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All About Multisite: Campus Driven? Central Drive? A Hybrid of Both?


by Rich Birch: Welcome to our new podcast all about multisite! I’m chatting with a group of multisite ninjas and answering your questions about the ins and outs of launching new campuses. Our group is as follows:

Natalie Frisk is our family ministry expert. She is a key leader from The Meeting House. This church has 19 (!) locations and is doing all kinds of great stuff, including a killer kids’ & youth curriculum that they give away for free. Natalie’s a lot of fun and will have so many great insights around leading in a thriving multisite church.

Greg Curtis is our guest connections and assimilation expert. He leads at Eastside Christian Church, one of the fastest growing churches in the country, and literally, is the “go to” source for getting people to stick and stay in the church. (Eastside has assimilated something like 1,500 people in the last 18 months!) His coaching practice around assimilation is amazing.

Ben Stapley is our communications and service programming expert. Ben is one of the most helpful leaders I know. His day job is at Liquid Church in NJ, but he does so much to help other leaders with the “big show” part of church world.

And I, Rich, have been involved with 14 different campus launches over the years and enjoy helping churches that are thinking about multisite.

We are here to answer your questions about running a multisite church and are excited to be here today with our fourth episode.

Open Question: What are you looking forward to this summer?  

Ben Stapley – The shore. Not the beach, but the shore. Family, and jumping back on my motorcycle after all the snow.
Greg Curtis – I’ll experience my first sabbatical this summer, so I’m excited about that.
Natalie Frisk – Our family is going to western Canada to visit family and then to eastern Canada to have a little vacation.

Q1: What do you think of a hybrid version of campus vs. central version of leadership?

It’s a tension to be managed and something which most leaders in multisite churches probably struggle with on some level. Tension can run really high in this area. Central leadership is better early on for fast launching of campuses, but strong campus leadership is needed as the campuses mature. In any case, it’s important to set the tone that this is not an “us versus them” mentality but a clear “we’re in this together” mindset. In a multisite context, especially as more campuses are added, there must be clarity about what the core values of the ministry are, and what aspects are open to being adapted to a local context, however both campus and central staff should be involved in the process.

The central staff can give clarity of strategy and systems to help things work well in a local context. Centrally they build and develop that supportive framework, and provide vision and direction. Then the campus staff can step in and be empowered to carry that baton, as they serve their local community.

Greg explains the central-campus leader relationship as being like a grandparent: you have all of the joys of coming alongside and supporting without the direct responsibility. You can help make the campus succeed by coaching the campus pastor or giving them advice, but the responsibility of assimilation, for example, lies with the campus staff. Create a close relationship between the central and campus leaders so that you can have someone to turn to for advice and support, or else just a friend to spend time with.

Be aware and sensitive to location and culture differences between campuses, especially if you have campuses in different states or countries. Differences between cultures, even if they’re as simple as the types of weather at different times of year that affect the lifestyle in that area, can mean changes in how things are done from one campus to another and need to be acknowledged and understood within hybrid leadership.

You can use the hybrid system as a bit of a reward method. If one campus is doing great, give them greater freedom and autonomy. But this can also become tough because you aren’t consistent. In other words, how much freedom and responsibility you give to one campus or department isn’t the same across the board. Be aware that it may start to create some unnecessary competition or complaining.

Q2: What do you “miss” about leading in a single site church? How is the multisite model limiting?

In a single site church you have the opportunity to really contextualize your message to that local community. For example, Ben’s multisite churches went through the issue of providing a message on parents wrestling with which extracurricular activities to put their kids into and how to get their kids into the best colleges. But at some of the locations, the parents at those communities couldn’t afford to put their kids into after-school activities, or they were focused on just getting their children to graduate high school and stay out of a gang.

It takes extra effort to build community within a multisite context. It can be easier to create that close community within a single site church, especially in a smaller one, but it takes a lot more effort to connect community across multiple locations.

Sometimes ideas can’t come to fruition due to costs in getting supplies across all locations in multisite churches. A multisite church that is still building their finances may not have enough money to buy the supplies for big children’s church projects. It could be much easier to buy supplies for projects in a single site church.

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Source: All About Multisite: Campus Driven? Central Drive? A Hybrid of Both? – unSeminary