Tag Archive - governance


If it’s Not on a Screen it’s Not Multisite

Being a part of leading a large multisite church, I’m frequently asked by church leaders about my thoughts on various multisite models and how we do it at the church I’m a part of. In this post I’m going to answer that question (to an extent) for everyone reading this article and here’s a little warning, I’m going to say it in a bit of a straight forward matter of fact manner. Here’s the way I look at it, and I reserve the right to be wrong…

“If it’s not on a screen, it’s not a multisite.”

It may be multi-congregational or even a family of churches, but it’s not a multisite church. The simple reason why is teaching. Nothing else in your church has the power the build the unique culture of your church in so much as teaching does. This is why people say the organization always takes on the characteristics and personality (culture) of the leader. When you have different people preaching at different locations, no matter how similar they are, no matter how good of friends they are, no matter how hard they work to be on the same page with the presentation, you’re going to get a different culture. You’re going to get a different church. And like it or not, people who attend churches look to the primary communicator of that location as the leader. Here’s a really quick overview (obviously there are slight variations).


Big Idea: “One Church Multiple Locations”
Preaching: Preaching is delivered via video. No matter if it’s one primary communicator or a teaching team approach, whoever is preaching is preaching the same message at every location via video.
Governance: There is one Board of Elders that provides oversight to the entire church; all campuses no matter the location. The Board is not put in place for the representation of the campuses (it’s not congress).
Ministry Practices: These churches have a tendency to be more identical in their ministry practices and staffing structures (based on scale). Ministry practices are typically overseen by a Central Ministry Team that coaches and influences each campus towards best practices and objectives


Big Idea: “One Church Multiple Congregations”
Preaching: Preaching is delivered live at each location. Often times the main communicators on each campus collaborate to ensure that they are generally covering the same content.
Governance: There is still some kind of directional team making high-level decisions that have some affect on each congregation, but each congregation has their own Board of Elders making local decisions.
Ministry Practices: Often these churches will share branding and some communication (print & visual media) resources and a centralized Business Department may support all congregations. However each congregation has much more freedom and independence as to what ministries they build and start.

Family of Churches

Big Idea: “Multiple Churches with One Cause”
Preaching: Preaching is live at each location, each church may even have it’s own teaching team. They may share their best teaching series with each other, and speak at each other’s churches from time to time, but that’s about it.
Governance: Early on often these churches will have a Board of outside Pastors from the Family of Churches govern the new church until it is mature enough to have it’s own Board. Similarly often another stronger church in the Family of Churches may manage the business function of the newer church until it has the capacity to do so on their own.
Ministry Practices: Families of churches typically organize around a theological ideal or a common cause such as church planting. While these churches certainly learn from one another and even pick up best practices from one another they are autonomous in their approach.

Posted in Leadership


10 Keys to Making Church Mergers Work

Church mergers are becoming more commonplace, and for a lot of reasons it’s a movement that I believe we’ll see more of in the future. In fact Sun Valley Community Church, the church I have the pleasure of serving at, has experience beginning two new campuses through mergers in the last couple of years.

There are a lot of things that can go right…and wrong in a church merger. But if your church is considering a merger in the future make sure the Sr. Leadership Teams from both churches consider and discuss the following 10 potential deal breakers, and get on the same page before bringing the idea to your individual churches.

1. Doctrine

Is there theological alignment between the two churches? Do they share the same views on potentially contentious issues such as sign gifts, drinking alcohol, divorce, or the role of women in ministry? What do they both believe about the Bible, baptism, salvation, and other theological issues?

2. Culture

This is a step further than just addressing mission, vision, and values. Many churches go into a merger idealistically thinking that they will merge their cultures. This very rarely works out. While it’s possible to build on strengths and adopt best practices from both churches one culture will and should overtake the other if it’s truly going to become one church. Is the culture of each church similar or does one need to “wash over” the other one? How is that going to happen?

3. Staffing

What is your strategy to merge the staff of the two churches? Is there redundancy in staffing between the two churches? If both churches have a Sr. Pastor what will happen to the Sr. Pastor of the joining church? Are the pay and benefit structures comparable between the two churches or are there major adjustments that need to be made? What severance packages need to be built for staff that may not have a job as a result of the merger?

4. Governance

How similar are the two churches form of church governance? Are they staff led or board led? Will Board Members of the joining church serve on the existing Board? What does the congregation vote on and not vote on? Is each church a denominational church or non-denominational church? What committees are in place at each church if any?

5. Budget

Is the budget from each church similar? Does each church design the same percentage of their budget to go towards staffing, missions, ministry, weekend services, facilities, and administration? What about debt? What is the cash position of each church?

6. Ministries

Are the functional ministries of each church similar? Which ministries are considered “untouchable” at each church and why? Which ministries will be replicated at both churches and which ones won’t? Which ministries will you stop doing after the merger and how will you close those ministries down? What strengths and best practices at each individual church need to be adopted and built on after the merger?

7. Preaching

Who will be the primary communicator of this new church after the two churches merge to become one? Will the teaching be the same or different on each campus or location of this new church after the merger? Will you deliver teaching in the weekend services live or via video?

8. Leading the Congregation

Logistics are where most people go to when it comes to the conversation about church mergers. “How are we going to do this?” But one of the most overlooked and perhaps most important issues is leading each congregation through the merger. How will the Sr. Pastor and Sr. Leadership Team of the leading church build trust with the congregation of the joining church? Will they preach over there multiple times, will you conduct town hall or “ask anything” meetings with Sr. Leaders? Will you provide a written set of FAQ’s for each church? How will you communicate with each church so they know what to expect through this process? How will you gain their buy-in?

9. Vote

How will this decision to merge actually be made and ultimately who makes the decision? What do the by-laws of each individual church require? If a vote needs to take place by each congregation, how will you conduct the vote? What is the lowest percentage of a positive vote that needs to happen at each church for the merger to take place?

10. Launch

Another often-overlooked area to consider is the launch phase. Once the merger is voted on, how will you launch and “grand open” this newly merged church? Will one church adopt new signage and branding? Will both churches go through a “re-branding” to a new “brand” that each church will adopt? Will one church shut down to be physically renovated to add technology and interior design features to look like the other church and then reopened? How will you market to and let the community know about this new grand opening?

If you’re interested in learning more about church mergers I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Better Together by my friends Warren Bird and Jim Tomberlin.

Posted in Leadership


5 Differences Between a Multisite and Church Plant

In the past 24 years of existence Sun Valley (the church I get to serve at) has been a part of planting more than 25 churches and in the past 2 years has gone multisite moving from 1 campus to three, with more coming in the future. One of the things we’ve discovered along the way is that there are significant differences between church planting and going multisite. Here’s just a few…

1. Location

For a lot of reasons multisite typically works best inside a 30-minute radius of the original campus. Church planting typically takes place outside of a 30-minute radius of the sending church.

2. Leadership

The best Campus Pastors are great implementers, embrace an existing vision, and are great at coaching the team. Click here to learn more about Campus Pastors. The prototypical Church Planter is entrepreneurial, sets the vision, and acts as the team owner.

3. Financial Model

Often times in a church plant staff raise financial support to fund their salary and to fund the public launch of the ministry. In a multisite setting the original campus or existing campuses fund the new campus including salaries, facilities, and start up costs (usually with more significant funds than a church plant setting). By the way that new campus typically helps fund central services with a fixed percentage of its budget.

4. Starting Point

In a church plant everything is starting at the beginning. Everything is new and is being created. In a multisite setting things aren’t being created as so much as they are being replicated. After all one of the reasons you’re going multisite in the first place is because you feel you have a culture worth replicating.

5. Governance

This one may be a no-brainer but church plants are typically self-governed and have their own board. Multisite campuses, on the other hand, are governed by a central board of elders that influence every campus.

Posted in Leadership


Top Posts of 2013 #10: “Church Boards Gone Wild”

For the next couple of days I’m going to be counting down the top 10 posts from 2013 here on Helping Churches Make Vision Real. These are the posts that generated the most traffic, comments, tweets, and Facebook posts. The most popular topics this year had to do with volunteers, giving, leadership, and managing the tension of being an insider-focused or outsider-focused church. We start off with a topic that every leader in every church has had to deal with at some point or another, Church Boards.

If you’ve led in a church for any length of time you can probably tell some stories of experiences you’ve had with dysfunctional Church Boards. Church Boards become dysfunctional for a variety of reasons. But more often than not they become dysfunctional because those involved simply don’t understand their role or what the function of the Board is. What is more, those involved with the Board fail to understand what the church needs from them as a Board at the different stages of growth that the church experiences. Below are the 4 basic stages that a Board goes through as a church experiences growth.

Stage 1: Doers

Early in the life of a church and in smaller churches the Board Members are usually up to their elbows doing ministry. They are usually the ones leading ministries right along side of the Pastor. At this stage the Board is leading with the Church Staff. Church size: 0-250

Stage 2: Approvers

As the church begins to grow and change so does the role of the Board. They move from doing ministry (that’s not to say they’re not involved in ministry, it’s just no longer their primary function) to approving the decisions and direction that the church is taking. Church size: 250-800

Stage 3: Reviewers

Next the Board transitions to no longer approving every decision but rather trust the staff that is in day-to-day leadership roles to lead the church. The board is kept informed and made aware of how things are progressing. The decisions that they are involved with at this stage involve higher-level directional decisions that have a trickle down affect. Church size: 800-2,500

Stage 4: Counselors

Ultimately as the church grows into the 1,000’s the Board then moves into a role where they are taking on a 30,000-foot view and act more as wise counsel to the Staff that are leading the Church. Unable to stay completely informed of the complexities and pace of a large organization they become the keepers to the gate of the mission and vision and in so doing they begin to serve as both the brakes and the gas pedal. They are involved in very few actual organizational decisions at this stage, but those decisions they are involved with affect the entire organization. Church size: 2,500+

Often times churches get stuck and boards become dysfunctional because the board and the staff that relate to the board don’t understand these simple stages and the transitions that need to take place at each stage.


Posted in Leadership