Three years ago, Unity of Richmond, Va., established a goal of becoming a multi-site ministry by establishing “satellite ministries” as part of our thriving 21st century paradigm as a “church without walls.” After a recent expansion/renovation of our facility, we found a new readiness to embrace our vision of “Transformed Lives, Transforming the World” and establish a Unity presence in various target markets in and around the greater Richmond area.
Our first satellite venture began in the fall of 2010 with three energetic truth seekers committed to developing a Unity presence on the Middle-Peninsula and Northern Neck of Virginia—about 80 miles from our Richmond center. The Rappahannock River separates these two peninsulas; hence, the new satellite chose the name “Unity of the Rappahannock” as a geographical landmark to draw from five surrounding counties.
A multi-site church is one church that meets at multiple locations. Often called satellites or campuses, these churches transmit sermons and other worship opportunities at multiple times and sites through live-streaming, DVDs and Dropbox. Today, multi-site spiritual communities are the fastest growing churches in the United States. Todd Rhoades of Monday Morning Insight released the following statistics:
- In 1990, 10 multi-site churches were established.
- In 1998, the number expanded to 100 churches.
- In late 2005, 1,500 churches were multi-site.
- By 2012, there were more than 5,000 multi-site churches in the United States.
With this recent trend, we have discovered that establishing a satellite involves planning, patience and persistence by all parties involved. Our process unfolded as follows:
Initially, we set up a meeting with all interested parties to become acquainted with the goals and needs of the study group participants. After meeting quarterly for a year, we laid out an initial plan for establishing Sunday services. The local library was identified as our first meeting site for a “Discover Unity” gathering. (Meeting space had already been arranged at this site to meet the 2nd and 4th Sundays rent-free. “God is good all the time.”) Promotion went out to local newspapers and radio stations. Since then, meetings have been held regularly with group average attendance of fifteen members. Today, the satellite group participants are establishing an Advisory Council, discussing ideas for a strategic plan and developing a budget for 2014.
Although we had a time schedule in mind, we had to release any attachment to timing and let the plan emerge at its own pace. We learned it takes as much time as it takes for the word to spread about the Unity message, as well as ownership to occur within the satellite participants. We received many reminders to allow Spirit to be our guide, rather than our egos.
Regular meetings and ongoing communications by our leadership at Unity of Richmond have provided the support needed to continue seeing and experiencing the vision for a thriving satellite. It takes time and commitment to develop relationships within the satellite community. Our ministers, licensed Unity teacher and board members have committed to visiting and supporting our satellite regularly.
Most importantly, we believe a Unity center’s readiness prior to establishing satellite ministries needs to include the following: a well-defined infrastructure of board members, teams, committees, policies and procedures, a vision of growth, financial stability, a high-tech capability, a strong staff with clear roles and responsibilities, and the support of the leadership and membership.
We already know our world is ready to awaken to the Unity message of God’s unconditional love and divine essence within each person. Multi-site expansions are yet another way to create opportunities for these spiritual awakenings.