness (silos remaining under one organizational umbrella) creates a healthier organization. Read this important article on the organizational behavior of holacracy with diversity amid unity.

by Greg Satell, Harvard Business Review, AUGUST 28, 2015.

When Alfred Sloan conceived the modern corporation at General Motors, he based it on hierarchical military organizations. Companies were split into divisions, each with their own leadership. Authority flowed downwards and your rank determined your responsibility.

Today, a few organizations – like Medium, David Allen Consultants, and Zappos – are adopting a radically different, approach to management: holacracy. Even as someone who has studied alternative management movements, I’ve been skeptical about holacracy, which eschews the standard “org chart” for a system of interlocking “circles.” To understand it better, I recently sat down with Brian Robertson, author of the new book Holacracy, to figure out how he’s gotten hundreds of firms to sign on.

For all of the sturm und drang surrounding the idea, as we talked I realized a lot of holacracy is just codifying many of the informal elements of good management. By getting beyond the particulars of adopting holacracy and taking a deeper look at the issues it addresses, we can see that problem isn’t that hierarchies have somehow become illegitimate, but that they are slow and the world has become fast. Instead of making the leap to an entirely new form of organization — a radical change not without its pitfalls — perhaps we should think more seriously about the problem of agility itself…

How do you balance cohesion and diversity? It’s become fashionable in management circles to talk about “breaking down silos” in order to improve how information flows around the enterprise. Yet we need silos, which are cohesive units that are optimized for specific tasks. What’s more, the reorganization efforts that are supposed to break down silos invariably recreate them in different places.

What’s really important is to balance cohesion and diversity. Without cohesion, there is no common purpose, but without diversity groupthink will set in and eventually that purpose will lose relevance. So you need a healthy amount of both in order to be able to both operate efficiently and adapt to new information in the marketplace.

A study of Broadway plays shows this in action. Researchers found that if no one in the cast or crew had worked together before, then results were poor. However, if there were too many existing relationships, then performance suffered as well. Traditional organizations often inspire far too much conformity — but I suspect holacracy and models like it will only exacerbate the problem because, ironically, its reliance on informal ties rather than dictates make conformity that much more insidious.. In hierarchical organizations — whatever their failings — leaders can change direction and combat groupthink. It’s not clear to me how that kind of change would happen in holacracy, which is driven by informal relationships to a much greater extent…

Read more at …

COMMUNICATION & 7 Biblical Ways to Increase a Church’s Visibility – from my interview w/ Outreach Magazine

by Bob Whitesel, 2/25/15.  The following is from my interview with Outreach MagazineI was asked, “What you would want to convey to the church that says, ‘We aspire to be better known in our community’.”  Below are my thoughts about how to organically and biblically increase a church’s visibility.  (It is probably not what you anticipated.)


ELEVATE: Raise Your Visibility Before a Skeptical World

Today in an increasingly skeptical world, the church must move beyond branding and build a new, more powerful reputation.

15-MJ_BobWhitesel-300x225Here are 5 steps to elevating your visibility in a community.

1. Elevate the visibility of your need-meeting. Churches should be known as the place in a community where people go when they have a crisis. Churches that offer divorce recovery programs, grief support groups, 12-step programs, etc. increase their visibility as the primary place where needs are met in their community.

2.  Elevate the visibility of spiritual-change. People are looking for ways to change their lives and often psychologists or self-help programs are their first choice. While these can offer the physical change that people need, I believe only Christ can offer the spiritual change that people long for deep inside. So in the name of helping people better their physical lives, do not neglect their higher needs for a supernatural transformation that only comes through Christ.

3. Elevate the visibility of your openness and honesty. Churches often promote that they have the best program or the most exciting worship. But non-churchgoers sense that this is not the real purpose of the church. Acknowledge that your church doesn’t do everything well and sometimes you get fixated on your organizational needs. Then remind them that your church is a spiritual community, seeking to work together to draw closer to Christ.

4. Elevate the visibility of your unity in diversity. In an increasingly diverse world, people want to go to a church that mirror’s the diversity of God’s creation. But such diversity must not be only symbolic, but also heartfelt. It is important for people of diverse cultures to run the church together, to worship together and to learn from one another about cultural background and baggage. The church should be visible in the community as a place that not only promotes spiritual reconciliation to God, but also physical reconciliation between cultures.

5.  Elevate your visibility as a place to learn. People today have a conceptions of the church as a place that lectures and criticizes, rather than a place that promotes learning. Jesus gave us a Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) to “make learners.” Thus our goal must be to acquaint them with His words, while we exemplify how these words are lived out in community.

6.  Elevate your visibility as a place where everybody can find a place to fit. Emphasize smaller fellowship groupings within the larger whole. Most people today are not only looking for a large event, but also a smaller group where they can ask spiritual questions and receive support on their spiritual journey.

7. Elevate your visibility as a community that promotes and seeks God’s wisdom. The church should be known as a place of Bible-study and prayer. Thus it should be a place where people who are estranged from God or even just struggling in their relationship, will find people and prayer environments that will assist them in connecting to their heavenly Father. If a person in the community needs prayer, the first place they should think of is your church.

If you can’t elevate one or more of these areas, because they don’t yet exist in your church, then start with the easiest but don’t stop until you develop these seven ways to elevate an organically spiritual and Biblical visibility.

CLICK HERE to download the entire article with contributions by my colleagues Len Sweet, Will Mancini, Tony Morgan and Tom Bandy: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Beyond Branding OUTREACH Mag

And HERE IS A LINK to the online version:

WORSHIP SERVICES & My 7 Steps To Launching a New Worship Service (& avoiding the attractional trap)

by Bob Whitesel, Ph.D., 11/13/14

Adding a new worship encounter has its caveats. After helping churches for 20+ years add new worship services, below is my “short list” that I use to help clients see the basic “7-steps” of launching a new worship encounter.

(Note: I distinguish between “launching a new service” and “starting a new worship service.” Starting a worship service first begins indigenously with creating small groups among an emerging culture. See my other post on “Five steps to starting a new service” for information on starting a new service  But once you’ve decided to start one, then this post will tell you how to “launch” it.)

First, you must launch with two important goals:

GOAL 1:  The first goal is the Great Commission to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Thus, getting new attendees into small groups where they can grow along with others is the major objective.  This is even more important than adding a new service.  So, if you can’t undertake a new service, than at least add more small discipleship groups.

GOAL 2: The second goal of a new worship service is to create a culturally relevant worship encounter.  It is not a performance, nor a time to create mini-celebrities.  It is a time to foster an encounter with God.

Everything should revolve around these two goals.  If it does, then go onto this short list of things you must do to create a new worship encounter for an existing church.

Here are the key principles for starting a new service:

1.    The people who design a new worship encounter should demonstrate that they are missionaries to that culture, or that they are from the culture you are reaching out to.
2.    Ensure you can financially sustain a new service for 18 months, before you launch it.
3.    Make sure you have duplicate leadership too (start training them now, telling them that soon we will launch a new service and they will lead it).
4.    Pick a venue that will be at around 35% full with your projected attendance.
5.    Start small groups (Sunday Schools, Life Groups, etc.) of the culture you are reaching out to, three months before you launch your worship encounters.  Ensure that these small groups are between 5 and 8 people (i.e. they have room to grow) and that they know they are the new discipleship venues for new people who attend the worship encounter.
6.    Keep the worship encounters to 50 minutes total (with 15-20 minutes between other worship services) if you can 😉
7.    Also, make sure your overall attendance is at least 100 before you start a new service.

•    Then ask 50 people to agree to come to the new service for one year (make a covenant to do this, usually written 🙂
•    At the end of that time, they must either recruit someone to take their place, or re-up for another year.  The idea is to create the minimum number of attendees necessary for worship to break out in a larger gathering: usually 35+ people.
•    Thus, with 50 committed, you will usually have 35 in attendance and your new service can grow.

If you follow these principles, you can avoid what these video portray, i.e. the temptation to succumb to a largely attractional tactic (ugh!):

DIVERSITY & Immigrant religion in Pittsburgh #CaseStudies #ReMIXbook

by Julia Rendleman, The Pittsburg Post Gazette, 11/9/14

Churches have absorbed immigrants from the fast-growing, youthful Christian populations of Latin America, Africa and Asia, and synagogues have received Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union.

Congregations serve as both spiritual filling stations and all-purpose social networks for those seeking referrals for jobs and human services or just the experience of familiar languages and foods.

“This is my spiritual home, also my home away from home,” said Jane Chan of Pittsburgh Chinese Church in McCandless, where the Bethel Park resident has been a longtime member and volunteer. The independent Protestant church, with roots in 1930s Chinatown, has weekly services and classes in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, followed by a communal meal.

Ahmed Arafat of Brookline, an information technology worker who came here from Gaza in 1999 to study at the University of Pittsburgh, got involved at the Islamic Community of Pittsburgh in Oakland, soon after his arrival. “It’s been my center for the last 15 years,” he said…

Pittsburgh’s changing religious landscape has been evident in visits by the Post-Gazette to more than 20 congregations, worship services and faith-based service organizations serving immigrant populations:

  • At a historic St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in the Strip District, amid displays of Polish icons and prayer cards reflecting its immigrant founders, a bride and groom pray at a side altar to the Virgin Mary after a bilingual wedding — in English and Vietnamese.
  • In a carpeted former Presbyterian sanctuary in downtown Carnegie, rows of Muslims from many nationalities kneel and prostrate amid Arabic prayers at a Friday service.
  • At a Pentecostal church in a former auto parts warehouse in Wilkinsburg, immigrants from West Africa and a few Americans bob and sway, raise their arms and sing exuberant worship choruses: “I’ve never seen your kind-oh, this kind God- oh!”
  • At a makeshift temple in the storage room of a Carrick grocery store, refugee priests from Bhutan chant in Sanskrit and prepare a small fire offering in honor of the Hindu goddess Durga.
  • At a modest Greenfield storefront, a dozen mostly American-born participants recite an ancient Buddhist chant, sit silently on meditation cushions and hear a teaching from a Tibetan lama.
  • On the streets of Oakland, Spanish-speaking Catholics process with a painting of the crucified Christ, re-enacting a centuries-old Peruvian tradition in honor of Senor de los Milagros, “Lord of the Miracles.”

Read more at …

ALLIANCE MULTICULTURAL CASE STUDY & The Orchard Evangelical Free Church

Fast Facts: The Orchard Evangelical Free Church was founded in 1953 and has been growing ever since. It is now one congregation worshiping in four communities in the greater Chicagoland area; each of which stays true to the Gospel-centered mission while also tailoring their ministries to their unique congregations. The Orchard – Arlington Heights Campus would like specific prayer as they build teams to invite everyone who lives and works in Arlington Heights to our church. Pray that the Lord would raise up gifted and passionate leaders to bring Gospel-engagement to every neighborhood, school and people group. Pray that the Holy Spirit would soften the hearts of their neighbors, friends and family members and open their eyes to their need for a Savior.


Retrieved from …

MULTICULTURAL & Is a Blended Church Multicultural? It Depends on Several Things #HealthyChurchBook

by Bob Whitesel, 10/20/14

A student once shared about a church that advocated fostering a multicultural church by blending the different styles of ethnic/cultural diversity into one “blended” worship service.  The student noted, “At the time of the writing of the book (David Anderson, Multicultural Ministry 2004), ‘Bridgeway Church is 55 to 60 percent African-American, 13 percent Asian, Latino or other ethnicities, and 27 to 30 percent Caucasian.’ (Anderson, 2004)  His church does not share their facilities with other ethnicities, they integrate the services.”

I responded that when a church has a “blended” multi-ethnic worship service, that church is sometimes not regarded as a multi-cultural church, for it is often made up of a culture of people who have come to like multiple ethnic elements.  Such individuals are usually more affluent, more educated and more well traveled that other people of their culture.  Thus, anthropologists could say that technically Bridgeway is a mono-cultural church; comprised of people from different ethnicities who like the blending of ethnicities (which then becomes a new culture.).

Attached is my research on the “Five Types of Multi-cultural Churches” from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Health, (2013, pp. 55-79).

Here is the quote that begins the chapter:

We do not want the westernization of the universal Church. On the other hand we don’t want the ecumenical cooks to throw all the cultural traditions on which they can lay their hands into one bowl and stir them to a hash of indeterminate colour. – John V. Taylor, statesman, Africanist and Bishop of Winchester [i]

[i] John V. Taylor, “Cultural Ecumenism,” Church Missionary Society Newsletter, Nov. 1974, p. 3, see also John V. Taylor, The Theological Basis of Interfaith Dialogue, in Faith Meets Faith, ed. Gerald M. Anderson and Thomas F. Stansky, Mission Trends, no. 5 (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), pp. 93ff.


MULTICULTURALISM & How Being Bi-Cultural Can Make You a Better Leader

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Univ. of Michigan & Columbia Univ. research shows that leaders who succeed view their culture as helping their leadership rather than hindering it. For example, whether a person is a young person, a non-majority culture or a woman (working in a typically male occupation) if that person is encouraged to view their professional identity and cultural identity as helpful rather than conflicting, they will more likely succeed. Follow the links to the important research cited in this article.”

“Here is a quote: ‘Women who succeed in challenging careers have a personality trait by which they regard there two ‘selves’ – their professional identity and their gender identity – not as in conflict but as fundamentally compatible (Shia, “Why Some Women Are Better Negotiators,” Harvard Business Review, 10/14/15, p. 3)’.”

Download the original research here …



WORSHIP SERVICES & How to Settle Worship Wars: For Churches Both Under (& Over) 100 Attendees #HouseDividedBook

by Bob Whitesel, 10/13/14

Many of our conflict-orientated forces arise from differences over worship. And, though differences over worship have their genesis in cultural differences (and thus life-cycles too) it may be important here for me to describe some of the tools you can use to settle worship conflict.

First of all, conflict over worship has to do with cultural preferences. There is nothing wrong with that. Each generational culture has been brought up in a different milieu.

The Builder Generation (69+ in 2014) was raised upon great hymns of the faith sang in the sanctuary. Popular tunes with hand-clapping were only sung at camp meetings (but notice most of the Builders got saved at camp meetings 🙂

HDsmallThe Boomers (50-68 in 2014) and Leading Edge Gen. X (40-49) grew up in a media explosion, where small transistor radios and car radios meant they were exposed to rhythm/blues music (i.e. rock and roll) every where they went. They came to hear this music as the soundtrack of their lives. Not surprisingly it became the soundtrack for their worship too.

Post-modern Xers (31-39 in 2014) and Yers (12-30) have grown up in an increasingly distrustful world, and their music has a much more plaintive and lamentive feel. This often bothers the Boomers who are much more upbeat and positive in their music (see Whitesel, 2007, p. 59).

Which is useful? They all are, but in different circumstances.

And thus many of you have tried to start new services. Dr. Chip Arn has a great book on this called How To Start a New Service (1997) and it is required in my elective course MIN558: Building a Multi-Generational Church. And, I have addressed how to use his book and modified his steps to starting a new service in my book A House Divided, the chapter titled “Worship in a Multi-generational Format.” Here is a brief overview of what you can do to settle worship wars.

If you are running 100+ attendees.

1. Find a time to start a new service that is convenient for the cultural generation you are reaching out to (I have given four charts on when Builders, Boomers and Xers like to go to church in A House Divided, pp. 173-177).

2. You ask 50 people in the church to sign a “covenant agreement” to change their worship time, and come to this new service for one year. At the end of this year, they either replace themselves with someone they’ve invited, or they re-up for another year. The reason you need 50 is because worship does not usually break out in a worship encounter unless there are 35+ people there. This has to do with anonymity and community. To get 35+ each weekend, you need to have 50 people committed to this new worship encounter; and because some will be gone each week, a net 35+ usually results.

3. You develop small groups during this time from the 50 people. The small groups are the discipleship environments for this new worship encounter. Some groups may be Bible-studies, etc., but others will be worship teams, greeters, etc. (creating groups that you need to help you organize the new encounter, but always ensure they practice all three elements of a healthy small group: UP-IN-OUT, see Cure for the Common Church, 2011).

4. You have the small groups meet for 2-6 months, before you launch your worship encounter.

5. Have new small groups ready at the worship encounter launch, for newcomers. The number of new small groups available should be 1-2 small groups for each 50 people who have committed to the new encounter.

PreparingChange_Reaction_MdHowever, if you are running under 100 attendees, things change.

If you start a new worship encounter you will usually have too few people coming to it (after all, the people coming to your church already like the times you have, and they are not likely to attend a new time). The best thing to do of you have less than 100 regular attendees, is the following:

1. Do not have a blended service (where you blend throughout the encounter) but rather have a “compartmentalized worship encounter” where you put the traditional songs/liturgy/elements at the beginning, then the sermon next, and then modern music at the end. You tell the traditionalists that they can go after the sermon, and even have a benediction before they leave. You have thus compromised, giving any who prefer their traditional music a traditional service. But, those who want to can stay around for the contemporary music “After-Glow.” This is 15-20 minutes of contemporary worship. You have thus “compartmentalized” rather than “blended” your worship service. And, each generation can worship without being blind-sided by a change in cultural music. This gives the traditionalist who do not care for contemporary music a chance to leave. In addition, the contemporary people can come late to the service of they want and stay longer. In essence, two worship services are emerging, with a common sermon in between. (You can instead do a contemporary music “Pre-Glow” before the service if that suits your church better. But, then you may wind up with an early second service that is contemporary, and younger generations tend to prefer later morning encounters.)

2. You allow this After-Glow (or Pre-Glow) to develop until you have 30-40 people staying for After-Glow. Then, once you have a total of 100 at the whole worship encounter, your start with Step 2 above.

I have used this with dozens of churches and it allows compromise, and the eventual growth of a new cultural worship encounter in a unifying manner (this process is spelled out more in A House Divided, 2000).

MULTIPLICATION & What Does Multisite Mean for Churches?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Summit Church ‘backed into multisite’ because their facility couldn’t hold their growth. This also occurred at one of the earliest examples of the ‘alliance model’ church: St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England (see ‘The Healthy Church). Their growth in a highly post-Christian UK culture made me realize that multisite was one of the best ways to multiply a church’s impact – especially amid a postmodern/resistant culture. I explained how St. Toms ‘backed into multisite’ in Ryan Bolger’s (ed.) book ‘Gospel after Christendom.’ For more insights read the article below based on research by my colleague Warren Bird.”

New research gives a glimpse of the movement today


by Aaron Earls

“Multisite can mean many things and can take on dramatically different forms. But for the vast majority of churches, multisite means one thing—growth.

New research for the Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard found 85 percent of multisite churches are growing and doing so at a strong rate of 14 percent per year.

One of those churches, The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, “backed into multisite,” according to Rick Langston, lead pastor of strategic develop.

Today, Summit is one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in America. In 2005, the church sold their property and was meeting in a high school. As they continued to grow, a new permanent location became necessary. But what would they do in the meantime?

“We owned a small church building near our original location,” says Langston, “and it seemed like a good idea to provide worship services there for the people who had lived in that community for so long.”

It wasn’t until they started meeting in three locations that they really understood what it meant to be a multisite church. Now, with seven campuses and a Spanish-speaking congregation, Langston says they’re still learning.”

Read more at ..,

CULTURE & Entertaining Videos on Cultural Time-warps #Multi-site #Multi-venue

by Bob Whitesel, 8/15/08

I’ve observed that people can get stuck in a “cultural time-warp” at the period when they experienced new birth and/or rapid spiritual growth. The result is that people connect music, styles, etc. associated with the time of their salvation/growth with “spiritually powerful” songs, styles, etc..  They feel the songs that impacted them, will always impact others.

And, this is normal but not beneficial. That is because the result can be that people will expect (and subtly require) others be touched by the same cultural songs, styles, etc. that they once enjoyed.

Here are some videos that can serve as an example.

Video A: The first was taken during the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s. I was saved at that time. And, this was how the ideal worship happened back then:

Video B: This next video is how Jesus Movement morphed into:

Video C: Here now is an example of how worship can happen in the e-world of today:

Which is better? How are they different?

Actually, A and C are very organic and much the same, only one eschewed technology (e.g. it is a cappella – which means “in the style of Medieval church music”) and the other relies on technology. As a person who has researched and experienced both the Jesus Movement and the Emerging Movement, I have pointed out that they are both very organic and similar (Inside the Organic Church, 2006, pp. xxiii-xxxiii).

The middle example (Video B) is what many Jesus Movement boomers grew to prefer. It is more event-orientated and resembles more of a concert format. For many boomers this could be their idea Sunday morning worship expression.

I think we would agree that these worship expressions are sometimes dissimilar, and at other times similar. And, that all three are valid, just for different people and different times. Thus, churches that are seeking to reach out to multiple cultures will want to have multiple worship expressions, so 2+ cultures can be reached. And, they may need to be at separate venues, for different cultures prefer different styles. When a church accommodates different cultural styles, it makes the church more inclusive, diverse and long-lived.

FELLOWSHIP & Why Is Robin Dunbar Killing My Church!? #DunbarNumber

by Bob Whitesel, 4/4/14

One thing Donald McGavran emphasized is that we should not be shy about applying the sciences to our study of church health and growth. And the Dunbar Number can explain why many churches plateau in size.  Here Is how I explained the Dunbar Number at the request of a colleague of mine Dr. Gary McIntosh at Biola University:

The Dunbar number is a sociological theory (based in physiology) that people can best relate to an extended group of about 150 individuals. By keeping this in mind, factories have been created with under 150 employees where unity and self-identity are higher. This of course has ramifications for the church, and explains in my mind the cohesiveness of these church-style Dunbar groups:

> missional communities (3dm ministries and Mike Breen)

> sub-congregations, such as venues, multiple sites, campuses, Whitesel and Hunter in A House Divided (2001).

> clusters (St. Tom’s Church of Sheffield, see Whitesel “From Gathered to Scattered: St. Tom’s Church,” a chapter in Ryan K. Bolger, Gospel After Christendom, Baker Academic Books, 2010 (  The proliferation of Dunbar-sized “clusters” seems to be an explanation for St. Tom’s rapid growth after losing their large venue, The Roxy in Sheffield, UK.

Thus, church growth may be helped by the the multiplication of Dunbar groups within a congregation.  Wikipedia has a good article on the Dunbar Number

Also, read this good overview in an article on the “Dunbar Number” by National Public Radio, titled: “Don’t Believe Facebook, You Only Have 150 Friends.”

Here are some quotes:  “MARTIN: The factories were capped at 150 people, and Bill Gore found things worked better. People knew each other. They worked better together. DUNBAR: Everybody had the same label on their jacket that said GORE-TEX Associate, and that was that. Everybody knew who was who – who was the manager, who was the accountant, who made the sandwiches for lunch. ”

A student of mine once responded:  “I can see how having multiple services to create community for groups of 150 people is necessary.  What I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around is how you avoid tensions and problems between the different community groups within the church.  In the example above the GORE-TEX associates knew who the manager was and the accountant was and so on…I wonder and I’m just guessing here, do problems arise because the multiple services leads to multiple ‘managers’ which leads to conflicting ideas and different needs that need to be met?”

Here is my response:

Hello (name); Yes, you are right, there is tension. But, by keeping people as part of the same church organizational structure you work out our differences.  The problem in most of today’s churches is when conflict arises we don’t address it, we just bless them and send them out to start a new church to their liking. This creates conflict-avoidance. Thus, churches become enclaves of unified, but uni-cultural people.  And as thus, many people can’t relate to our fractured nature.

The key is to have diversity, within one organization which then creates unity or E pluribus unum.  To obtain this, see the “Exercises for Unity” in The Healthy Church (2012)

MULTIPLICATION & African-American Church Planting – SoundCloud Audio

Commentary from Dr. Whitesel: “This is a helpful audio by the Reformed African American Network of their roundtable on past successful experiences, future challenges and strategic ideas for African-American church planting. There are also many good insights about multiethnic church planting in this 20 minute audio.”

Listen here …

MULTIPLICATION & What 7 Rapidly Growing Churches Are Learning About Multisite

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This article posits important questions that every church much consider before going multi-site. This is because a multi-site strategy can often be implemented for selfish reasons rather than kingdom purposes. Be sure to ask yourself these four questions before you go multi-site.”

Article by Tim Nations, 6/5:14

“…topics related to launching and sustaining new sites, including:

  • Drivers for launching new campuses. Do you have an overcrowded campus or an underserved community?
  • Questions to ask (and answer) before launching a campus. Are your current campuses experiencing conversion growth or just transfer growth?
  • Key considerations for new campuses. What degree of alignment are you expecting?
  • Critical success factors for new campuses. Do you have the growth, talent, location, and buy-in for success?”

Read more at .,.

MULTIPLICATION & Planting Internal AND External Churches #DoBoth #aPractitionerPerspective

Commentary from Dr. Whitesel: “We must plant twice as many churches! But just not autonomous church plants that are independent and ‘external’ to the organization, (called ‘external plants)’. We must also plant just as many venues, sites and campuses (these are ‘internal’ to the organization and called ‘internal plants’). To missionally multiply the church we have to do both.” Here is how a student/businessman endorsed this idea:”

The following is by Casey P, 5/22/14:

“Dr. Whitesel, you are the first church leader that I have heard that endorses the opposite of what so many districts and churches in our denomination want to do. I agree, how is easier to go out into a different locale, plant a church and ‘Birth’ from the ‘Mother’ church?

… I do not feel that my own Senior Pastor would make it a competitive situation, but I do feel the church’s congregations would, and some of the staff would lean that way.
The logistics, economical all require support, or as you point out the ‘baby’ church is left out there to suffer, grow, and/or die.

I have discussed with my Senior Pastor the concept of the Spanish Ministries church plant we have ‘birthed’ within our walls, e. g. we ‘birth’ these mini-churches within the walls of our own church. We have successfully integrated a contemporary church service from the traditional/vintage service and that service is in all sense and purpose a separate church from what is done in the traditional/vintage service. But, we do not have a different Senior Pastor, just Associate Pastors that help lead the services, lead the worship and teach the congregation.

This mini-church could withstand a further breaking down into a Saturday Church. One that expanded on the contemporary service into a service that was even more contemporary, vital, youthful and vibrant. Not Youth, but a more millennial-focused that includes worship and pastoring for that generation. We do not need to go afar to a different side of town, the Pastor can be staff and the ‘mother’ church is still evident and growing…

The district is concerned that we need to be planting more and more churches, when we really need to revitalized the churches we have in place. A Pastor can plant churches in their own building, with effort, thought and process. Their are tools in the congregation that need to be used.”

MULTIPLICATION & Why You Need a Resilience Strategy Now

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This article cites scholarly research that indicates that organizations which “diversify” are more likely to be resilient, i.e. to survive economic and societal cycles.

This is especially important for churches. Because churches are often homogeneous, congregations often grow and die because they are ministering to only one homogeneous group.

For example a church could be ministering to an aging Anglo-American constituency. But as a Hispanic community blossoms in the community, the church dies because it’s focusing upon one homogeneous group (and that group’s lifecycle is waning in the neighborhood). But, if the church reaches out to both Anglo Americans and Latino/Latina Americans at the same time it can through diversification. Then it would be growing into a new lifecycle. However most churches don’t think about diversification and wait until it’s too late. (Note: I am talking about cultural diversification and NOT theological diversification. I would advocate that all cultural diversification should be orthodox in theology.)

So, as churches diversify by offering different ministries and different worship options to reach different cultures – the church diversifies and becomes resilient.

Read this important article to be reminded that your critical strategic decision is to diversify your organization so that:

1) it has the strength of uniting people of different cultures
2) and can do so over an extended period of time.”

Following article by Andrew Winston, Harvard Business Review

Read more at …

WORSHIP & The Best Times on Sunday for Multiple Services

by Bob Whitesel, 7/14/13

Below are options for Sunday morning worship times. These are the best asynchronous (i.e. not simultaneous) worship options (as observed in my client churches).  Whether you choose OPTION A or OPTION B  depends on: 1. how long is your optimal service (50 or 60 minutes max is best in my observations) and 2. how long it will take to empty/fill the facility.*

OPTION A:  50 min services (best length for connecting with the greatest number people today):

(10 min breaks)

8:30-9:20  first service**
9:30-10:20  second service
10:30-11:20  third service

(15 min breaks)

8:30-9:20  first service
9:35-10:25  second service
10:40-11:30  third service

(20 min breaks).

8:30-9:20  first service
9:40-10:30  second service
10:50-11:40  third service (or Sunday school)

OPTION B:  60 min services (second best length for reaching more people today):

(10 min breaks)

8:30-9:30  first service
9:40-10:40  second service
10:50-11:50  third service

(15 min breaks)

8:30-9:30  first service
9:45-10:45  second service
11:00-12:00  third service


8:15-9:15  first service
9:30-10:30  second service
10:45-11:45  third service

(20 min breaks)

8:00-9:00  first service
9:20-10:20  second service
10:40-11:40  third service

* You don’t have to factor in fellowship time – this will go on in the foyer. etc. during the beginning if the next service. This is just how much time is needed to empty/fill the facility and parking lot.

** You can substitute a “Sunday school hour” or “educational hour” for any of the services.  For example, many churches modify Option A this way:

8:30-9:20  first service
9:30-10:20  Sunday school hour
10:30-11:20  second service


8:30-9:20  Sunday school hour
9:30-10:20  first service
10:30-11:20  second service

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