Tag Archive - central

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Managing the Tension between Culture and Control in a Multisite Church

One of the greatest challenges of leading a Multisite Church is maintaining alignment across campuses. Regardless of how proven your ministry model may be, many campus leaders still desire space to make it their own. While this drive can be evidence of their leadership capacity, it can also create tension and disunity on your team. How can you keep a diverse group of leaders in different communities focused on the same mission and ministry wins?

When you break it down, there are only two core approaches to multisite alignment. You can either lead through culture or you can lead through control. Which approach is best for your multisite team? Understanding their five differences can help you decide:

1. Approach to Decision-Making

Culture: Campus leaders are developed to make decisions
Control: Centralized decisions are leveraged across campuses

In a multisite church that is led through culture, campus leaders understand how to make decisions. Values are clear and shared at every location. Each leader knows what should be considered important when they are at a decision point.

In a control-driven approach to alignment, everyone understands how decisions get made. Campus leaders regularly take issues and ideas to centralized leaders for approval.

2. Focus of Central Leaders

Culture: Driving the right questions
Control: Providing the right answers

In a culture-driven church, central leaders focus on communicating values and asking the right questions. They spend their time developing the organization’s mindset for ministry. For example, at NewPointe, I worked hard to focus campuses on one driving question: “What is the absolute best thing for the unchurched family in our community?” I knew if that was always in the minds of our leaders, we could trust them to move forward and make great decisions.

Control-driven central leaders focus more on policies and standards. They spend their time developing the right plans to get the results they desire across locations. They lead with answers more often than questions.

3. Leadership Empowerment

Culture: Empower growing leaders
Control: Equip new leaders

Culture-driven churches empower growing leaders to develop. As long as they operate within the mission, values, and strategies of the church, campuses have the opportunity to develop and implement plans. This gives them greater ownership and experiences for growth.

Control-driven churches equip new leaders with clear plans. They can more quickly involve younger ministry leaders, knowing they’ll be set up with proven approaches in every area.

4. Operational Pace

Culture: Requires slower pace
Control: Allows faster pace

Culture-driven churches require a slower pace. Because each leader has more flexibility, it takes them more time to develop and implement plans. Additionally, organization-wide decisions require greater input from campuses, leading to more conversations and meetings.

Control-driven organizations can move at a faster pace. With every campus utilizing the same plans, leaders do not spend time reinventing them. Campuses can also be launched at a faster rate because the approach is not being adjusted for each new location.

5. Rate of Innovation

Culture: Creativity at campuses
Control: Innovation at the top

Culture-driven organizations encourage creativity at the campus level. This widens the number of people trying new approaches and gives entrepreneurial leaders faster ground-level feedback. With that, innovation may take place at a faster rate.

In a control-driven church, innovation primarily takes place at the top. Central leaders develop new approaches for all campuses. This can decrease the number of new ideas and increase the amount of time it takes to get ground-level feedback. However, it also reduces the amount of staff required at each campus.

While each approach to alignment has advantages, it is critical to lean toward the one that supports your vision as well as the wisdom of the moment your church is in. If you’re trying to launch new campuses at a fast rate, control will often be required. If you’re more focused on developing your current locations, leading through culture will likely be a better fit. In either case, be clear with your campus and central leaders about how you are staying aligned. Otherwise, they will always be on different pages.


This is a guest post by Ryan Stigile. Ryan is the Director of Strategic Resources for The Unstuck Group. Previously, as Director of Expansion at NewPointe Community Church (NE Ohio), Ryan led the launch and development of new multisite campuses. With Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, GA), he guided the leadership team through a strategic change initiative to simplify and align its ministries. Ryan has a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University and degrees in business administration and discipleship ministry from Lee University.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Building an Effective Central Services Team in a Multisite Church Model

If you’re leading in a multisite church or if you’re thinking about becoming a multisite church, at some point you’re going to have to make some big decisions about the role of your Central Service Team. Somewhere along the way you’re going to be faced with building a Central Service Team, Ministry Development Team or All Campus Staff Team…different churches attach a different label to it. But essentially it’s a centralized team of people tasked with supporting decentralized campuses that are geographically separated. Think of it as a matrix leadership model. The Central Service Team influences each campus while the Campus Pastors are responsible for the ministry on each of their respective campuses. Through learning from other great friends in the multisite world and facing this personally in the context I lead in, there are four (4) healthy perspectives of a great Central Services Team that I’ve discovered.

1. Content:

This team ensures that content is the same across campuses. This includes teaching on the stage during the weekend services, as well as content for Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Small Groups and so on. One of the powerful benefits of a multisite model is that great teaching can be delivered to each campus no matter their size or location. Instead of taking time to “recreate the wheel,” specific campus staff can focus their attention on leading volunteers, developing the ministries, and shepherding the congregation.

2. Consistency:

The Central Service Team is also tasked with working to make sure that ministry best practices are consistent on each campus. One of the other great strengths of a multisite model is the opportunity it brings to replicate learnings from innovation. As you launch new campuses in new communities you’re going to face unforeseen obstacles. Those obstacles will force you to innovate, and every campus will have the opportunity to benefit from it. Consistent ministry practice will allow you to ramp up efficiency, drive down cost, and allow newer campuses to learn from the mistakes of others who have gone before them.

3. Communication:

As you have more and more campuses, communication will have the tendency to become more and more difficult. That’s where your Central Service Team comes into play. They have the opportunity to develop the processes to keep everyone on the same page. Whether it’s the business department, the weekend worship team, kids ministry, small group, or missions. This team uses cascading communication strategies to help everyone stay on the same page, moving the same direction.

4. Consultant & Coach:

There are a couple of characteristics you’re looking for in a Central Services Team Member. But one of the most valuable to me is the ability to take on the posture of a coach or a consultant and to know when to do which. A consultant offers expert outside input and allows the individual to choose to implement or not. The consultant is not responsible for the implementation. Great coaches can see things the player can’t see while they’re on the field and they help the player break down game film and get better. It’s more hands on than consulting. Either way great consultants get invited back and recommended to others while players keep coming back to great coaches for input on their game. That’s what I’m looking for. People whose input and presence are welcomed by campus staff.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership

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My Interview with 5 Sr. Pastors Leading Multisite Churches of 5,000+ Pt-3

I recently sat down with 5 Sr. Pastors who are all leading Multisite Churches ranging from 5,000 to more than 15,000. Here’s some of what they had to say regarding church leadership. If you missed the first two parts of this series you can check them out here:

Part-1 “How do young leaders earn the right to be heard and succeed on your team?”

Part-2 “What are some indicators that momentum is moving the wrong direction and how do you turn the tide?”

Question #3 “What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in going multisite and what are some of the most significant things you’ve learned as a result?”

Tyler Johnson: I think one thing I’ve learned is that ministry really is local. One of the challenges in it, is the more decentralized you get the more difficult communication and clarity become. So the need to simplify and clarify your language becomes huge. Distance really hinders relationship. So intentionally creating environments where relationship really can be established is really important. It’s a lot easier when you’re at a distance from somebody to have a very negative and uniformed view of somebody than it is when you get in a room when somebody. As you decentralize yourself and things get pushed away and somebody says, “I don’t know that person.” It’s a lot easier to say, “That person’s an idiot, why would they do that?” So when you believe that ministry is local, it’s challenging to get people together to where there is enough relationship so you can build the trust necessary to have candor. This is really challenging and you have to work really hard to build that kind of culture.

Cal Jernigan: Two things I would say about Multisite. Number one, I think it’s harder than anyone ever wants to admit. It seems like everyone is talking about it being so good, it’s all growth, it’s just the greatest thing. I think it’s a lot harder than people are talking about. And I think a lot of sideways energy is going in, a lot of wasted money is going into it and I think we just don’t want to call it out and say it’s as hard as it is. And the truth is you have to have a gear that not everyone else has. And you’re going to succeed if you have the gear and you’re not going to succeed if you don’t. The second part I would say is what makes it so hard are things like authority structures, and who makes the call, and how do you retain leaders, and how do you let leaders lead? And how we’re structured is we have 5 campuses and we have a central band that runs across it all. And there are significant points of tension that need to be managed in regards to who gets to lead where and who gets to make a call. And this stuff is really hard, and a single site church never has to deal with this.

Don Wilson: I think a lot of multisite is still faddish. It’s not been proven that long, plus we’ve never seen a real successful multisite church where the Sr. Pastor has left and someone else has taken over. I don’t know a single one of those yet. For us, we’re getting ready to start our fifth campus this week. Lots of people are doing multisite a lot of different ways. Whatever way you do it, you have to do it with your DNA. What we’re finding is until you do four campuses you never really have to intentionally change your central team. When you get to four it forces you to do things differently.

Scott Ridout: I don’t know that Sun Valley’s really gone multisite. We’ve merged and have two campuses there and then we did a parachute drop down in Casa Grande so now we’re at three campuses. We haven’t hived off anything from our original campus yet, so that’s our next experiment. So we’re merging, we’re parachute dropping, and we’re hiving.


Posted in Leadership