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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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