We are always excited when someone contacts us about engaging in multisite consulting. Typically, this is an indicator that a church is experiencing growth, and needing additional space and resources to provide for the demand. More people get to hear about the Kingdom of God, and we love nothing more than that.
Truth be told, a lot of churches that go multisite end up becoming multistuck churches. Campuses begin to adopt different practices and systems, making it difficult to maintain unity. Because of this, we typically recommend video teaching instead of live teaching at campuses. We rarely come across someone that has executed a live-teaching multisite model successfully.
But, I recently got the privilege of talking with Tammy Melchien, Teaching Team Pastor at Community Christian Church in Illinois. Based on their successful live-teaching multisite model, I got to ask a few questions about their process and strategy behind this transition, and how it has impacted their church as a whole:
Sean: Why did you decide to utilize more in person teaching than video teaching as part of your multisite strategy?
Tammy: We moved to in person teaching around nine years ago. There were a number of reasons for this, but two in particular: 1) We are a church that wants to reproduce at every level and we realized we weren’t reproducing Teaching Pastors and 2) Since we follow “The Big Idea” we could still keep our churches aligned with a centrally-produced Big Idea manuscript even if we had many different Teaching Pastors delivering it.
S: How do you determine who is qualified to teach at your campuses and how do you assess their readiness?
T: We have a formal Teaching Assessment process for potential Teaching Pastors. Our Community Pastors (formerly called Campus Pastors) would go through this assessment as part of the hiring process. The Community Pastors are the ones who can nominate others to go through the assessment to become approved Teaching Pastors.
We currently have 30-35 approved teachers, but they are “approved” at different levels. Some are approved with no restrictions. Some have frequency restrictions (i.e. they can teach monthly or quarterly). Some have location restrictions (i.e. they can teach at their home location but nowhere else). If people want to move beyond these restrictions, they have to go through the assessment again. Most of our approved teachers are staff members, but some are lay leaders (or former staff who still attend our church).
S: Would I hear multiple different messages if I attended multiple Community campuses on a weekend or would I hear one identical message?
T: You will hear the same Big Idea message but interpreted by that teacher to fit his/her personality. The Big Idea will be consistent. The main Scripture passage, big structure points, and application will be the same; but the individual teaching pastor will “make it their own” with their own stories and examples to fit their context. We want them to edit the talk to be “the way they would say it.”
S: How do you systematize creating message content with so many people on the teaching team?
T: Our Teaching Team is made up of two groups 1) The Writers and 2) The Teaching Pastors. Some people play on both teams. I’ve already described the Teaching Pastors above. The Writers are made up of people who are good at crafting the message. Most of these people are also Teaching Pastors, but some (who write less frequently) are not. This allows us to utilize people who have a teaching gift that expresses itself in writing, yet are not actually upfront speakers.
Our Writing Team has a number of different roles. “Lead Writers” include myself and the founding pastors. We also have four “Core Writers.” These first two groups write most frequently (10-12 times per year).
We also have “Apprentice Writers” who show good potential for this role and write 4-6 times per year.
And we have “Guest Writers” who will write 1-2 times per year. We usually average 22-24 different people who contribute to writing messages per year. We have a crazy system for scheduling writers and brainstorming messages that I oversee. It’s too complicated to explain in writing. 🙂
S: How many teachers do you have and how often do they teach on the weekend?
T: Our Community Pastors speak most frequent. We’d like for them to speak nine out of 13 weeks. Basically, each quarter we want our CPs to have at least four weeks off from teaching. I usually speak twice a month—sometimes more. Dave and Jon have been speaking 1-2 times per month depending on their schedules. Most other teachers either speak monthly or quarterly.
S: When you advise other multisite churches about their teaching strategy what are some of the must do’s and must not do’s that you coach them on regarding in person teaching rather than video teaching?
T: Either way, we’d say “we are better together than any one of us could be on our own.” We believe strongly in collaboration so whether you are doing in person teaching or having one person represent your teaching ministry on video, make sure you are collaborating on the message.
Not too long ago, Tammy joined us on The Unstuck Church Podcast.
She shared some more practical tips and how they maintain consistency of message while still empowering leaders to leverage their own style and personal experiences.