It is increasingly recognized that the wide-scale modification of habitats caused by climate change requires scientists to consider how species and species interactions change both locally and at larger, regional scales. Metacommunity approaches explicitly link local and regional dynamics for communities of species, providing a conceptual and mathematical framework for global change biologists. These approaches can scale between community-level impacts and the regional distributions and movements of species, and likewise determine how changes to regional processes, such as dispersal and habitat configuration, influence local abundances and occurrences. This review discusses several lessons that have recently emerged from climate change studies and metacommunity theory to identify some of the key processes that link local-scale studies to regional-scale properties of communities, and vice versa. We then use simple models to highlight how these linkages function and to identify where research could gain most by studying specific local and regional processes. Finally, we propose methods for the field to move forward by clarifying how to incorporate metacommunity approaches into empirical research, and by identifying important gaps in metacommunity research.