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Where Should Your Microsite Church Meet?

The beautiful thing about a microsite church is that the meeting space can vary to fit what’s available in the community or city. I’ve seen them done successfully in dozens of locations, and I’m always impressed by the passion and desire of people to make them happen no matter the limitations.

This list is by no means an exhaustive one (and I’ll keep adding to it), but I hope it gives you some ideas for your microsites. Just keep in mind that the tiers below are meant to give you a quick overview, but costs may vary from one location to another. In other words, no promises.

And one other quick not on these. If you use a temporary space each week, you’ll need to figure out storage for all your gear (such as TV/projectors, sound equipment, etc.). You may also need to factor in the cost of a trailer or storage unit and plan to have a team of volunteers ready to help.

Potentially Rent Free

  • Homes: This is the easiest and most common starting place for many microsites. The cost investment is minimal, but just know the logistics of managing larger groups can be tough (e.g., parking, seating, childcare).
  • Neighborhood Clubhouses: Sometimes, the use of a neighborhood clubhouse is included in HOA fees. It’s a good place to jump to if you outgrow a house or if you’re targeting a certain neighborhood.
  • Apartment Complex Community Spaces: Some apartment buildings have viewing rooms or other common spaces for tenants. This is a great way to reach the apartment community.
  • College Campuses: Your local university may have spaces that students can use free of charge, such as meeting rooms, fraternity/sorority houses, campus organization buildings, and more. Ask your college students or faculty to point you in the right direction.
  • Church Buildings: This may seem odd, but some microsites meet in church buildings. This is especially true with smaller churches that no longer meet on a regular basis or have a schedule that you can work around.

Potentially Lower Cost

  • Restaurants: Some restaurants are closed on Sunday mornings and have plenty of seating, which makes this work. (But keep in mind that microsites can meet whenever you choose.)
  • Gyms: There’s lots of open space in a gym for a larger gathering (especially in rooms designed for group workouts). But you’ll most likely have to set up and tear down each week.
  • Community Centers: Some communities and towns have spaces you can rent for a low fee, which you can usually find on the community website. Just make sure you read the fine print on the contract; otherwise, you may end up having to use their equipment. Also, some of these spaces may not be the nicest.
  • Libraries: Libraries often have larger meeting rooms for community events. Just know that some smaller branches have limited hours throughout the week.
  • State Park Facilities: Some state parks offer conference centers or meeting rooms for a low rental fee.
  • Corporate Office Buildings: Ask local business owners if they’d be willing to allow you to use meeting rooms or other large spaces in their buildings.

Potentially Higher Cost

  • Shopping Malls: Many malls in America are hurting, and they need reliable tenants. You’d have plenty of parking and flexibility for the space.
  • Group Lodges/Camps: Some rural or vacation areas have lodges or camps owned by faith-based and non-profit organizations. You may even find one with solid AV equipment.
  • Local Event Spaces: If a space is good enough for a wedding, it can work for a microsite gathering. Plus, Sunday mornings aren’t often high-demand times for these spaces. You could get a discount for longterm use.
  • Theaters: Movie theaters already host a number of churches, and some chains even have staff who help make this happen. But don’t overlook smaller local theaters as an option. They’re often landmarks that people know how to find easily.
  • Hotels/Conference Centers: This option can be pricier and come with additional requirements for what equipment you’re allowed to use (so, read the contract carefully). But you often get a higher level of quality.

Other Options

  • Prisons: Some churches have microsites that meet in local or state prisons. The requirements and restrictions can make this tricky (e.g., you may have to send in DVDs/thumbdrives of the sermon, you may not be able to meet every week, etc.). So, work with a chaplain or local/state official to get the details. No matter what, though, this is an incredible outreach opportunity.
  • Public/Private Schools: Schools have plenty going for them to allow your microsite to grow. But in some locations, legal issues can make using the buildings tougher.
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The Technology You’ll Need for a Microsite Church

Let me set your expectations before you read this post. Technology changes so quickly that anything I write would be outdated in months (or even weeks) if I listed exact equipment. If I told you to buy a certain steaming box, for example, that model would be replaced in no time.

Instead, I’m going to lay out general tech categories with links to companies that provide the resources you’ll need.

Second, before you consider technology needs, make sure you know the basics of where you’ll meet, how you’ll resource your microsite, and the other logistics. That will drive your technology needs.

With that said, let’s dive in.

Small Venues

A microsite church doesn’t necessarily require a huge upfront investment. That’s the beauty of the model. So, don’t think you need to resource it like you would a full campus. It can be much, much cheaper, especially with ones that meet in homes.

In fact, you can often get away with nothing more than a streaming set-top box, such as an Apple TV or Chromecast. Your church’s app may already be in those app stores, and if you offer live-streaming on your app, you’re all set. You could also simply stream your services on a computer or smart TV. 

Now the caveat: Some rural areas don’t have reliable high speed Internet. So, streaming may not be an option in those locations. (Trust me. I’ve limped along with satellite Internet in the past, and you’re not doing any streaming with that.) 

In such cases, you could have the microsite leader download the message from your website or Dropbox. Or you could send DVDs of the sermon. If you go this route, though, you’ll need think through how this will work and then test it out before going live.

For small group resources, marketing materials, worship guides (bulletins), and other similar print pieces, store them in Dropbox, iCloud, or a similar service for easier dispersal. You could also have them printed and shipped directly, but that depends on how much you want to spend. My personal recommendation here is that you try to keep as much digital as you can to cut costs at first.

Don’t be afraid to test out pop-up banners and other signage (such as yard signs), even if your microsite meets at a house. They add a level of legitimacy to your gathering, and they aren’t prohibitively expensive.

Now, as for worship, your best bet is to keep it simple. You won’t reach the level of excellence you have at your larger campuses, and that’s okay. If you go for live worship, you can usually stick with acoustic. You could also put the lyrics up on the TV with a laptop and ProPresenter (or even something like Keynote). 

You could also simply stream your worship along with the message. Or you could record a stripped down set during the week and send it to your microsites. Whatever you do, test it out before you launch anything.

Larger Venues

If your microsite is meeting in a library or other community space, things can get trickier. But ultimately, you can rely on the same sort of setup as the smaller space. You can still stream through a set-top box, but you’ll need a larger screen and likely better speakers. 

Trust me on this. The library or community center will not have good enough speakers for what you want to do. My friends at Portable Church Industries can help you find the right audio and video solutions for both worship and the sermon delivery. (I’m not an affiliate. But I trust those guys.) You may also want to consider purchasing or making some portable acoustic panels to help control the echo, depending on the space.

As you approach 75+ people, I would highly recommend you begin the transition toward a more reliable streaming solution. Expectations rise with increased attendance. In that case, you’ll need to purchase a professional live video streaming encoder, just like you would for a regular campus. Since no one’s giving me a cut, I’m not going to tell you which company to go with, but you could try Boxcast, Epiphan Video, SlingStudio, or Stream Monkey.

Your worship music setup will definitely depend on the space and what’s allowed. Live music with a full band is preferred, but if that’s not possible, don’t sweat it. Just make the stream or recording sound the best you can. As a side note, if you are going with live music, this is a great way to mix in your interns and residents to give them a chance to lead worship.

With a larger space, you’ll also want to step up the game with welcoming and directional signage, as well as whatever you hand out to people who come. Also, don’t skimp on the t-shirts. 

If you need help thinking through what technology you’ll need, connect with me. I’d be glad to walk alongside you in this process.

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Choosing the Right Location? Go Where God’s Already Working

I love studying those circles.

When we review the stats for our livestream broadcast, areas where people are watching show up as circles in a range of sizes. As you might expect, we have small, rural communities with a few streamers represented by small circles and larger circles near our campuses.

But then there are the exceptions. Some rural communities and small towns in our state show much larger circles than you’d expect — lots of people streaming Sunday after Sunday.

When people ask about the “right location” for a microsite, I always come back to those circles. Sure, we could strategize about what town makes the most sense or where we’d like to test out a model. And there’s room for that. But the most successful microsite starts with one simple (Blackaby) maxim: Go where God’s already at work and join Him in it.

The benefit here is that you aren’t generating interest. You’re very likely walking into life change that’s already happening. And people who watch your sermons and have been transformed or who are passionate about your mission — that’s a pretty powerful core group. They’re much more likely to help you launch something new and to stick with it.

Finding Where God’s at Work

Data is your friend here. (I geek out on data… so, sorry in advance.) Tap into Google Analytics to see where people are coming from, especially on your livestream and sermon archive pages. If you notice patterns, you’re likely onto something good. Test this over a longer period of time (six months to a year) to make sure there’s consistency. Also, factor in the size of communities to get an accurate picture of reach. (Wikipedia can give you a snapshot here.) Consider the areas with a greater percentage of those connected to the church.

Second, dive into the church database. Use the search by address or zip code feature to examine how many people have submitted information from that community. This depends on the accuracy and depth of your database. Cross check that with the analytics to see if you have solid leads on who watches from those areas. (If you don’t have anyone in your database from those areas, see the ideas below.)

Also, sift through any small group info you have to see where they’re meeting. If you have thriving groups that meet farther than thirty minutes from a campus, it’s a pretty good bet that those groups are reaching at least some people who don’t come to your church.

If you need some better info or don’t have a church database, use the chat on your livestream to ask people to fill out a “digital visitor card.” What’s great is that you can use a number of sites to create free or cheap forms. You may have to ask for this several times before you gather any meaningful results, and you’ll only get a small percentage of people who respond. But the better your relationships are with those who livestream, the better your mileage.

No data? You may have more than you think — if you ask. Send out a survey on social media or via email. Ask for stories from those who livestream. Talk to your staff about people they know who drive from far away. Walk the parking lot on a Sunday and look for patterns in counties on the license plate. Talk to connections you have in the target communities.

Step into the Momentum

Bottom line? It’s so much easier and fruitful to step into what God’s doing. Let the data help you figure that out… and then run with it.