March 27, 2024

Defining Multisite Structure & Roles – Episode 341 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

defining multisite structure & roles

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Multisite Madness? (Part 3)

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When we serve churches that are considering going multisite and launching their first location, one of the key exercises we walk through is to help them think about staffing needs (based on the size of the location they’re opening) and the priorities of the different roles that they need to fill.

After all, when asked for the primary reason for closing a campus or letting it become an independent church, churches most often cited leadership challenges.


What are the bare minimum leadership roles when you first launch a campus? How do you define central and campus roles? And what does a matrix structure really look like?

Leadership is likely the most influential component of the success of a new campus. In this episode, Amy and I will unpack the final three “predictable outcomes” of multisite related to defining your multisite structure and roles, including:

  • Essential staffing roles for a new campus
  • The most common multisite staffing mistake
  • Defining your matrix structure roles
  • Establishing central vs. campus decision rights

Going Multisite: How to Launch Your First Campus & Avoid Common Pitfalls

It’s true that going multisite too fast, too soon, or with the wrong strategy can easily get you multi-stuck. At this free webinar, Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson will help you get clarity on the how, when, and who of going multisite for the first time.

The greatest barrier to expansion through multisite is a lack of leaders, not a lack of resources. [episode 341] #unstuckchurch Share on X Only launch a campus that you would send “A-Players” to. If a potential campus is not good enough for your high-capacity leadership, it is not good enough for other launch resources, either. [episode 341] #unstuckchurch Share on X Many churches use their staffing dollars on part-time doers to fill in the gaps early in their multisite process. But if you only invest in part-time doer roles, you are going to end up with a leadership deficit in the years to come. [episode 341]… Share on X When it comes to multisite, we have to create clarity around authority, influence, and decision rights for every team member for every decision. [episode 341] #unstuckchurch Share on X
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This Episode is Sponsored by PlainJoe:

Are you considering adding a second or third campus to your growing church? Need help telling your church’s unique story across every location? PlainJoe, a Storyland Studio, has you covered. Their team of creative storytellers, talented designers, and innovative architects are passionate about helping churches tell their stories through spatial, interactive, and strategic storytelling. To learn more about a large church can succeed launching its first campus in a smaller venue, read PlainJoe’s article: “8 Questions to Ask Before Your Church Goes Multisite.”

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The Multisite Launch Process

Start a conversation today to learn more about how we can help you fulfill God’s calling on your church to reach more people in more places.


Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Without a doubt, going multisite impacts your staffing and organizational structure as much or more than any other part of your church. But when churches begin to think about being one staff in multiple locations, the logistics begin to feel overwhelming. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our series on multisite strategy with a conversation about what churches need to know when it comes to multisite staffing and structure. Before we get into today’s episode, if you’re new to the podcast, make sure you head to and subscribe to get our episode show notes. When you do, you’ll get resources to support each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide, as well as some bonus resources. Again, that’s Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Amy.

Amy (00:57):

Are you considering adding a second or third campus to your growing church? Need help telling your church’s unique story across every location? PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio has you covered. Their team of creative storytellers, talented designers and innovative architects are passionate about helping churches tell their stories through spatial, interactive and strategic storytelling. Learn more at

Amy (01:27):

Well, Tony, good to see you. It’s so fun. I actually got to just see you. We had one of those rare times where our lead team got together face to face, so nice to, nice to be back on the podcast with you.

Tony (01:39):

It’s always fun to have some time to plan for the future for The Unstuck Group but also just to hang out, too. ‘Cause it’s maybe once every three, four months we can get together in one location like that, but it’s not often enough, Amy. I like hanging out with my teammates.

Amy (01:56):

Yeah. And what maybe our listeners don’t know is whenever you hang out with Tony Morgan, you gain a few pounds because he feeds people really, really well. So, I think our cohorts are opening up soon, and if that interests you alone, I mean the content will be great, but if you need some good food, that’s a great space to hang with Tony. Well, Tony, we’re officially in week three of our Multisite Madness series, and so far, we’ve discussed alleviating some of those first-launch anxieties by talking through three predictable outcomes of multisite related to what to know before you launch. And then, last week, we talked about three more principles for preparing for launch. And today, it looks like we’re gonna be talking about one of my favorite subjects.

Tony (02:38):

Yeah, Amy. Today, we’re going to be walking through the final three predictable outcomes of multisite that revolve around defining your multisite structure and roles. And that’s, that’s kind of your wheelhouse. So, I’m looking forward to today’s conversation,

Amy (02:53):

Staffing and structure, Tony, does it, does it get any better than that to talk about staffing and structure?

Tony (02:59):

That’s right. Well, the first principle when it comes to structure and staffing roles in multisite is that leadership is more important than location. So, in our last episode, we talked about how your location is more important than the specific facility, but what’s often even more influential in the success of the campus is the leadership.

Amy (03:21):

Yeah, Tony, a common question that we get asked around campus leadership, and by the way, it’s the one that we wrestled with, too, when we first launched our, our first location. But they ask, what’s the minimum leadership roles, the bare minimum leadership roles, that are required when you first launch a campus? And, of course, this has a lot to do with how large your campus is going to be, you know, by size, what your ministry strategies are. But, again, if I just go bare minimum, our recommendation is that every campus needs to have a campus pastor. They need to have a children’s director or a kid’s pastor and a leader over that worship area from the very start.

Tony (04:00):

That’s right, Amy. In fact, when we engage with churches that are considering going multisite and launching their first location, one of the exercises we go through is helping them think about staffing based on the size of the location that they’re opening and the priorities of the different roles that they need to, to fill. And we recommend that the campus pastor’s primary responsibility, this is the role that they’re, that the key role that they’re hiring for, the primary responsibility is not teaching but rather connecting people at his or her location to the mission and vision of the church and helping attendees take their first steps in their faith and connection with the church as well. And this means primarily building teams and developing people. And practically that looks like getting guests connected to relationships and responsibility through groups and volunteer teams, as an example. So, if you’ve been around our content for a while, it won’t surprise you that we don’t recommend the campus pastor also is the primary teacher, and we unpack that a little bit about why in the first episode of this series. But I want to include this point from our research here. This is what we have found in recent months as we have dug into some data around multisite. Closed campuses were twice as likely to use a model where the campus pastor was the primary teacher. When compared to the fastest growing campuses, these are the campuses also that had more salvations, more baptisms, the closed campuses were four times more likely to use a model where the campus pastor is the primary teacher. So, Amy, again, it’s just, it’s just pointing to the fact that there, there are some better strategies to engage multisite. Some, some work better than others.

Amy (05:56):

Well, yeah, in those numbers you shared, hopefully that’s enough of a motivator to encourage churches listening to reconsider this approach if they’re currently using live teaching. But I’ll, I’ll add this note, as well. From a staffing structure perspective, if that campus pastor is doing a lot of the live teaching, you really have to add to that minimum core that we just talked about. You need, that campus pastor needs a ministry partner who’s outside that auditorium doing that connections work that you talked about, Tony, helping people get connected to groups, helping people get connected to serving. So, you’ve gotta, you’ve gotta build that into your staffing budget if that campus pastor is gonna be doing teaching because their time as, as you’ve said before, we’ve said before, a lot of their time and energy is going to be focused on putting messages together and delivering messages. And you, you don’t wanna have a church that’s just built off of teaching. We need to have a church that’s built off of people diving into ministry, discovering their gifts and being a part of the team.

Tony (06:54):

Then, when it comes to who these leaders should be, we recommend that you only launch a campus where you would be willing to send your A Players, if you will, to help get that campus started. You’re going to get out what you put in. So, if a potential campus is not good enough for your high-capacity leadership, it’s not good enough for other launch resources either. So what, what does this look like? Well, for new locations, identify campus leaders that have a missionary mindset who will go into the community. You’re looking for a leader and a team kind of with that builder growth mindset rather than primarily a teaching shepherding mindset. Amy, many churches fall into this trap of using their staffing dollars on part-time doers to fill in the gaps early in the multisite process. And, again, this is a mistake because the greatest barrier to expansion and multisite is a lack of leadership, not a lack of resources. So, if you invest in part-time doer roles, you’re going to end up with a leadership deficit in the years to come.

Amy (08:03):

Tony, you know, we often have said our, one of our major customer, I think in this multisite space, our churches that we call kind of multi-stuck, meaning they’ve gone through some expansion, they maybe have a campus or two. But they’re kind of feeling like, “Boy, we have this vision to launch more locations, but something’s not working.” This issue of having a lot of part-time doers or low-level leaders on their team, it is a real issue with almost every one of these churches. They have hired some great people, but they’ve hired people to kind of offload tasks and things that need to get done. And they haven’t reserved some of their staffing dollars for those higher level leaders. And so, just that is a, a red flag for any of you that are looking to launch your first location, or if you’re just in the start of two locations, heed Tony’s advice. And then, I would just add two more notes when it comes to campus leadership, Tony. First, hiring from within, it really pays off. Again, according to our research, closed campuses were less likely to be led by a campus pastor who was selected from within the church. You know, either someone previously on staff or someone in lay leadership. And that goes with other trends, right? When you hire from within, they know the culture; you know them. And second thing I would add is as the church grows, your original or your sending campus will eventually need to have its own dedicated campus pastor. But the big mistake that we see in most multisite churches is that they add this role too soon. And instead of kind of unifying that sending team, it actually creates a lot of complexity and confusion for people who are working at that campus. So, we typically don’t recommend having a campus pastor at that sending location until the fourth campus is launched. And sometimes, it’s even the fifth. It really depends on how large these campuses are. For a church that’s launching larger campuses, it’s around that fourth launch when we wanna add the campus pastor at the sending location.

Tony (10:06):

All right, Amy, that’s good stuff. So, here’s the second principle when it comes to defining structure and roles of multisite, and it’s this relationship between central responsibilities and campus responsibilities and getting clarity around that is key. Campus constants captured in writing in a ministry playbook and campus and central roles must be established before that first campus launch. And trust me, this is not something you want to be making up on the fly.

Amy (10:36):

Yeah. I like what our friend Paul Alexander often says. He’s the executive pastor at Sun Valley. He says, “To be an effective multisite church, you have to move from the oral tradition to the written tradition.” Meaning, oftentimes, the top leadership has some clarity around what the multisite model’s going to look like. But that doesn’t translate just kind of through oral tradition down to the, you know, the people who pull off the ministry. And so, this concept of a ministry playbook is really taking that oral tradition into written tradition. So you, you described it a little bit, but let me go into more detail. A ministry playbook: it’s, it’s a manual of sorts that churches create that describes how they plan to accomplish their vision and mission through a multisite strategy. So, the objective is to ensure alignment, right, Tony? Alignment of the staff, the church family around that mission, vision, values, and the ministry strategies of the church. And I will add, this is a living, breathing document, meaning you’re gonna do a first pass at this as you launch multisite. But, as you stumble, as you have success, as you grow, as you learn, you’re going to be updating this manual and, and refining it throughout the processes. And one of the core pieces of the ministry playbook is what you just mentioned, Tony. It, it has a, it clearly maps out this division of responsibilities and authority, meaning central’s responsibilities and authority and then each location’s responsibilities and authorities. This will guide ministry decisions moving forward. And it really gets into what we call around here decision rights, helping the church staff understand this is what I have decision rights in, and this is where the other team has decision rights. So, that way we have a clear, defining document that brings clarity to who’s making, who has the authority to make decisions. And this runs, by the way, everything from kids’ curriculum to how we onboard volunteers to the Sunday morning worship set list. So, doing this, defining this ahead of time, it’ll bring more unity and more alignment and help make sure our multisite strategy is healthy and thriving and allowing the church to really accomplish the mission that God has.

Tony (12:52):

Yeah, Amy, that’s so good. And the key here is this: commit. When you commit to multisite, honestly, you’re also committing to a matrix structure. And one of the keys to a healthy matrix structure is making sure that everyone understands who has authority and who has influence. And sometimes, people on your multisite team, they’re gonna be wearing two different hats, meaning they’ll have dual roles. Some will have a campus ministry role along with their central ministry responsibilities. So, in some instances, they will have authority, and then in other situations, they’re only gonna have the influence. And we have to have clarity around this for every team member, for every decision.

Amy (13:35):

That’s right. Just a quick example of that. It’s not unusual for a campus pastor to have a dual role initially in multisite, meaning their campus role is being the campus pastor. But their central role, they may have, they might carry, for instance, here’s our group strategy churchwide. They may have a key voice into that or a dual role in what our care systems are going to be. And while this playbook, Tony, might look different from church to church, there are some fairly standard practices when it comes to determining central calls, decisions and campus calls. Let me just run through a few. First, central leaders, they’re responsible for setting ministry strategies, ministry philosophies that are executed consistently across all locations. And while they have influence with the campus leaders, they don’t have authority over them. Rather, campus pastors have the authority over their campus teams. I like to use the word manager, right? Campus pastors are the managers of their teams. They have the authority. And then, the following function should always be centralized. We don’t wanna recreate this at every location. We should have centralized finance processes, I.T., Communications, human resources and, of course, one board for the entire church. We don’t wanna have boards by campus.

Tony (14:56):

Yeah, interesting. I’m glad you mentioned specifically communications, Amy, because I’ve run into several instances of multisite churches that were really trying to decentralize the communications responsibility.

Amy (15:11):


Tony (15:11):

And you can only imagine the amount of confusion that was creating, creating for people. But the other part is when you try to decentralize communications to all the locations, there’s so much additional work that you’re putting on your staff team. And just recently I ran into another example of the team, the staff team was so focused on getting newsletters out and emails and things like this that they weren’t building teams and looking at their volunteer numbers; they were very, very low. So, thank you, again, for that reminder. There are certain functions—finance, I.T., Communications, H.R.—things like that, that should always be centralized for a multisite church.

Amy (15:55):

And let me just go back to the church board. I, you know, for the majority of multisite churches we’ve worked with, this isn’t been an issue, right? They have one church board for all their locations, but one thing I’ve heard you say, Tony, is for that board, don’t put requirements on there, like, “We have to have this many board members from each location.” You have likened that to that would be just like if you had multiple services requiring board members that attended different service times. Instead, that board, every board member should really be a multisite attender, meaning every board member should be out experiencing the multisite of the church. And then, just a couple more. I think in many cases it’s also wise for churches to centralize worship and teaching for the weekend services. Now, you’re gonna have some location issues here. If you are a, if I could just call a normal multisite church where your locations are 15 to 20 minutes apart, centralizing that worship team actually in my experience, creates more creativity. And those, those artists tend to do better when they are housed together versus working for just the campus pastor and that ministry team. Now, I’m not opposed to assigning different worship leaders to different campuses to keep a consistent experience and a, a familiar face. But how we structure that, I would say central leadership over worship and teaching is a best practice. And then, lastly, Tony, as you just mentioned, those dual roles between the central locations and the campuses are very common, especially when you’re one, two, three, you know, first, second and third launches. But don’t create that duality haphazardly. In other words, it’s always important to minimize complexity as much as you can. So leverage dual roles as needed, but don’t over-orchestrate dual roles.

Tony (17:45):

Yeah, thanks for those practical tips, Amy. And if you’ve never served in a multisite church before, this concept of central versus campus ministry teams might feel a little unfamiliar. But on average, nearly two-thirds of the churches that responded to our reach, research survey indicated that they do have these central teams, in other words, staff paid to support the success of all the locations. But those folks don’t have then specific campus responsibility. So it’s, it’s just you’re seeing the vast majority of multisite churches understand the need for this central staffing structure to be able to support the ministry that’s happening at all the locations. Here’s some other data points and best practices we’ve learned over the years when it comes to establishing the structure. Central teams tend to form when a church prepares to open its third location. This was confirmed again by the data collected in our recent survey. Prior to opening a third location, it’s not uncommon for multisite churches to maintain a staff, staff structure as if they’re a single location church. But then, just adding kind of a new department for the second location, but trying to avoid creating that initial complexity of the matrix structure. Another data point here: most of the staffing is on campus teams rather than central teams. And that’s something to remember going forward. The survey indicated that churches have about 60% of their staff members and campus roles for all the locations and then 40% of their staff in central ministry roles. In, in case you’re curious, that’s close to what we recommend; however, we actually recommend as a team that you even have a little bit more staffing at the locations over central responsibilities. In fact, we recommend a two-to-one allocation between campus and sense and central ministry roles. In other words, we recommend more staffing for campuses, less for central teams as compared to the surveyed multisite churches.

Amy (20:02):

And Tony, wouldn’t you agree that the stuck multisite churches we’ve worked with, often, they have just doubled down way too much on central leadership early in their multisite model.

Tony (20:14):

Too early, that’s right. Way too early. In fact, I’m working with a good-sized church, Amy, right now, probably in the eight to 9,000 range as far as attendance on any given Sunday and in four locations. And it’s really just now that they’re getting very intentional about building a central ministry structure and that’s obviously not hindered their growth. Now, there are some challenges, getting those first locations launched without dedicated central teams. But I think what that points to is the priority of making sure that you have appropriate staffing at the locations, which is where the ministry is really happening.

Amy (20:59):

That’s right. Mm-Hmm.

Tony (21:00):

I don’t wanna discount the ministry that central ministry leaders do, but that life-on-life ministry is so critical to the success of any new location.

Amy (21:10):

Yeah. I’ll quote Paul Alexander one more time. He often tells churches, multisite churches, “You just have to act your age.” So, recognize where you are in the multisite journey. The good news, again, with all that we’ve learned, we know the roles we have to be growing into, the roles that we need to be preparing for. But we just don’t wanna get ahead of ourselves. All right. Well, let’s go and jump into the third and final principle, Tony, because it’s directly related to what we’re talking about now.

Tony (21:37):

Yeah. The third principle we recommend for your multisite structure is you start, is that you start higher control and then loosen control later if desired. So, this is one reason why it’s so key to have these conversations and establish your ministry playbook ahead of time. It’s just much easier to release more decision rights than it is to pull them back later on. So, churches that get this right, they have a framework and a playbook in place before the launch that clarifies decision rights between central and campus ministry teams.

Amy (22:13):

Tony, when I work with churches, I often use the example of, if your 16-year-old gets their license, right? They get to drive their car, and you say, you know, “There’s no rules, right? There’s no curfew, there’s no limits.” And then, at 18 you’re like, “You know what? We actually need you to be home by 11 o’clock every night.” That teenager’s long gone. You’re gonna have a hard time pulling that back. So, you start high control, right, when they first get their license, and then, you can release some, again, if desired, going forward.

Tony (22:43):

And Amy, just be thankful that you are not a Morgan child because at, in the Morgan household, when, when they got their driver’s permit and driver’s license, who we actually made them sign a written contract, that spelled out what, what those guidelines were, what that structure was. And then, over time, as they proved that they could handle driving a motor vehicle responsibly, we started to give them more and more flexibility around that. But, again, be thankful that you’re not a Morgan child because there were contracts to be signed at that moment.

Amy (23:21):

You had a playbook for your new driver. Good correlation.

Tony (23:26):

That’s right.

Amy (23:26):

Well, Tony, in a matrix structure, campus staff members, again, report directly to their campus pastors. And this is for leadership, for leadership development and accountability. And I, I made the exception before for that, for that worship team. But in general, campus staff members, their campus pastor is their manager. But they also stay closely connected to those central leaders who provide, I like to call it the products, you know, the, the ministry strategies, the plans, the resources, ministry-specific coaching, right? So, a campus pastor may not know the competence that the student pastor needs but that central partner does. And so, central leaders often help pour into the competence area for these campus leaders. And this can, can create confusion, right? And cause some staff, staff members to feel like they maybe have two bosses. But, to alleviate this, we recommend that authority and a management flows through the campus pastor and influence flows through those central service leaders. And this way, each campus pastor is his or her team’s sole boss. So, while the central leaders serve more like maybe I’d call ’em an internal consultant, so they can maintain consistency and strategies. And I would just add this, this two-boss thing also gets really alleviated when those central leaders and campus pastors know how to intersect. So, let’s just say that that student leader, the central person comes over to observe the student programming, and that central leader see some great things, and they see some challenges. Well, that central leader should praise the things that they see well, and whatever the concerns are, that should actually go back through the campus pastor first. If it’s a character issue, a chemistry issue, or a, you know, alignment to ministry strategies, the campus pastor should actually be the person to manage this. But if it’s a competence issue that’s off a little bit, it should be led by the campus pastor to invite that central leader in to sharpen whatever competency areas are lacking. That, those practices like that when those leaders talk first, that helps employees or campus staff members not feel like they have two bosses.

Tony (25:43):

That’s so good, Amy. In general, we find that strategies stay best aligned when campus teams are focused on execution rather than on strategy development.

Amy (25:53):


Tony (25:54):

And generally, central decisions should revolve around philosophy, strategy, things like this, while campus decisions are around things like team building, leader development and execution of the ministry playbook. In other words, central teams build strategy; campus teams execute that strategy.

Amy (26:17):

Exactly. So, campus pastors should ultimately be responsible for their staff members, while central ministry leaders set direction for the strategy methods and ministry plans used in their respective areas. And if at some point these roles or decision rights need to shift and change, again, it’s better to start high control, what we’ve been talking about. You know, really anchor this in first, and then, release it as time goes on, as trust in the model have been built up.

Tony (26:46):

Yeah, and I think we’ve mentioned this data point before, but it’s worth repeating. When asked for the primary reason for closing a campus or letting it become an independent church, churches most often cited leadership challenges. So, these issues of decision rights and authority versus influence are some of the most important areas to bring clarity before launching that first location.

Amy (27:10):

Well, Tony, we’ve now covered, I think, all nine of our predictable outcomes of multisite. And for our listeners, if you missed the first couple of episodes in this series, make sure you go back and listen to the previous two episodes to hear all of them. And then, next week, we’re gonna wrap up this multisite series by talking about the dos and don’ts of going multisite through mergers. But for today’s conversation, any final thoughts, Tony?

Tony (27:33):

Yeah,I, this is, an important conversation because defining roles around your matrix structure is one area where monosite churches considering multisite, just, they don’t know what they don’t know. And the decisions that we make in these areas can have a huge impact on the health of our new campus and our church as a whole. And that’s why we’re hosting a free webinar on April 4th. It’s called Going Multisite: How to Launch Your First Campus and Avoid Some Common Pitfalls. And we’ll be walking monosite churches through the best practices for going multisite well. And you can learn more and register to join us through the link in your show notes.

Sean (28:17):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. In everything we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. And if there’s a way that we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at Next week, we’re back with another brand-new episode. Until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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