March 29, 2023

The Biggest Challenge of Multisite Expansion – Episode 290 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

the biggest challenge of multisite expansion

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4 Steps for Clarifying Your Multisite Strategy (Part 4)

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Staff leadership capacity and volunteer strength (which is a reflection of staffing) were the lowest multisite readiness indicators for the churches we’ve worked with in the last two years. In fact, both of those categories were low in the red zone for most of the churches surveyed.

In other words, when thinking about multisite expansion, most churches are not short of people to reach, new locations to open, or even money to expand…


The biggest challenge impacting future multisite expansion is the lack of leaders to launch a new location—while still having leaders to serve existing locations.

That’s why, this week, Amy and I are wrapping up our multisite series with a conversation explaining the importance of leadership development for multisite health and outlining the unique characteristics of a campus pastor. Tune in as we discuss:

  • Why churches end up with a lack of leaders
  • The 3 components of Biblical leadership development
  • Success factors for finding the right campus pastor
  • Unique characteristics of the campus pastor role

Multisite Better: Proven Strategies for Better Results

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. Sign up to get the full webinar video replay:

When thinking about multisite expansion, most churches are not short of people to reach, new locations to open, or even money to expand. The biggest challenge impacting future multisite expansion is a lack of leaders. [episode 290] #unstuckchurch Share on X If you want your church to continue its mission through multisite expansion, the priority should be finding staff leaders who can build and empower volunteer teams. [episode 290] #unstuckchurch Share on X A culture of leadership development can only happen when staff members have the margin, time, and resources to invest in other leaders. [episode 290] #unstuckchurch Share on X There are three key components of Biblical leadership development (found in Philippians 4:9): teaching, modeling, then practicing. [episode 290] #unstuckchurch Share on X When it comes to your multisite staff, and the leadership capacity of that staff, there’s probably no one more crucial than the campus pastor. [episode 290] #unstuckchurch Share on X
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This Episode is Sponsored by Horizons Stewardship:

Church giving has changed due to persistent disruption, economic uncertainty, and changing technology. One question remains: How do I do more ministry?

Horizons Stewardship is a team of generosity specialists, coaching professionals, and ministry strategists. Their data-informed strategies have helped thousands of churches raise billions for over three decades. Every church wants to experience its next level of generosity. But leaders need more time to figure it all out. Visit today to learn more.

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. The biggest challenge multisite churches face when adding new locations is having enough well-trained leaders, and that makes leadership development a critical aspect of multisite success. On today’s podcast, Tony and Amy wrap up our series on multisite with a conversation on how to create a leadership development strategy to sustain multisite health. Before we get there, if you’re new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, we wanna invite you to head over to 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 to subscribe. Now, before today’s conversation, here’s a word from Tony.

Tony (00:56):

Before we jump into today’s episode, I wanted to share a little bit about my friends at Horizons Stewardship. You know, church giving has changed due to persistent disruption, economic uncertainty and certainly changing technology. But one question remains: how do I do more ministry? Well, Horizons Stewardship is a team of generosity specialists and coaching professionals and ministry strategists. Their data-informed strategies have helped thousands of churches raise billions of dollars over the last three decades. You know, every church wants to experience its next level of generosity, but leaders need more time to figure it all out. Visit today to learn more.

Amy (01:49):

Well, Tony, we made it, we’re officially in the last week of our series on how churches can prepare for multisite expansion, and that’s whether they’re launching their first campus or their fifth. I think the principles we’ve been exploring are helpful for churches at every stage of the multisite journey. For our listeners, as a reminder, in this series, we’ve touched on the 10 multisite readiness checkpoints and why multisite is not a growth strategy. We’ve hit on the importance of strategic alignment before you go multisite, and last week, we talked through the common mistakes churches make when it comes to their launch strategy. So Tony, what topic are we gonna focus on today to wrap up this series?

Tony (02:26):

Well, Amy, you should be excited about this one because we’re going to talk about something that I know is near and dear to your heart. Are you ready for this?

Amy (02:35):

I’m ready.

Tony (02:35):

Today, we’re, yeah, we’re gonna talk about staffing and leadership capacity as it relates to multisite teams, so.

Amy (02:42):

I am excited. That’s, that’s a fun topic for me.

Tony (02:45):

All right, well, good. All right, well, we could fill several episodes about this huge topic, so I think we should dive right in today. And the overarching theme of what we’re going to discuss is this. When thinking about multisite expansion, most churches are not short of people to reach or new locations to open or even many times money to expand. The biggest challenge impacting future multisite expansion is the lack of leaders to launch a new location while still having enough leaders to serve existing locations.

Amy (03:20):

Yeah, I totally agree with that, Tony. I, I’ve seen this in multisite churches I work with all the time. In fact, to go back to those multisite readiness checkpoints that we discussed in episode one, do you remember? We saw that it was staff leadership capacity and volunteer strength, which of course is a reflection of staffing. Those were the lowest readiness indicators with the churches we’ve worked with for the last two years. When we red, green, yellow those, both of those categories were low in the red zone for most of the churches that we worked with. And so, as you mentioned, we could probably spend days talking about all these issues around the topic, but with limited time, where do you wanna start?

Tony (03:59):

Yeah, well, let’s start off with trying to answer the question of why this lack of leaders exist in so many churches, both multisite and frankly also in single-site churches. You know, if I had to guess, it’s because many church teams fall into the trap of hiring doers rather than hiring ministry leaders. And if you want your church to continue its mission through multisite expansion, it’s vitally important that you focus on hiring high-capacity ministry leaders and not ministry doers.The priority should be about finding staff leaders who can build and empower volunteer teams. So we need a staff to equip God’s people to do the work of God, not to hire staff to do the work themselves. And if not, you’ll be stuck in what really is an unsustainable pattern of constantly hiring new staff as your ministry grows. Stuck churches tend to hire doers rather than leaders and then give those doers leadership responsibilities. Over time though, the person in that position, they grow frustrated because that’s not what they’re wired up to do because they’re trying to do something that’s outside their wiring. And the church leadership, they grow frustrated because that person has become a lid to the health and growth of that ministry area.

Amy (05:24):

Yeah. This issue of hiring leaders versus doers, you know, it only gets worse the more campuses you have, doesn’t it?

Tony (05:30):

That’s right.

Amy (05:31):

And how, how do we see that staffing issue reflected when it comes back to a lack of volunteer strength?

Tony (05:37):

Well, when paid staff are doing much of the ministry, they aren’t as motivated to raise up other lay leaders and build volunteer teams. In that sense, overstaffing tends to lead to under-volunteering, and I’ve said this before, but I’ll read it, repeat it again here. We should not outsource serving opportunities by hiring more staff to do the ministry that God designed for every person who is a part of the body of Christ. This isn’t just an issue of church health; it’s also an issue of discipleship. How are, how are we helping people take their next steps toward Jesus? It’s, it’s about spiritual formation, and that’s why healthy churches, multisite or otherwise, make it very clear that one of the wins for each staff member’s job is to identify and empower volunteer leaders and build volunteer teams. And they have at least one staff member who champions this. I mean, this is their job title, if you will. This is the key part of their role. It’s all about being the champion for volunteer engagement. And when churches do that, it helps to ensure a growing team of volunteers who are leaning into their spiritual gifts and really serving as part of the body of Christ.

Amy (06:56):

Yep. That’s very true. Tony. What’s another reason churches end up with a lack of leaders?

Tony (07:00):

So another reason for the lack of leaders is this absence of leadership development or just think about it as what’s our intentional strategy to help people take their next step in their leadership? And when we, when you don’t have that intentional strategy in place, you’re gonna find there’s going to be a lack of leadership capacity. So, this lack of leadership development, I think it happens for a number of reasons. The first may be just the fact that the ministry calendar is so packed with events and programs that there’s no margin to pour into potential leaders or existing leaders who are trying to grow their leadership capacity. Leadership development needs to be highly relational in order to generate maximum results. And if you don’t have the time to invest in that, you’re certainly not going to get the results. I mean, leadership development requires focused time and focused attention. The second reason may be that no one on the team owns this responsibility for leadership development. And it may sound simple, but a culture of leadership development probably isn’t going to happen without a leader. And so now . . .

Amy (08:15):

Yeah, someone’s gotta own it.

Tony (08:16):

Right? Yeah. I’m not recommending you hire somebody, and this is their position. I’m recommending you look at your staff leadership team, identify who has, who has passion around this, who has demonstrated that they can raise up, empower other leaders and maybe encourage that person then to take on responsibility for designing leadership development strategies for the entire ministry and just making that a part of their role. The third reason, Amy, may be around the fact that low-capacity leaders have been promoted to high-capacity leadership positions.

Amy (08:56):

Oh, so common.

Tony (08:57):

Yeah. Many churches. Then, this is just the reality. I think as ministry grows, the tendency is to promote because of longevity rather than leadership capacity or leadership effectiveness. But a leader cannot take a team further than they’ve been themselves. So, high-capacity leaders, they’re just, they’re not gonna follow low, low-capacity leaders. And that’s why it’s critical as we’re thinking about filling leadership positions that we make sure we fill them with people that have demonstrated, “I’m a high capacity leader; I know how to build teams, and I know how to raise up and empower other leaders.”

Amy (09:35):

You know, we’ve mentioned overstaffing already, but I think it’s important to note that understaffing could also be a reason for a lack of leadership development, too. I mean, a culture of leadership development can only happen when staff have margins.

Tony (09:48):

That’s right.

Amy (09:49):

Like you’re talking about to invest in other leaders, and I imagine this could be an issue for many multisite churches. I mean, of course, leadership development is a whole topic in and of itself, but maybe we could take us a minute to touch briefly on the solution side of this one.

Tony (10:03):

Yeah. So let me take a crack at that, Amy. And when it comes to this topic of leadership development, I tend to go back to the model that we see demonstrated in Philippians 4:9. And again, just to remind you, that verse says this, “Keep putting into practice all that you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” I love that verse because it highlights three critical components of a healthy discipleship, and for today’s conversation, a healthy mentoring relationship. There’s a teaching component. I mean, the verse clearly says, these are things that you’ve heard from me. So that implies that some teaching is happening, where the teacher is sharing wisdom with the disciple. Then, there’s a modeling component. The verse refers to “you saw me doing some things.” So where, where someone is watching someone else, someone the mentor is leading by example, and so that’s critical.

Amy (11:10):


Tony (11:11):

Then, there’s the practicing component because the verse refers to “keep putting into practice,” and that’s where the role changes and the person that’s being mentored takes over while the mentor watches and provides coaching. And keeping those three facets of leadership development in mind, I always encourage churches to integrate their leadership development strategy into their existing ministry team and small group structure. So you don’t need to build new structure for leadership development. It already exists with your ministry teams and with your small groups. So don’t try to create a separate program for leadership development; rather, build leadership development into your ministry team structure, into your group structure. And the main reason why is you already have existing relational connections, both in serving teams and in groups. All you’re doing is providing now a framework to continue to pour into people with a leadership gift, to develop that leadership gifting and then to continue to empower them so they’re able to use that gifting to influence and lead other people in your ministry. And if you wanna read more about how to approach leadership development and kind of using some of these principles we’ve talked about today, I recommend you check out, it’s a book by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. It’s called Designed to Lead. The subtitle is The Church and Leadership Development. And again, it’s a great resource to maybe spell out not just the generics around leadership development but specifically how do we bring leadership development into the context of church ministry.

Amy (13:04):

Yeah. Thanks for taking a few minutes on leadership development. I think it can kind of feel mysterious sometimes to some leaders to go, “How do I do that?” But you know, Tony, as we’re talking, it strikes me that as we’ve been talking about this topic of staffing and leadership capacity in relationship to multisite, there’s one key player we haven’t mentioned yet. Do you know who I’m referring to?

Tony (13:24):

I think I can guess. Are you talking about the campus pastor role, Amy?

Amy (13:28):

Yep. That’s, that’s what I’m talking about.

Tony (13:30):

Yeah, so as we wrap up our conversation here, let’s dive into that topic a little bit. When it comes to your multisite staff and the leadership capacity of that staff, there’s probably no one more crucial than your campus pastor.

Amy (13:43):

Yeah. It’s, it’s true. This is a big question a lot of multisite churches have. Like, how do we hire the right leader for our campus? And how is that leader unique from other traditional ministry leadership roles?

Tony (13:55):

Yeah. Amy, I mean, we’ve talked about this topic a lot in our content through the years from webinars to articles to online courses. And I think today it might be most helpful if we kind of quickly walk through some of the success factors for identifying and hiring a campus pastor. Amy, you know, there’s a tool that we include in our multisite process where we give coaching to churches on who to be hiring for the campus pastor role, but also, as they’re looking at existing staff leaders, who to kind of keep their eye out for that could potentially be a campus pastor in the future because those are the people we wanna be coaching and developing today. But some of the success factors that we talk about in that tool, number one is gonna be very obvious. This person needs to have a hundred percent match with who we are as a church. They need to be a good fit with the DNA of our ministry. In other words, this, this future campus pastor. They have to embody and champion our existing mission, our existing vision, the values that shape how we behave, how we act towards each other. And most importantly, they need to fully embrace the ministry strategies that we’re engaging to accomplish our mission.

Amy (15:19):

That’s right.

Tony (15:19):

A second success factor, regardless of whether or not you’re using video teaching to deliver the messages on Sunday morning, this person still has to be a great communicator from the platform. And one of the things we encourage churches, this is gonna sound so simple, so basic, but does the person have enough communication capacity that they can connect giving to the church, giving to the, the mission of the ministry to the vision that we’re trying to accomplish going forward?

Amy (15:50):


Tony (15:50):

A third thing to look for: this person has to be highly relational. They need skills to influence those people around them. And one way to measure the capacity here is, is to look at their relational skills and whether or not this person has the influence to not only of their peers and those that are younger than them, but can this person also influence people that are older than them, as well.

Amy (16:17):


Tony (16:18):

A fourth factor to consider: can this person lead others, primarily volunteers, which we’ve talked about today in, in today’s conversation. But here’s the key factor. Can they, have they demonstrated in the past that they can lead primarily volunteers? And the reason why we say have they demonstrated this is we’ve all worked with people probably who come out of marketplace roles where they’re leading teams of people, sometimes big teams of people. But the key difference between marketplace roles and ministry is in the marketplace, a lot of times, people are doing stuff that we tell them to do because we’re paying them to do it.

Amy (17:00):

That’s right.

Tony (17:00):

And in ministry that, that’s not the case. So, have they demonstrated that they can lead through others, primarily volunteers? Another factor to consider is, is this person driven? Is there a clear ability to execute and to deliver? And again, we talked about it earlier; this is one example of why we can’t hire a doer. We need to hire a leader, someone with strong leadership capacity. So those are a number of factors we encourage churches to look for when they’re deciding is this person the right fit for this campus pastor role?

Amy (17:37):

This was a big challenge for my church when we were first launching multisite and trying to figure this campus pastor thing out. We, really wrestled between like a shepherding leader or kind of the leader that you’re describing here. And man, we, we actually made the right decision. It’s a, it takes an incredible amount of leadership capacity to lead a campus and all those volunteer leaders. And Tony, the one you didn’t mention is just they, they need to also be wired as a second cheerleader.

Tony (18:06):

That’s right.

Amy (18:06):

And, and that’s, that’s because the position of a second chair leader, like a campus pastor, it’s just a unique one. Right?

Tony (18:13):

That’s right.

Amy (18:13):

And maybe I’ll just throw it to you. What are the characteristics that might define, you know, a second chair leader versus a primary leader like a senior pastor?

Tony (18:22):

Yeah, Amy. There, there really are some unique characteristics needed in this role as campus pastor. The campus pastor, as an example, should be a vision carrier rather than a vision creator. The campus pastor should be more of a builder than an entrepreneur. The campus pastor, maybe way to describe it, is there more about galvanizing other people rather than inventing new things? The campus pastor should be more empowering and less controlling. And then the way I would describe it is this: the campus pastor needs to be more of a missionary than a preacher. Now, in all of those, those five things I mentioned, Amy, it still requires strong leadership. It’s just a different style of leadership than you would be looking for if you were trying to find a new senior pastor or if you were trying to find a church planter. Then the characteristics, they just look a little bit different.

Amy (19:23):

Yeah. That’s a great way to summarize it. And of course, we said before, there’s so many topics we could have covered today related to multisite staffing and leadership, you know: central and campus teams, how staffing structure changes as we multiply. But as you stated at the beginning of this episode, you said the biggest challenge impacting future multisite expansion is lack of leaders to launch a new location. So I hope that today’s episode provided some clarity on addressing that problem.

Tony (19:50):

Absolutely, Amy. And I recommend that listeners looking for more on this topic check out our, our website, our blog for more wisdom and best practices because there’s been a lot of content we’ve shared through the years when it comes to staffing for multisite churches.

Amy (20:08):

Yep. All right. Well, Tony, any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation that will really end this series?

Tony (20:14):

Yeah, that’s right. I, I always enjoy when we have some focus content around multisite. But as we wrap up the series today, I wanna offer one more resource to help you clarify a healthy path forward to multisite on March 30th, which is tomorrow if you’re listening to this on the day that this episode releases, Amy and I are hosting a free webinar where we’ll be sharing stories of real multisite churches, the predictable outcomes of common multisite models and more practical wisdom for discerning your multisite next steps. And you can register now at the link in your show notes and be sure to join us tomorrow. And if your church could use some help discerning your unique path forward in multisite, we offer an Unstuck process specifically for churches that are currently multisite or considering it for future expansion. And you can learn more at

Sean (21:13):

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 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.

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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