We are one church meeting in multiple locations reaching people far from God and bringing them to life in Christ.
Next Level Church is a loving, relevant, life-giving church. We exist to make a difference in the lives of people and in the communities around us. Jesus is the reason for everything we do and the hope of the world.
No matter who you are, what you’ve done, or where you’ve been; you are welcome here. Whether you have been following Jesus for years or never set foot in a church before, you will be comfortable here. Come as you are to ask questions, explore your ideas about who God is, or grow deeper in your faith.
At whichever location you decide to attend, you will find a relevant, encouraging message from the Bible, an exciting and age-appropriate kids environment that will have your children begging you to come back, and dynamic music and videos to engage your heart.
When Next Level Church launched its first multisite location in 2010, we were simply responding to a God-ordained opportunity to reach into a new community and to a problem of running out of seats at our existing location. Our commitment to love people far from God and move them to life in Christ has always compelled us to continue finding new ways to reach into more communities with the gospel message.
It wasn’t long before we discovered that a multisite approach to ministry had great potential in New England where towns are a source of pride and passion for all of us, and where there are more people but less large cities than almost anywhere else in the country. Today, many years after our first multisite experience, we are even more convinced that a multisite approach to ministry is a powerful tool in advancing God’s Kingdom in unchurched regions well beyond those humble beginnings.
We recognize that this approach can seem a bit unusual to those who’ve not seen it up close. Some people assume that they would not be comfortable in a multisite church, especially one where the teaching is delivered by video. But the reality is that those objections are usually offered by folks who’ve not yet seen or experienced a multisite church firsthand. So here are our answers to a few of the questions you may have.
A multisite church is simply one church meeting in multiple locations. A multisite church shares a common vision, budget, doctrine, leadership and staff. The purpose of becoming a multisite church is to make more and better followers of Jesus by bringing the church closer to where people are, creating good stewardship through efficiency in leadership and finances, and giving a church the opportunity to get both larger (in total numbers) and smaller (in more individual locations and experiences) simultaneously, which allows people to experience the benefits of both larger and smaller churches at once. Just as large universities create local campuses to reach more students, multisite churches create multiple locations to reach more people who need the hope of the Gospel.
Church planting typically involves creating a new church with its own leadership, its own programs, and its own identity. On the other hand, a multisite church like Next Level shares a centralized leadership team, a unied budget, and has many shared resources (including the weekend teaching.) In contrast to church plants, multisite campuses have a much higher (90%) success rate and provide what business leaders call “economies of scale” – meaning as they grow larger it takes less and less resources to start and support each additional location because things like insurance, accounting, HR, and central leadership and directions are already handled, all of which would need to be developed from scratch for every new church plant.
When we began doing multisite ministry, we spent a great deal of time discussing the best way to deliver the teaching in two places at once. We considered a team-teaching approach, whereby two pastors would prepare and deliver similar messages at each location simultaneously. Eventually, we decided to use video broadcast for the majority of our weekend messages for a few reasons: It prevents people from choosing which location to attend based on a particular teaching pastor. We want people to attend the location nearest their home, since it’s more likely that friends and family will accept an invitation to attend a church that is in their own community. Since everyone has the same teaching experience each weekend, people don’t build their attendance patterns around a particular person but rather the presence of God.
Everyone across all locations gets the same weekend experience, and can have follow-up discussions either individually or in NLC groups, even if the NLC group is comprised of people from multiple locations. This also allows for uniformity and efficiency in communication of videos, print materials, online platforms, and social media. It is an important factor in truly being “one church”. Since teaching typically requires 20-25 hours per week in preparation time, we can put more pastoral hours toward other people, ministry needs, and shepherding those who God trusts us to care for, rather than having more than one pastor immersed in preparation each week. We’ve consistently seen that most people adapt very quickly to viewing a message on a screen and interact with the message (by raising hands, answering questions, laughing, etc.) just as if the speaker were there in person.
We asked the same question before we started using video. But after a few weekends of video teaching we realized that many people actually prefer seeing a message on video if the lighting, projection and sound are done with excellence. Why? Because they can see better than when it is live in a large auditorium! It’s the same reason that people who go to a concert most often watch a screen instead of the stage. And, it’s the same reason that pastors in huge sanctuaries with projection screens notice that after the seventh row or so, no one looks at the stage – they watch the screens. At NLC, we have discovered that attending a location closer to one’s home is a much higher priority than how the sermon is delivered.
By using a multisite approach, we can create a number of smaller communities, rather than one large community. Within these smaller communities, we are better able to care for people and help them connect to one another. We believe that we can better shepherd God’s people by creating new environments as growth occurs.
By using a multisite approach, we can create a presence in a number of communities rather than just one concentrated space, allowing people to worship near the same community where they live, and invite their friends to worship with them. This strategy also makes it much easier for people to be involved during the week in groups and community service opportunities, because these activities also become concentrated around where they live.
By sharing resources and leadership, a large number of locations can advance the Gospel in unity. In some ways, a multisite church is an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17, when He said, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
The motivation for using multisite ministry is twofold: to accommodate growth that is already happening and to reach into new communities more effectively. We add new locations in response to people who commute a long distance to attend NLC and also to make sure we are always able to accommodate future growth at every location.
To teach effectively and powerfully, a pastor must know and connect with people. But knowing the pulse of people doesn’t mean knowing the pulse of every individual. The Christian church has long accepted the fact that eective and life-changing teaching can be done from a distance. Ministry done through TV, radio, books, CDs, and online carry out the work of the Spirit without the communicator being in direct relationship to the listeners. A message on a screen is no different.
As far as providing pastoral care for people, no one who pastors a large church shepherds all of the flock in a hands-on way. It simply can’t be done. Large churches that are healthy have learned to depend on small group ministries and a team of pastors who are empowered and equipped to lead an assigned portion of the ock. A church location that uses video teaching will always need on-site pastors to shepherd and lead the people. At Next Level, we utilize location pastor teams and continually grow our NLC Groups to eectively meet the needs of the people at each of our locations
While there are obviously no biblical examples of sermons delivered via video, we do know that while he was far away, the Apostle Paul wrote letters to lead, feed, correct, and guard the churches: “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:5). We believe we can effectively worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) on multiple sites utilizing video technology. The video screen is simply a delivery system (like amplication, lighting, and a host of other communication tools), that helps churches reach more people for Christ. It can’t make a boring message interesting or add life where the Spirit’s long departed. But it can put God’s Word within reach of people who can’t or won’t drive a long distance to attend church.
The effectiveness of the multisite movement across North America is evident by the fact that there are more than 5000 multisite churches today. They can be found in 47 U.S. states and 6 Canadian provinces and it is the fastest growing portion of the North American church today.
Next Level Church held its first experience on March 23, 2008, in Dover, NH. From day one, NLC has not wavered from its desire to be a church that people who don’t go to church love to attend. Its vision to be a loving, relevant, life-giving church was birthed in the heart of Lead Pastor Josh Gagnon and his wife, Jennifer, and has sparked a movement in unchurched communities throughout North America.
Today, NLC shares the love of Jesus with thousands of people across multiple locations every week and has been named among the 20 fastest growing churches in America for 3 consecutive years by Outreach Magazine. Next Level continues to see the kind of growth that only God can provide through its commitment to reaching people who do not know Jesus and the passion, prayers, and sacrifice of thousands of people who give of their time, talents, and resources to make this vision a reality.
Through the power and favor of God, NLC continues to see its influence expand into new communities where we are able to serve people, love our neighbors, and give hope to those who do not yet follow God. Every year, as God provides new opportunities to reach even more people, we look forward expectantly to what God continues to do in and through His church.