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Avoiding My Multisite Mitakes

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For the past seven years I’ve been serving as an Executive Pastor in a large multisite church in the Phoenix metro area…before that it was a single site megachurch in the Phoenix metro area…but adopting a multisite strategy changed everything. If you’d have asked me back in High School when I was called into ministry if I ever wanted to be an Executive Pastor at a Mega-Multisite church I probably would have replied, “What’s an Executive Pastor and what does Multisite mean?”

Recently I’ve been hearing stories of churches that went multisite somewhere along the way as a strategy to reach more people and deliver growth to a new community that are now releasing those campuses to be their own independent churches, shutting campuses down, or abandoning their multisite approach altogether.

I’m a firm believer in multisite as a strong and successful strategy to deliver growth into new communities for the right churches. I believe in it so strongly because I’ve seen so many people get to meet, know and follow Jesus that otherwise would not have been reached. But not every church is ready to go multisite.

The statistic still holds true that only 15% of multisite churches ever get past 3 campuses. It doesn’t have to be that way for you and your church. Here’s a few mistakes that I’ve made along the way that I hope you can learn from.

The Campus Pastor

Unfortunately, every time we’ve hired a Campus Pastor from the outside it hasn’t worked, every time. However, every time we’ve promoted someone from the inside, even if they’d only been on the team for a year, it’s been a win. One of the worst mistakes I made was hiring in a Campus Pastor from the outside and putting him on a campus that was the furthest away with the least visibility to coaching and the Central Team. He wasn’t a bad guy by any stretch of the imagination, we just didn’t put him in a situation to succeed.

Location, Location, Location!

We’ve started one campus in a set up and tear down situation. It met in the biggest, newest high school in the community. The room they met in had a pitched floor, theatre seating and a great stage. It was nicer than most churches! The problem was it was in the wrong location, it was buried in a neighborhood. As soon as we relocated that campus to their own facility on a major road with the right volume of drive by traffic, parking and accessibility it grew by nearly 50%.

Give Rope Don’t Take It

Multisite provides the opportunity to come up with all kinds of new solutions. Those new solutions 9 times out of 10 don’t come from central team that serves all of the campuses, they come from the campuses, because they’re the ones closest to the people. The trouble is when every campus is coming up with their own solutions it can make for not only complexity but straight up conflict between campuses and the central team. I’m all for innovation, but we’ve learned that there’s no innovation without first communication…and we’ve learned it’s much easier to give a little rope along the way and margin to contextualize and innovate than have to corral the horses and take that rope back once it’s already out there.

It Cost More Than You Think

Going multisite forced us to change our entire financial approach. We had church planted for years, and honestly church planting was a pretty low financial investment compared to starting a new campus. When you plant a church, you may send out a leader or two, you may send some families to go with them, you financially invest in it for a season and you may provide coaching for a while. But then once it’s birthed it’s pretty much on its own. When you launch a multisite campus you’re on the financial hook for the whole thing. If finances get tight you have to figure it out. You can count on multisite costing more than you think.

Need some help with the multisite journey at your church? The Unstuck Group has a unique process designed specifically for multisite churches. Follow this link to learn more!


Posted in Leadership

3 Responses to “Avoiding My Multisite Mitakes”

  1. Steve Davison January 30, 2019 at 8:29 am #

    You stated, “However, every time we’ve promoted someone from the inside, even if they’d only been on the team for a year, it’s been a win.”

    What I’ve read and heard about campus pastors is that if you are hiring from the outside the individual should be on staff for at least one-year before they begin leading a campus. For clarification, were the “failures” that were hired from the outside on staff at your church for the suggested one-year before they moved to leading a campus?

    • Paul Alexander January 30, 2019 at 1:29 pm #

      Steve, regarding the “1 year on staff” prior to being elevated to the role, you read that correctly…yes, we hired from the outside right into the role and it didn’t work (2x). Our fault, not theirs. In retrospect it wasn’t fair to expect someone to lead the way we lead without being in it and seeing it for a while first.

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