By Scott Nelson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Scott Nelson is a Principal and the Director of Community. He brings more than 11 years of extensive design experience in religious and educational facilities. Scott serves as a ministry-partner/problem-solver with many of the fastest-growing, top-attended churches and private Christian schools across America.


The excitement of seeing God bring more people to the doorsteps of the church as He works in the hearts and lives of our neighbors & friends can also bring challenges as the reality of physical space (ie. worship center seats, parking spaces, nursery/children’s space, etc.) can often become a growth constraint. The old saying of “you can only fit so much turtle in the shell” rings true for our churches today as people will only tolerate so many laps around our parking lots looking for a place to park, only to enter into a congested lobby space, to further wait in line at the restrooms, and finally squeeze into a seat at the back of the worship center!

Many churches have responded to this growing need by continuing to add multiple hours of worship services (ie. Saturday Night, Sunday Night, Mid-Week services, etc.) ultimately to discover that these additional worship hours only further tax our already stretched thin church staff without providing for a viable long-term outlet for church growth. Whether you are located in the heart of the bible belt or on the coastal extremes, churches are continuing to discover that most people prefer to have “church” during some portion of a three-hour block on Sunday morning.

The reality of this paradigm is causing many churches to rethink their philosophy as it relates to facility/campus expansion plans leading many to wrestle with the question of multi-site vs. multi-venue as an outlet for additional growth.

Philosophically, both options present unique opportunities as best summarized by Larry Osborne, North Coast Church.

Multi-site is a way to expand geographically. It also allows a church to go to people rather than build ever bigger buildings that people have to drive farther and farther to get to. Multi-venue is a way to expand demographically. The word of God cuts across all demographics, worship styles, and external differences that set churches apart. By offering venues as diverse in worship and ambiance as our Country Gospel, Traditions, and Edge venues, we are able to reach a much broader demographic than we ever would have with a one-size-fits-all (or blended) service.”

With many “options” come many “opinions”, even amongst executive leadership teams and elder groups with a single-minded vision. There is often robust dialogue in regards to which is “better” or “best” as it relates to facilitating continued ministry growth. The following story highlights one church’s journey as the executive leadership team & elder group utilized scenario analysis modeling to review multiple growth options (ie. multi-site vs. multi-venue) and review the key factors led to the ultimate decision to go with multi-venue on the main campus rather than start their second multi-site campus.

The following story is based on the actual events and statistics; however, the name of the church has been changed for the purpose of this writing.