Branch and Trunk Model (Multisite)

Branch and Trunk (sometimes called "Satellite" or “Branch Campus”) model is the most common of multisite congregational partnership. These multisites emerge as a congregation establishes and grows another site (branch) or reaches out to an existing congregation to offer support which may result in joining together. A "trunk” congregation (sometimes also called a hub) anchors the network, supporting sister "branches" that extend outreach into new places and with new populations. This creates one church in many places.

Branch partnerships are outward looking. They have rich cultures of generosity, so they feel that focusing on members within their walls is not the point of church. They see themselves as serving the region around them rather than the people "inside."

A Branch (sometimes known as a Satellite) is

  • made up of one established congregation (trunk) that starts a new site (branch) or adopts a joining smaller congregation

  • bound by shared staff, programming, budget and mission

  • motivated by a "spirit of serving more” (i.e., a desire to extend, expand, and evangelize)

  • hoping to expand ministry to a new population or evangelize their wider region more effectively.

Branch models get their name from the way a tree's trunk and root system supply nourishment to its branches. In the same way, an established church nourishes smaller ones with the nutrients of shared sermons, religious education, and small group resources.

The model may begin with one "trunk congregation" offering support to their branch partner sites. But what begins as a one-way relationship quickly evolves into a two-way exchange of gifts. Trunk congregations supporting their "branches" soon discover those branches bring new ideas and new perspectives. Churches who create an additional site often do so with the explicit intent to reach new populations, and thus quickly receive the gifts of greater socio-economic, cultural, and racial diversity.

You Might Be Ready to Create a New Site If

  • You are feeling constrained by your walls.

  • You feel a calling to support sibling Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations nearby or extend your reach to a new part of town.

  • You sense an itch to extend your geographical reach, or to expand your mission to reach a new population of UUs.

  • Your church has a culture of wanting to help other UU congregations thrive.

  • Your church is a bit evangelical, wanting to share the Love and Grace of Unitarian Universalism.

If these ring true, you might be ready to become a Trunk/Branch Multisite Congregation!


An example of a UU congregation that is one church in many places is First Unitarian Universalist of San Diego, CA, with sites at Hillcrest and South Bay.

Another example is First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, NM with branches in East Mountains and Socorro NM.



UnSeminary: Stuff You Wish They Taught in Seminary
A website of articles and podcasts with a focus on matters of concern to multisite and larger church clergy and leaders. There is a large section devoted to multisite and partnership concerns.


  • MultiChurch: Exploring the Future of Multisite, Brad House and Gregg Allison, Zondervan, 2017
  • The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations, Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, Warren Bird, Zondervan, 2006
  • Multi-Site Church Road Trip, Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, Warren Bird, Zondervan, 2009
  • Church Locality: New Rules for Church Buildings in a Multisite, Church Planting, and Giga-Church World, Tim Cool, Jim Tomberlin, Rainer Publishing, 2014
  • Multisite Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation, Scott McConell, B&H Books, 2009

If your generous heart is feeling constrained by the walls of your singular building, maybe Branches are calling you!

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, CER Program Manager for Multisite, Partnerships and Microsites.

Multisite Church Model Overview