All About Multisitemultisitepodcast

All About Multisite: Campus Growth Barriers, Multisite vs. Church Planting & Leadership Development

Welcome to our new podcast all about multisite! I’m chatting with a group of multisite ninjas and answering your questions about the ins and outs of launching new campuses. Our group is as follows:

Natalie Frisk is our family ministry expert. She is a key leader from The Meeting House. This church has 19 (!) locations and is doing all kinds of great stuff, including a killer kids’ & youth curriculum that they give away for free. Natalie’s a lot of fun and will have so many great insights around leading in a thriving multisite church.

Greg Curtis is our guest connections and assimilation expert. He leads at Eastside Christian Church, one of the fastest growing churches in the country, and literally, is the “go to” source for getting people to stick and stay in the church. (Eastside has assimilated something like 1,500 people in the last 18 months!) His coaching practice around assimilation is amazing.

Ben Stapley is our communications and service programming expert. Ben is one of the most helpful leaders I know. His day job is at Liquid Church in NJ, but he does so much to help other leaders with the “big show” part of church world.

And I, Rich, have been involved with 14 different campus launches over the years and enjoy helping churches that are thinking about multisite.

We are here to answer your questions about running a multisite church and are excited to be here today with our second episode.

Opening Question: A surprise you had when you got into leading within a multisite church?

  • Natalie Frisk – How important developing the right system is. I get a little uncomfortable when people bring up systems and structures, but seeing their value and how they help us do ministry well was my biggest surprise.
  • Greg Curtis – How franchisable what we do is. I was surprised we could use sites that were a school or where we were taking over their facility. Whether we had a new facility or an old facility, either way it always felt like our own campus. And the other surprise was navigating the dotted and solid line relationships that we talked about in our last podcast.
  • Ben Stapley – Seeing the change in terms in arts and creativity and what we were able to do in a single site was different in what we did in a multisite. I thought I used to be open handed in passing off leadership pretty easily, but you need to do that much faster at a multisite.

Q1: How do you break through the growth barrier of your church? What is a healthy size for your church and how do you help it grow?

Are you structured for growth to get past the 200, 500, etc. barrier? Leadership development and volunteer structure is one of the biggest hindrances or accelerators to breaking a growth barrier. Not preparing people to take on more ownership and responsibility, especially in a volunteer capacity, can cap growth. Are you structured to grow? The health of the size of a site depends on the health of the culture. We can forget to set a tone for prayer, spiritual health, and really listening to what God wants for our campuses.

Each campus has its own journey. Your strategy generates the growth, but you need the culture to fuel it. Create the strategy with the processes and systems for running the campus before launching the site. Factor in your regional uniqueness when thinking through a healthy size for your campus. It can be easy to look to mega churches in large cities in the bible belt and think if your campus isn’t 1,000 plus then something is wrong, but those numbers aren’t the same everywhere.

From a service and programming perspective, create big days and develop an invite strategy for those. Big days include Christmas and Easter, but look for other days that can be pivotal for inviting unchurched people from your community. For example, create a movie kickoff day in the summer with an all-campus service. The invest and invite strategy has a vision through the year to lovingly invest in the people around you and invite them to church where they can experience a loving God. Do this with a focused message series each year, and provide invitation tools like postcards at the launch of every series.

Q2: What is the difference between multisite and planting a new church? What are the pros and cons between the two?

All churches should have a multiplication mindset and multisite is just one way to that. The gospel makes it clear that we are supposed to be making disciples wherever we go. Church planting takes a new leader and a new model to a new community, and they have a new approach they believe should be different from another church. Multisite uses a new leader in a new community, but they are using an already-existing model. A pro of church planting is it is a lot more organic and authentic to its community. You can tailor it specifically to serve the unique are it’s in. The pro of a multisite church is it is a lot more efficient. It’s like a franchise—you create one model and one experience and then duplicate that to create more of the same thing in different areas. If your context is pretty similar, go multisite.

Cost is another huge benefit to going multisite, versus church planting, both for staff and property. Multisite allows the potential for shared resources and the ability to maximize stewardship dollars in certain areas, whereas church planting must build from scratch from the ground up. Property costs and staffing can be a huge drain to a church plant.

Q3: How is your church doing leadership development?

A strong leadership development program is vital to multiplication within your church. Eastside is currently two thirds of the way through creating a new culture of people development, which has 3 components: preparation, inspiration and ongoing equipping. The prep happens through prep modules that train people in 5 leadership competencies that move someone up a leadership level. The inspiration happens through large leadership events. The ongoing equipping happens through huddles on campus during work hours that all staff and key volunteers are invited to. These reflect areas of need, growth as determined by observation and even performance reviews. These huddles become a key way that people can improve and grow in their capacity as leaders and move up in the organization. If someone has an area where they need improvement, they can provide an ongoing equipping huddle for that person to help them move along in their leadership development. Don’t think of it as just a program, but as a culture. Having a culture-wide way of developing leaders will help your multisite campuses. Ask the question: who am I developing to replace me? Have creativity with leadership development and try new things to find that person who might fill your shoes one day.

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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.