4 Steps for Clarifying Your Multisite Strategy (Part 2)
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Multisite health begins with finding strategic alignment around your foundation, direction, and action priorities. That’s why the healthiest multisite churches design a strategy based on their location’s similarities—not their differences. And by creating more unity, they experience more health and growth in their church.
FINDING & MAINTAINING ALIGNMENT
So, for churches who are considering multisite, how do they begin to find alignment around their strategies before launching new locations? And how do they maintain that alignment after the fact?
In this episode, Amy and I continue our series on multisite strategy with a conversation on the necessity of strategic alignment for multisite churches. We’ll discuss:
- The Importance of Alignment
- Finding Alignment Around Your Multisite Strategies
- Maintaining Alignment in a Multisite Model
Multisite Better: Proven Strategies for Better Results
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Identical or autonomous campuses? Video or live teaching? Campus or centralized teams? There are many ways churches do multisite, but only a handful of strategies that are effective in creating long-term health.
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. The healthiest multisite churches design a strategy based on their location’s similarities, not differences. And by creating more unity, they experience more health and growth in their church. But for churches who are considering multisite, how do they begin to align their strategies before launching new locations? On today’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our series on multisite strategy with a conversation on alignment. If you’re new to the podcast, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes. When you do, you’re gonna get resources to go along with each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide, some bonus resources and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.
Before we jump into today’s conversation, let me tell you about Planning Center. It’s an all-in-one church management system. With a single software, you’ll have the tools you need to organize your ministries and give your congregants a place to engage. Whether you’re looking for a secure check-in for families, an effortless way to schedule volunteers or an easy method to give online, sign up for only what you need. Go to planningcenter.com, and start your 30-day free trial today.
Well, Tony, last week we launched a new podcast series that focused on multisite strategy. And as we explained last week, the topics are designed to help churches that are preparing to expand through multisite in the coming months. But they should also be helpful principles for those churches that are already multisite. In other words, it might be that your church is experiencing a little bit of multi-stuckness. And if that’s you, please stick around. Because even though this series is focused on churches that are expanding through multisite, today’s conversation should be helpful for pastors who may be leading a multi-stuck church, as well.
Yeah, Amy, it’s funny that you say that. It reminds me several years ago. I was teaching at a conference; I think it was in Charlotte someplace, and the title of my workshop was “What To Do When You’re Stuck.” And so they had signs on the door for those to know for where my workshop area was. The sign said this: “What To Do When You’re Stuck with Tony Morgan.” And so, you get it—what to do when you’re stuck with Tony?
I can see where this is going.
Yeah. So it was a problem. Well, I kind of feel like we’re getting to the same thing. So, so you’re multisite stuck. What, what to do when you’re multisite stuck with Tony Morgan. I that would be a bad thing, as well. But last week, we did; we unpacked the, some indicators that you are ready to expand using multisite strategy. In fact, specifically, we, we walked through 10 multisite readiness checkpoints, and the biggest thing we talked about is the fact that you really need to be experiencing current growth as a church if you’re considering multisite expansion. So this week, what we wanna do, though, is begin to take a look specifically at our multisite model and make sure that model is clear and that it’s a good model that is gonna get to the predictable outcomes that we want to see as a church. And let me just share the punchline up front. You need to be clear about your purpose and how you engage your mission before you go multisite. And so this is, I know this kind of basic stuff, and we talk about these topics a lot here on the podcast. But you really do need to be clear about your purpose. What is your mission? What, and I think one of the best ways to define this is to take a look at answering this question: what’s the primary problem that we are trying to solve as a ministry? And by the way, once you know the answer to that, and once you have that defined, that rarely changes. And we need to know how we’re going to engage our mission. So this involves our ministry strategies; it’s the methods we use to engage our mission. And the key question here is, what’s the most effective way to solve the problem that we’re trying to solve today? And the reason why I add today is because those strategies, those methods, they will change over the over time. They need to change over time. And, Amy, related to these two questions, I recently read a great book; it’s called Think Again by Adam Grant. And in that book, Adam writes about confident humility. And this is how he defines that. He said, “Confident humility is having faith in our capability while appreciating that we may not have the right solution or even be addressing the right problem.” And I love that. Because what we, we see is when churches have clarity about solving the right problem with the right solution for today, those are the churches that are winning right now. The churches that are married though to solving the wrong problem or using the wrong solution—those are the churches that are struggling today. So churches, and by the way, yeah, these include churches that are in maintenance mode, churches that are in preservation, churches, that on the church lifecycle that we talk about that are in life support, these are the churches that are either married to the wrong problem that they’re trying to solve, or they’re trying to use the wrong solutions.
And, Amy, that book Think Again by Adam Grant, it’s, it’s a good book. Have you read it yet?
I haven’t. It’s actually on my list.
Okay. So, this, this has nothing to do with today’s topic, but I just thought it was gold. So this is an additional quote from Adam, Adam Grant in Think Again, has nothing to do with today’s topic, but I think it’s an important reminder for all teaching pastors. This is his line. He said, “If you present information without permission, no one will listen to you.” And I thought, “Oh my goodness. What a great reminder for those of us who are Jesus followers and teachers of God’s truth, that we need to reflect the image of Christ who was both full of grace and truth.” And grace, of course, gives us the permission to share the information, the truth, but if we lead with the truth without grace, we won’t receive the permission. And the truth will have no impact in the lives of the people that we’re teaching. And maybe if I could push a little bit further. If you’re, if you’re teaching and you lead by trying to call out sin in other people’s lives, that may make prideful Christians feel good about themselves, but it’s unlikely to help unbelievers embrace the truth, embrace the good news of Jesus Christ. If, on the other hand, though, you lead with grace, which was best demonstrated by the fact that while we were still sinning, while I was still sinning, Christ died for us. Christ died for me. That’s the, the perfect picture of grace. If we lead with grace, then we open the door for permission to share the good news. We can help people meet and follow Jesus. And then, Amy, at least this is what I experienced in my faith journey. When Jesus is in our life, the, we have the impact of the truth of God’s word in our life. We have the encouragement of friends in the faith in our life, and we have the work of the Holy Spirit in our life, helping us turn from the sin that we have in our lives. I mean, that’s when redemption really happens. That’s when transformation happens in our lives. So when I hear Bible teachers who lead with truth while trying to call out sin in people’s lives, it’s really an indication that the pastor’s priority is being right. But when I hear Bible teachers who lead with grace while sharing what Christ did on the cross, it’s an indication that the pastor’s priority is helping people discover the unconditional love of Christ. And I find this to be the biggest difference between someone whose identity is being a pastor from someone who is actually pastoring people. But enough about preaching; we should probably get back to multisite strategy, Amy.
I like when you put your pastoral cap on once in a while in this podcast. Now, I really wanna read the book. So, well, Tony, why is this focus on clarity of purpose and strategy so important for churches that are considering multisite expansion?
Well, the easy answer here is because Paul said we should do that. First Corinthians 1:10, it’s, it’s one of the verses we lead through in our multisite strategy in our Unstuck process. And here’s the verse again, “Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” And in healthy multisite churches, they, there is no division. They are of one mind. They are united in thought and purpose. The team is fully aligned. On the other hand, in multi-stuck churches, they tend to lead with their differences. They, they tend to focus on what’s different about each location, each campus, their approach. So multi-stuck churches with this focus on their differences, they, they tend to ask questions like this, “How is the community where our church is located different from other locations? How are the people we’re trying to reach different? Why does the worship music need to be different? Why does the teaching need to be different in our location? Who needs to represent our location on the church board to be the voice of what’s different at our campus?” And those questions go on and on and on and on.
On the other hand, healthy multisite churches lead with, “How are we the same? How are we aligned? How are we united?” So these are the types of questions that I hear from healthy multisite churches. They ask questions like, “How is the community where our campus is located the same as all the other locations? How are the people we’re trying to reach, what, what do those people have in common? How do we create a similar worship experience in every location? How do we make sure everyone is hearing the same message on any given Sunday? Why, why do we need someone to represent our location on the board when everybody on the board wants what’s best for the entire church?” And they’ll ask more questions like that. And by the way, this is just another side note here, but more, more specific and germane to today’s conversation, Amy, if you have someone on your staff team who seems to be constantly complaining because they don’t have the freedom to do things differently in their ministry or at their campus, you should not be paying them to lead ministry at your church. And first of all, it’s not their ministry or their campus. But secondly, you are one church with multiple ministries, multiple campuses supporting one mission. And the natural bias for any staff leader on your team, particularly someone you’re paying, my goodness, should be towards alignment. Every staff leader should be asking, “How can I help our team maintain unity of purpose? How can I keep my team aligned? How can I raise up leaders and build teams to help us accomplish the church’s mission—not my mission?” So, for goodness sake, if you’re, if you’re paying people on your staff team, make sure that their bias is towards those questions that I mentioned that healthy multisite churches are asking.
Well, Tony, what are some examples of how you’ve had to help churches align their strategy before they were ready to expand through multisite?
Well, multisite, again, begins with alignment. It’s, and I think the best way to try to articulate what does alignment really look like in the church, it’s really using, it’s based on our, we call it the Strategic Alignment Pyramid. Amy, I should be asking you about this because I think you were the one that really designed this for our team to use. But the pyramid is broken into three parts. The first part is the foundation. And so, in order to build strategic alignment, we need to make sure the foundation is aligned. We need alignment around our core beliefs as a church: our doctrine. We need alignment around our mission: why we exist as a church. And we need alignment and agreement around the fact that we’re helping people become like Jesus. We need alignment around discipleship. The second part of the pyramid looks at the direction that we’re heading in the future. And so this is making sure that our direction is aligned. In other words, making sure the vision for the future is aligned, making sure our goals for ministry are the same and making sure, and this is the key part here, making sure the strategies that we engage as a church are the same. One church using one strategy across multiple locations. And then the third piece of that pyramid is all about action. And it’s just making sure that our action priorities are fully aligned and that includes our team priorities. But it also includes my individual priorities as a team member. So just making sure that everything that our team is doing and that I’m doing aligns with who the, the church is trying to reach, how we’re trying to reach them and where the church is heading into the future. And when we help a church prepare for multisite expansion, the first thing that we do is help them to confirm their purpose and their strategy. And if their strategy isn’t working, launching a new location with a different strategy—that’s not going to work either. That’s not the answer. As we talked about last week, the first step for the church to launch into multisite for the church to get healthy again. And that might include adjusting the direction. That might include adjusting the, the action priorities. But all that, that points to is making sure that the church finds health before we start to replicate as a church.
And I know this is probably assumed, Tony, but I, all of that, what you just talked about is really the responsibility of the leadership team at the church, the, the staff-led senior leadership team. Meaning even when you talk about ministry strategies, that’s really the decision-making team when it comes to the final decision on how are we going, what’s our reach strategy? How are we reaching students, kids, discipleship steps. . . All of those things, the, the leadership team should be giving a nod to and not empowering ministry leaders to go create different strategies.
That’s right, Amy. And that’s really a good reminder, too, that every church of any size needs a senior leadership team.
Of course, in larger churches, that’s gonna be made up of paid staff leaders. In smaller churches, that’s probably the senior pastor and some key volunteer ministry leaders. But every church needs a healthy and aligned senior leadership team, especially if you’re considering multisite.
Yeah. And I bring it up just because we also talk a lot about how we wanna empower leaders on our teams, which we do. But I’ll go back to when I was the leader over the weekend service; that didn’t mean that I had full reign to decide what our weekend brand was gonna be, what our music style was going to be. That wasn’t my decision. It was my job to lead that at all of our locations, but it was really a senior leadership decision where we would say, “If we do this right, here’s the results we’ll see.” And if we weren’t seeing the right results, that comes back to the leadership team, not just to me.
So Tony, just as we finish up, what are some examples of how you’ve had to help churches align their strategy before they were ready to expand through multisite?
Yeah, good question, Amy. I mean, sometimes it’s making sure that there’s alignment around their reach strategy, which we talked a little bit about last week. So making sure that there’s one strategy that we’re using across all the locations for relational evangelism, for serving the community, for our weekend services, our digital strategies—making sure there’s full alignment in all those strategies. On the discipleship side, that includes like making sure that we have one approach to building volunteer teams so that people are serving other people. One approach to connecting people in smaller groups into biblical community. One approach that we’re using everywhere in the church for encouraging people to reach their friends, their family members, their coworkers. And one approach for encouraging generosity in people’s lives. Sometimes, the alignment has happened around the structure to make sure that they have the right structure in place to support their ministry strategy. But in all of those ways, what we see is many times before we can encourage a church to launch a multisite location, we just need to make sure all these areas of ministry strategy are fully aligned.
And isn’t it funny, Tony, I don’t know about you, but when I get onsite with a team, some of the biggest payoff is just getting together and talking about these things.
And the rhythm of ministry, I mean, it’s just so relentless week after week. And to give church leaders this space to pause and think, I mean, it sounds so elementary, but it’s, it’s much too rare, I think in, in our, in our ministries. One other thing you didn’t cover, Tony, is just talk about Central Services a little bit. How do you help churches get prepared to support multiple locations in those areas that are more operational?
That’s right. Well, and actually Central Services, I would view them as two distinctive areas. One is more of the operations of the church, as you just alluded to, Amy. And it’s all of the things, it’s kind of the support ministries of the church: finances, HR, IT—communications generally goes in that bucket, as well. It includes even basic things like, “Do we, is our database ready to support multiple locations?” And there are several other areas, I think about 10 areas altogether, that we go through with churches just to make sure that their support services and systems are in place to be able to, to support multiple locations. But the other part of Central Services has to do, and this actually goes back to alignment around ministry because every multisite church needs to begin to put in place the central support that happens on the ministry side, as well. So just making sure that we have central ministries in place to support weekend services, our reach strategies, our spiritual formation strategies. So in both of those areas, this is again where structure helps us accomplish the strategies that we know we need to engage to accomplish our mission.
And I will tell you this, in my experience working with multi-stuck churches, when we are building our multisite strategies off of differences, it’s the Central Services that really feel the pain. So if you’re Central Services are, are squawking, like there’s a lot of complaining going on, you might actually have a multisite model issue, not a Central Service employee problem.
I’m just glad we finally got to, I don’t know what episode number this is. One million or some?
Yeah, I don’t know. But we finally got the word squawking in into the podcast.
I think that’s a good thing.
Well, Tony, I think many pastors of multisite churches would confirm that it was easier keeping the team aligned when there was just one location. So what do healthy multisite churches do to maintain alignment when there’s more than one location?
Yeah, good question. I mean, to achieve alignment, first, you need to agree on your ministry model, and we’ve talked a lot about that today. So what’s our mission and how do we accomplish that mission? Secondly to, to achieve alignment, you need to make sure that your staff leaders are aligned, that everybody is pulling in the same direction. And again, if you’re paying someone to lead at your church, you need to make sure that they’re aligned. But then the third piece is you need to clarify decision rights. And there are a couple ways to look at this. And so think about decision rights. There are kind of two key components that we need to be considering if we’re gonna be launching a multisite strategy. The first is in order to clarify decision rights, we need to have, we call it a ministry playbook. But it kind of defines the way, “This is the way we do things around here, and we’re not just talking about it. We’re actually putting that in writing.” And when you do that, that helps you to confirm that everybody’s on the same, same page with the way that we do things. And, Amy, I mean, we, this is, we practice what we preach here. So we kind of have a ministry playbook, too, for The Unstuck Group. We call it The Unstuck Way. And it’s, it’s not really defining how we do what we do; it’s just defining the way we do what we do with the churches that we’re serving. And so just plug the name of your church in there. Maybe it’s The Grace Church Way. But you need to define, “This is the way we approach how we do church.” So what’s the way your church engages your ministry in every location? And I would encourage you in this ministry playbook, make sure that every core ministry area has a chance to define together the way they engage their ministry across every location. In other words, your groups ministry needs to, they need to have a place in this ministry playbook—volunteer connections, kids ministry, student ministry, worship, care and on down the line. Amy, anything you want to add to that?
Yeah, I think what our language that we often say is you have to move from an oral tradition to a written tradition.
There you go.
So that everyone has clarity. And I think a litmus test of this is, so if you’re launching a new location, I think you called it Grace Church. And it’s gonna be in a different building, and it, you know, that’s going to look different. It’s going to be led by different people. But if your church members or church attenders went to that new location, they should be able to go to church there and leave saying, “That felt like Grace Church.”
And that’s what you’re trying to articulate in that playbook. This is how we greet people. These, these are just all of our standard operating procedures, how we do ministry so that every location has that same feel and essence of, of the sending location.
Yeah. Feel. The culture gets included in that ministry playbook. Yeah. All of that. Yeah. So again, we’re talking about clarifying decision rights: first component, making sure we have a solid ministry playbook. And by the way, it’s just gonna be defining, “This is how we do ministry today.” Because your ministry playbook will evolve over time as your strategies and your systems evolve. The second key component of clarifying decision rights is to make sure there’s clarity on what’s a central call. In other words, central ministry leaders make the decision. And what’s a campus call? In other words, campus leaders make the decision. So, it’s just, we’re basically answering the question, who has decision rights around this question? And so one example, we may have in a kids’ ministry area: you know, who, who should we be inviting to serve in our kids’ ministry area? Very likely that’s going to be a campus-leader decision on who should be serving on the kids’ ministry team. On the other hand, what curriculum should we be using? I don’t think that should be left to campus leaders. We need to define that centrally so that we’re making, using the same curriculum in every children’s ministry in every location. And so again, we encourage, especially new multisite churches to go ministry area by ministry area and define what’s a central decision, what’s a campus decision? And I would say generally, central decisions are usually more around philosophy and strategy. And campus decisions tend to be more around team building, leader development and execution of that ministry playbook.
Another way to look at this is we just need to clarify who has authority and who has influence. And by the way, commonly, authority, we want that authority to flow through the campus pastor so that the campus team that the campus pastor is leading that they know that person is their one boss. They’re, they don’t have a boss that’s the campus pastor, and then another boss that is their ministry director. They just have one boss, and then many, many times those central ministry leaders, they’re the ones that, it’s almost like having an internal coach or internal consultant on the team that in those special specialized ministry areas—kids ministry, student ministry groups ministry, on down the line—they’re providing coaching. They’re providing influence, but the authority is flowing through the campus pastor.
Well, we’ve talked a lot about alignment today and discussed how the ministry model needs to be clarified for a multisite strategy to work effectively. But with all this talk about how multisite churches need to be fully aligned, is there, Tony, any wiggle room for a campus to do things a little bit differently than other locations?
Absolutely. In fact, it’s really one of the benefits of being a multisite church. The great thing is you don’t have to test-drive a new strategy across every location. You could just test-drive that in one location. And it really gives a good kind of A/B test to know that, that shift in strategies that we made, did that make a difference in a positive way? And if so, what we’ve seen in healthy multisite churches, when they test-drive something in one location and that new strategy works, then their next question right after that is, “How do we make sure that this new strategy gets applied across every location? Yeah, Amy?
I, I remember that actually. We were, this was again, back in the day, but we were taking the bags away. We had lovely green felt bags to pass for the offering, and I was making the charge. I, I think that’s the most, that’s the least appealing part of our service for anyone outside the faith. So I wanted to take the bags away. And, of course, that’s nerve-wracking when you’re six locations and all of this. But we did exactly what you’re saying. We did a test-drive at one of our locations, and took 12 weeks to kind of announce it to that congregation, cast vision around new ways of giving, telling stories of life change but moved everything electronic. And it was successful. And so we had that beta test to then roll out to all of the other campuses. And what I love about things like you’re talking about is our churches need more research and development. We need to be trying some new things and multisite is a great way to do that.
But, let me just say, multi-stuck churches, they, when they try new strategies, it’s oftentimes because they’re trying to create uniquenesses, differences from other locations because a campus wants to have its own identity. And so, again, we should test-drive. We should be trying new things, but if they work in one location, let’s make sure that those healthy new strategies get applied to all locations.
And they shouldn’t be a cowboy about it. These are, again, the leadership team approves strategies, and the leadership team approves beta tests for new strategies. It wouldn’t be just something a campus would come up with.
All right. Well, Tony, any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Yeah. This key issue of finding alignment and choosing the right site, right, multisite model, these are some of the core topics that we’re going to expand on in our upcoming webinar on March 30th. The webinar is called Multisite Better, and we’re gonna be teaching you some proven multisite strategies for better results. To register for this free webinar and to learn more about that opportunity, visit the link in your show notes.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Again, if you’re interested in joining us on the upcoming webinar Multisite Better, just go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to download the show notes. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. So until then, we hope you have a great week.
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