Of all the complexities that come with church leadership, multisite leadership always seems to find it’s way near the top of the list. It requires knowledge of leading the same church in multiple locations, managing communications (internally and externally), establishing a high level of clarity, clearly defining your multisite strategy and much more. While tough, it is loaded with potential to heavily impact your communities, and even regions, to help lead people to Jesus.
I recently spoke with one of our consultants, Paul Alexander, about his successful multisite leadership experience. He currently serves as the executive pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multisite church in Phoenix, Arizona.
Caroline: When leading a multisite church, what is the most important leadership tool to carry with you?
Paul: Hands down, your culture. You reproduce what you are, not what you think you are or wish you were. Does your church have a culture worth replicating? The fastest and most effective way to replicate your culture is through your people, both staff and volunteers. They are the cultural carriers of your church. Every church has a culture: the attitudes they want adopted, values they want championed, beliefs they want instilled and behaviors they want reproduced. Can you clearly and accurately articulate the culture of your church?
Caroline: In your multisite experience, what is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?
Paul: The greatest challenge we’ve faced in going multisite is the challenge of “loss.” Just like you cannot follow Jesus and stay where you are, you cannot go multisite and stay where you are as a church. Going multisite forced us think about church in a new way. For example, the original campus staff experienced a loss of preference when going multisite changed the approach we took to campus ministries, including their own campus ministry. They experienced a loss of perceived power when we built a central service team. They weren’t making all of the decisions anymore. Additionally, they experienced a loss of prestige when the growth rates at other campuses began to exceed their own and attendance at other campuses rivaled their own. There is no significant leadership without loss, and when you make a big directional shift like multisite, you experience a lot of loss along the way. But leaders understand that.
Caroline: What multisite models are usually the most successful?
Paul: A lot of people in church world don’t want to define success or talk about how one model/approach may be more successful than another. However, Jesus gave His Church a mission and it seems to me that success would look like accomplishing that mission. So I’ve always figured more people meeting and following Jesus is more successful than less people meeting and following Jesus. As a result, our models/approach to ministry should always be held loosely, or be subservient to whatever helps people meet, know and follow Jesus. That being said, there are a lot of ways churches are approaching multisite. The ones that I find have the greatest success are more consistent with their ministry approach between campuses, have a strong central service team to lead and help campuses succeed, and they use video to deliver consistent teaching everywhere.
Caroline: What is the most common mistake you see among multisite leaders?
Paul: The last statistic I saw was that only 15% of multisite churches ever get past 3 campuses. One reason why is that most churches treat multisite as though they are adding another ministry offering to their church. Instead of adopting a multisite mindset across the entire organization, they adopt a multisite ministry. Multisite isn’t something that happens “over there” at a new campus; it is a strategic approach to ministry that changes the entire way you do church everywhere. Most church leaders completely underestimate this when they choose to go multisite.
Let The Unstuck Group help you take your next steps in your multisite journey. Are you wondering if your church is ready for multisite? Learn more about our multisite planning process and what it could look like for your church.