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6 Lessons I’ve Learned from 6 Years of Multisite Church Leadership

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Nearly 6 years ago Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the honor of serving at) adopted a multisite strategy to deliver growth to new areas and reach new people with the Gospel. That one decision changed everything.

Since that time, we’ve grown from one campus to five (with more to come) and we’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. Some of those lessons, as you would expect, we’ve learned the hard way. Here’s a few that stand out.

1. Starting is the Easy Part

Starting new multisite campuses is actually the easy part. Starting something new is usually exciting, attracts new people, and typically has some kind of momentum associated with it. Those are all things that make church leaders salivate. However, managing all of the complexities of inter-campus relationships, communication, decision making, reporting, influence, and building an effective central service team that serves the campuses is the more difficult part. It’s one thing to start a new multisite campus, it’s another thing all together to adopt a multisite mindset.

2. Communication is Complicated

The lines of communication can get really complicated in a multisite setting. Who needs to know what when and in what sequence are things communicated to which audience? Creating feedback loops from the campuses back to central services is key to help the central service team understand what’s working and what’s not and what the campus teams need from them to be successful. It’s also just as important to cascade communication through campus pastors to the campus teams. Add to that now you’ve got to figure out how all of the campus staff relate not only to central services but also to other campuses. As you can imagine it can get a little complicated.

3. Decision Rights can be Confusing

Knowing who makes what decision can become really confusing. When a campus begins making decisions that the central team believes they should be making or the central team makes decisions that affect every campus without fully understanding the impact at the individual campus level or getting the right campus level staff on board first, things can get tense. Clearly understanding who makes what decision and how decisions get made help dissolve the complexity of multisite.

4. Culture is King

One of the biggest questions that a church needs to answer before it goes multisite is, “Do we have a culture worth replicating?” In expanding and replicating your culture through a multisite strategy it’s not uncommon for churches to confuse policies and people. Here’s what I mean, your people (staff, leaders, volunteers, and attenders) transfer your culture to new locations. Policies, systems and structures may support your culture, they may even institutionalize it to a certain degree, but they don’t replicate it. Your people carry your culture.

5. Approach Matters

Yes, there are a lot of different ways to do multisite. There are a number of different approaches and models. But not all approaches are created equal. Some are more successful than others. For our purposes, I equate success with people saying yes to follow Jesus and life change…and I always figure more people meeting Jesus is better than less. There are some very concrete reasons why only 15% of churches that go multisite ever get past 3 campuses. There are also very concrete reasons why churches like LifeChurch.tv find so much success. Some approaches are more successful than others.

6. People Development is Difficult

The growth of your church has the potential to outpace the rate at which you can develop people. In other words, people don’t grow or develop as fast as your church, and multisite will expose that. One of the greatest challenges that multisite brings with it people development. So, as much as you may want to hire from the inside there are going to be times where you’re going to have to hire experienced talent from the outside to keep up with growth and new challenges that growth brings.


Posted in Leadership

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Why a Teaching Team is a Better Approach to Teaching at your Church

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Although the idea of a teaching team is not a new idea, I’m surprised at the amount of churches across the country that have not embraced this approach to preaching in their weekend worship services.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying:

  • I’m not advocating that you use the “main stage” to develop communicators. Don’t experiment on your church. Instead develop communicators in other ministry venues than the weekend worship services. There can’t be a big “drop off” in gifting from the primary preacher to others on the teaching team. Otherwise internally people are going to be saying, “oh no, not this guy again.”
  • I’m not advocating that you water down or muddy your unique culture. It’s not helpful to have preachers on the teaching team that have completely different styles or theological perspectives. Preaching is the primary way culture is built in a church so keep the same approach and same “voice.”
  • I’m not advocating that your main preacher speaks less than 35 weekends a year (+/-).
  • I’m not advocating that you have too many voices on stage, more than 3 can get confusing.

In today’s world communicators aren’t just compared to other preachers they’re compared to other communicators including comedians, late night show hosts, TED talks, and every other great preacher in the world that anyone can listen to on the internet. Developing a teaching team is simply a better approach to teaching.

It keeps Communicators Fresh

Preaching week in and week out, 52 weeks a year is a grind. Very, very, very few preachers on the planet can be great 52 weeks a year, year after year. A teaching team helps great preachers preach great sermons. Not only do they get time to work on their sermons and prepare better content, but they can work together on the content and delivery preparation.

It keeps Engagement Up

No matter how good of a communicator your pastor is, they only have so many stories. More voices on the stage keeps engagement up because your church body hears things different ways from different people. Also, if you do this well, you can engage a younger audience by having communicators on the team who are younger than the primary preacher.

It Teaches the Church it’s not all about One Person

Building a great teaching team teaches the church body that ministry isn’t just about or built around one superstar with a great teaching gift. Rather, the body, when it works together as a body and you lean into everyone’s unique gifting actually takes more ground and functions better. Remember, the team always outperforms the individual, this is also true in teaching teams.

It sets you up for Succession

Every pastor is an interim pastor. One day they will no longer be the leader or the preacher. Someday, somebody else will step in and pick up where you left off. A teaching team helps make this transition easier for the church to embrace.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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3 Shifts that Growing Multisite Churches Experience

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The decision to adopt a multisite strategy to deliver growth may be a decision that your church is considering. While still young as a movement, multisite is proving to be an incredibly effective strategy for growing churches to deliver growth to new “markets” and reach new people with the Gospel.

However, going multisite will make things more complicated and more difficult for you as a leader and for your church.

If your church is considering going multisite, or has gone multisite but is now experiencing multi-stuck I’d encourage you to check out the Unstuck Group. We’ve developed a unique process to help churches prepare to go multisite as well as get multi-stuck churches unstuck.

Below are 3 shifts that we observe growing multisite churches commonly experience.

1. Staff Roles & Responsibility

When you’re just in one location the Staff Team only has responsibility for the one location. As you begin to add campuses it’s common for Staff to have “dual responsibilities.” For instance, someone may be the Kids Director on the original campus but influence Kids Ministry on all campuses. This is particularly true as you move from 1 campus 2-3 campuses. By the time you’re at 4+ campuses it’s more common that staff have a singular focus. They either serve at a particular campus and focus their attention on that campus or serve on the “central team” and serve all campuses.

2. Attenders

Campus attendance has the ability to shift the emotion of the Staff Team at the original campus significantly. Obviously when there is one location all of the attendance is at that one site. Even when you start your first campus or two it’s not uncommon that the majority of the attendance is still on the original location. However, as campuses are added it’s not uncommon that the majority of people who attend the church, attend at a different campus than the original site. This is a tipping point in your multisite journey where the Staff Team at the original site begin to see themselves as just another campus instead of the big boys on the block and ministry trend setters for the church.

3. Staff Restructures

While going multisite may be a mechanism to help your church reach more and new people with the Gospel it certainly makes things more complicated. There are multiple restructures that happen along the way as more campuses are added. Here are some general trends:

  • 2-3 Campuses: Campus Pastors are hired and usually report to someone already on the team, Staff often play dual roles leading on a particular campus and influencing the entire church at the same time
  • 4-5 Campuses: A Multisite Director is hired to lead the new Campus Pastor Team and the Multisite expansion strategy at the church, a Campus Pastor is hired at the original location and that site is treated as another campus instead of the “mother ship,” a true Central Service Team responsible for serving the campuses is beginning to be built.
  • 6+ Campuses: Regionalization brings a whole new set of issues

Posted in Leadership

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10 Articles that will Help your Church Make Vision Real

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Thank you for making October another great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s great staying connected with you through social media and hearing that these articles have been helpful. So, thank you for connecting with me through the content on this blog! You made these the top posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

Stop Hiring People to Work at your Church

Churches love to hire people. I mean they really love to hire people. Often times when churches are just starting off, staff members will raise their own salary until the church has the capacity to pay them. Then as they grow I’ve seen churches long for the day where the budget grows just a little bit more so they can make that next hire. They put so much hope into staffing. Many think that if they could just add one more special staff position to the team, the church would grow.

10 Things that Require Zero Talent

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” That’s a statement I talk to my son about all the time. He’s only 9 years old, but I want him to grow up to have a great work ethic and a positive attitude. I don’t expect him to be the great at everything he attempts, but I do expect him to give a great effort. There’s a lot of things he can’t control in life, but he’ll always be able to control his effort and his attitude.

What makes a Great Executive Pastor Great?

More and more I’m running into young church leaders that aspire to be an Executive Pastor and I’m fielding more and more questions about what young leaders can do to prepare for the role. With that in mind, while this is not an exhaustive list, here are a couple of recommendations I’d make to any young church leader who thinks they may serve as an Executive Pastor (XP) one day.

Can a Congregationally-Led Church be Healthy?

Why are the majority of small churches in America congregationally-led instead of being led by pastors and ministry staff?

The Difference between Preparation and Planning

Do great organizations prepare for the future or do they plan for it? The answer is, “yes.” To be clear preparation and planning are not the same thing, and great organizations become great by doing both.

How do you know when it’s Time to Leave your Church?

There are all kinds of reasons why church staff leave the church they work at to go work another church. Some of those reasons are solid and make a lot of sense. Some of them as you could guess, not so much. If you’re a church staff member and you’re trying to figure out if you should stay or if it’s time to go, here are a couple of principles you should keep in mind.

8 Reasons Why People don’t Volunteer at your Church

I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering.

Casting Vision for the Next Chapter: Sun Valley Community Church

Sun Valley is a church with more than 7,000 people gathering in five locations in the Phoenix area. Many times, I don’t get the opportunity to see the vision move from the planning charts to reality. Because of that, I was encouraged to see this update. Check out the video below.

Why Knowledge isn’t the Key to Team Leadership

If you have to know everything or be the one with the greatest expert knowledge on the team then eventually you will become the lid to growth. While you don’t have to know everything, if you’re the leader you still need to be able to provide your team with the following 4 keys that unlock team success.

New FREE Resource on Trends in Church Growth and Health

Each quarter, we plan to release a new edition of The Unstuck Church Report: Benchmarks & Trends in U.S. Churches. It’s a 4-page PDF overviewing 20 updated metrics in key areas of church health, including Ministry ReachStaffing and LeadershipConnection, and Finances. Tony Morgan shares his take on several of the more intriguing data points.

 


Posted in Leadership

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Does your Church need to Sacrifice something Sacred?

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Knowing when to end a ministry can be tough, taking the right approach to how to end it can be even more difficult. Starting a new ministry initiative at your church is usually fun, exciting and is often full of new engagement with new people and is typically coupled with momentum.

If your church has been around for a while you’ve probably started some new ministry initiatives over the years. The trouble is, everything you start you need to work to sustain. Then eventually that ministry runs its natural life-cycle and you’ve got to make a decision. Do you kill it or let it die a natural death?

Chances are your church has some “sacred cow” ministries that have been around for a long time, have a great history, have had a great impact in the past, but are on life support now. Does your church need to sacrifice some of these sacred cows?

The Danger Zone

The most dangerous ministry to continue to invest in at your church is a ministry that keeps insiders (people who already know Jesus) happy but doesn’t reach outsiders (new people). These ministries probably still have a lot of people engaged in them and at one point were full of new people and stories of life-change. As the ministry has reached “maturity” now the people engaged in them really enjoy the relationships they’ve built over time. They’re not necessarily bad, they just don’t reach new people. They may not have even started to show decline yet, but you know that they’ve effectually “jumped the shark.” That’s what’s so dangerous. These ministries need careful attention and skill applied to move them back over to the upward slope of the life-cycle or they’ll continue to drift towards decline and eventual death. 

Foolishness

It’s possible that your church is still investing heavily in some ministries that aren’t producing many results. If we’re following the plan Jesus laid out for His Church, the results we’re chasing are life-change. However, many churches are still investing resources like staffing, finances, time, communication horsepower, and emotional energy into ministries that are producing little life-change. The book of Proverbs would call that foolishness.

New Opportunities

If you’ve got new opportunities to help new people say yes to following Jesus but you can’t fuel those new ministry initiatives because you’re still investing heavily in ministries that aren’t producing much life-change it’s probably time to kill some sacred cows. It’s surprising how often church leaders forget that that pruning is a biblical concept. You can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are personally, so why would we think that our churches can follow Jesus and stay where they are at the same time? Something needs to change.

Kill it OR let it Die?

It takes just as much skill and courage to end a ministry as it does to start one, sometimes even more. When a ministry is nearing its end, you’ve got a decision to make, do you kill it or let it die a natural death. The answer is it depends. Is it a barrier to launching and investing in the new ministry initiative you feel led to begin? Is it creating organizational drag? Are you and your team investing a disproportioned amount of time, money, volunteers, and emotional energy into it? If so, it may be time to kill it. If not, then why create unnecessary pain for yourself and everyone else, just let it die a natural death.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation
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