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June 11, 2016

Curating Your Multisite Library

By Stephen Smith

I was fortunate enough to have a grandfather who could “fix stuff.” That’s how one would say it in Texas. As a point of fact, the correct Texan parlance for “about to mend something” is actually “fixin’ to fix it.” It’s a strange place.

My granddad had two massive toolboxes custom mounted along the bed of his (always Chevy) pickup trucks. It was as if he was a magician and those toolboxes were his magic hats. I swear to you that man could reach in there and pull out the most random tool to perfectly fit the need.

Having the right tools at hand for church multiplication cannot be overstated. NewChurches.com is committed to that very notion. Even in its relative infancy, it has become the “go to” location for church multipliers around the country. With that in mind, I want to recommend some “must have” tools for multisiters and those who might just be starting the journey. What follows is a specifically curated set of must read books that have helped inform our strategy at Houston First Baptist. I’ve divided them into three categories: Big Picture, Deep Dive, and Culture Books.

Big Picture:

Multi-site Churches, Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation, by Scott McConnell 

Scott McConnell has the best overview book on the multisite church movement. He is able to distill the “pieces that need to come together” in order to birth a healthy multisite strategy. He writes:

“In the end multsite is a tool. It is a tool to use at God’s leading that can be seen in His movement within a church and in His provision of a campus pastor, a core group, a location, systems and structures, and finances. As God spread this burden and as leadership agrees on this strategic direction, then a church should not hesitate to become multisite.” p.235-236

Church Locality, New Rules for Church Buildings in a Multisite, Church Planting, and Giga-Church World, by Jim Tomberlin & Tim Cool

This fascinating volume gets into the nuts and bolts of venues, time and space. Tomberlin and Cool both bring their years of expertise in multisite and facilities together. This was a great read for the “accountants and engineers” on our team because it gets into the “practicals” about real estate and facilities. It’s been my experience that there are a few groups that need specific info: The Why people, The How people, The Who people, and the Where group. It does a great job giving the “where” people something to chew on and digest.

Deep Dive:

Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im

Basically I’m recommending this book because NewChurches told me too…that’s a little joke right there. The scope of this book is about the architecture of an operating system healthy churches have and should develop to carry out the Great Commission. It is a seminal work for many reasons: the scope of church planting, teachable infographics, theological foundations of missiology, and of course Multisite Planting. I personally like it because it gives me quick explanatory language for church multiplication and multisite. Plus, Daniel is Ed’s sidekick in this new edition and helps keep him young and hip. Let this quote land on you:

“Multisite is not a substitute for church planting; it’s a substitute for a large auditorium.”

This “tweet” should be framed and hung on the wall of every church seeking to implement a multisite strategy. Mine is actually in tattoo form down my leg…that’s a little joke right there too.

Exponential, How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement, By Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson 

If there were one word I would have to describe this book it would be “practical.” Dave and Jon take us under the hood of Community Christian in Chicago and show the reader their journey from an idea on a paper napkin to a robust church planting strategy. I read this thing on my iPad while running on a treadmill. There were times when I had to just stop and process the way they could convert the complex into simple steps…(plus I was tired and it gave me a real spiritual excuse to “meditate” on what I was reading).

“Big dreams force us to ask the types of questions that lead to greater dependence on God.”

Multisite Road Trip, Exploring the New Normal, Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird 

The “grand triumvirate” (Surratt, Ligon, and Bird) at Leadership Network literally take the learner to different churches and examine what worked, what didn’t, and why. This is an amazing collection of real time case studies for the multiplier to study. On your journey, you’ll become familiar with churches like Seacoast in South Carolina, New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Fellowship Bible in Little Rock, Community Bible in San Antonio, North Coast Church in Vista, Ca., LifeChurch.TV in Oklahoma City, and Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, TX just to name a few.

Culture Books:

The Art of Neighboring, Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon

We’ve used this book to help groups continue to cultivate an atmosphere of locality and context. Meaning, it renews hearts to really pastor the streets we live on. With multisite multiplication, the context factor gets raised exponentially. Members might go from having an excuse not to invite their neighbors because the “main campus” is 45 min one way and “nobody I know is going to drive that on a Sunday morning” to the new reality of having a location right around the corner that they could invite them to.

“Throughout the Bible, God tells us to love our neighbors. He emphasizes that along with loving him, this is the most important thing we can do. God invites us to love the way he loves. He challenges us to put our love into action.”

Fusion, Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church, by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson 

We have used Searcy’s “Generosity Ladder” for years now at our church. In Fusion, he literally holds the reader’s hand and leads them through a remarkably practical process for onboarding new people into the body. His assimilation process consists of three simple words: Return, Relationships, Responsibility. He also unpacks the notion of Biblical Hospitality and its importance in the larger picture of healthy church culture.

Unwelcome: 50 ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors, by Jonathan Malm 

The official description on the back of the book describes its contents like this:

“With all 50 church faux pas, Jonathan suggests ways to not only fix the problem, but also infuse excellence into the situation so churches can put their best foot forward with first time guests.”

Our un-official description in my office is “Ouch Jonathan, you cuttin’ us deep bro.” It’s probably best if I qualify my statement. He divides the book down into five buckets that hit close to home: First Impressions, Worship, Programming, Communication, and The Big Picture. Without giving away the punch and laughter associated with these common faux pas, I will tell you some chapter titles: “the Greeter Gauntlet”, “The Overlooked Odor”, “The Unskilled Worship Band”, and “the Weird Class.” Jonathan calls it like he sees it and is as refreshing as scrolling through “the Babylon Bee.” You won’t be able to change everything about your church, but this book helps identify hot spots when it comes to the total experience.


Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith (@stephenandstar) serves in Houston with his wife and four kids. He shepherds four teams within the church: Music, Multisite, Media, and Marketing. He spends the remainder of his time these days with his head in a book or dealing with an unruly yard. His passion is leading worship through song with his wife and leveraging their lives to see ministry multiplied in their home church and beyond.


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