11 Guidelines for Multisite Central Staff When Visiting Campuses

Recently I was talking with a church leader in a multisite church that broke my heart. This leader was reflecting on when their central services counterpart would come and visit their campus to “help”. “They just show and vomit all over our people …” this leader said. Too much information just spewed all over his leaders and volunteers. I’ve spent 10+ years in multisite churches working in various “central services” roles. Visiting campuses to provide help and insight in doing church “our way”. Over that time I’ve made hundreds of these sorts of visits. My heart sank when this leader described their central counterpart that way and it got me thinking about some guidelines for the way central staff need to conduct themselves when on these visits.  Here are some ideas …
  • multisiteYou’re not that big of a deal. // Really. The power dynamics are set up in a strange way to make people who come from the “central” team to appear like they are the “big-wigs coming from head office”. Do everything you can to fight that perception. Be there to serve. Wear a volunteer t-shirt. Ask lots of questions. Be winsome in your communication.
  • Who before What // Take time to get to know the team at the campus. Before you jump in on the tasks that you have come to accomplish at the campus make sure to connect with the team members. Learn names and try to remember information about people from visit to visit.
  • Show Up Regularly // Make a regular effort to be a new location as often as you can. As you get to 3-4 campuses it becomes critical that you’ve developed the discipline to be at a new location every weekend to ensure that you are staying as connected as possible.
  • Give the inside track to what’s coming next // As a member of the central team you often have a sense of what is coming up in the future of the church. Use these site visits as a chance to spread a bit of excitement about what’s coming up in the life of the church. Think of one talking point to spread before you arrive!
  • Think Tools & Training // Every time you are on site you should be rolling out a new tool or helping with some training. Maybe you can spend some extra time with the team leaders working on a system that needs some support or you can help them with a new coaching tool for working with volunteers. Find ways to be helpful. 🙂
  • Affirm before Advice // Make sure to have your senses turned up looking for what is right at the campus you are visiting. Take time to point out what is working before you jump into giving them advice about what they can fix. Look for “positive variance  … how the campus is exceeding over the other locations and share that among the broader leadership team.
  • Have a mental check list // As much as you want to be relationally warm and open with people you need to have a clear sense of mission for your time at the campus. Make sure you’ve thought through what you want to see and who you want to connect with. Please don’t have an clipboard with an actual checklist. If you need a reminder you could write out a few notes on an index card and put in your back pocket.
  • Connect with the Campus Pastor // Make sure you take time to connect with the Campus Pastor when you are “on site” at their location. Beyond the courtesy of acknowledging their local leadership they may have some items that they’d want you to look into during your visit.
  • Provide Post-Sunday Feedback // Loop back with the local team to give them your feedback and comments as soon after your visit as possible. Make sure to give them insights in what you experienced that we’re great as well as those things that need a little work on.
  • Pick Your Battles // Stay focused on feedback that it’s going to have the highest leverage of change in the campus. Nobody enjoys a laundry list of 25 things they need to change. If a campus has a long list of things that need to change … visit more often. 🙂

BIG IDEA /// Earn the Right to Come Again. // The goal of your visit is that people will look forward to the next time you are at their campus. It’s not about “fixing” every item on this time around but building trust with the team and adding value so they will want to have you come again. It’s about long term team development not short term system compliance.

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  1. These are spot on. If you can accomplish all 11 of these on every visit, you’ll have had a very productive and very well planned and executed site visit. My only suggestion is that in certain situations, one or two things may be most critical and it’s important to give yourself the freedom to focus on those people and those feedback loops. Well done.

  2. Excellent points (again), Rich. As the person who oversees a number of teams at a local campus, and has off an on for a number of years, this is totally not how our multisite church operates (thankfully).

    The “Who before What” point you make made me chuckle; the support people from our central site (and they all have “support” in their job title, and more importantly, that is their approach) will check names with me before interacting with the various volunteers.

    The one thing you don’t explicitly address is that the visit to the campus is only part of an ongoing interaction with the local site. Emails, phone calls, text messages, ticketing system for non-urgent assistance — whatever communication is most appropriate should be used, and will be reinforced (hopefully) by the on-campus visit. And, as the local point person, I share the news about what’s going on in the larger family with my team leaders, so they will be in the loop but not overwhelmed or distracted.

    Thanks for once again generating some thought and introspection, Rich. Bless you, Liquid, and unseminary.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.