Exploring a Common Hidden Tension in Multisite Churches with Bill Brown

Thank you for joining us for this week’s podcast. We have a great conversation with Bill Brown, the executive pastor at Parkview Christian Church. Parkview Christian Church was founded in 1951 and is one of the fastest growing churches in the country with three campuses.

Bill describes their experiences as being sort of thrust into multisite, like many churches are, when a struggling church in their area approached them and asked that they take their campus in order to continue God’s work there. The leaders at Parkview had been talking about multisite and learned about it from others, but hadn’t yet taken the step. When the opportunity came, Bill says they took it even though they weren’t sure what to do. He’s here today to talk about taking that leap into multisite.

  • The first years were both excitement and struggle. // There was constant tension about what was going to be uniform across both campuses and what was to be expected from central. Because Parkview had jumped into multisite so suddenly, they didn’t even have a “central”, just a big box and the other campus. At times the tension would boil over, with the second campus complaining that the first campus wasn’t giving them what they needed but rather focusing on their own 5,000-person congregation and needs.
  • It’s like raising your kids. // There are developmental things that are normal struggles and you shouldn’t really worry about them as a parent because that’s part of growing up. But then there are things that are extreme and if you don’t tackle them they can become a big issue. It’s similar with birthing campuses. Tension had become beyond normal ministry tension. Leadership saw that the tensions were beginning to be heightened on a more frequent basis and there were discussions of “us versus them”.
  • Restart and realign. // Parkview’s leadership realized they had to become clear about what their strategy was or the mission would die. During this process, the campus pastor stepped down in order to take a role as a senior pastor at another church, so they hired a new campus pastor. Then another church offered them their building for the second campus. Parkview took this as the opportunity to start over and make the changes to align the campus ministries with their main ministries. With coaching and help from a friend at Life Church and a few others, they brought everything into alignment, from worship down to the paint colors used at the campus.
  • Internal language warning signs. // An early warning sign that can turn into tension among multisite campuses is the use of language internally and how the campuses are referred to. It’s a small thing, but it can show an “us versus them” mentality or elevate the importance of one campus over another. One example is referring to “main” and “satellite” campuses. They no longer use that language at Parkview, but only “broadcast campus” or Homer Glen campus, where the sermons are broadcast from, and then the New Lenox and Orland Park campuses. That doesn’t put one campus valued above another, but rather describes a function of the campus.
  • Don’t let the tension divide the church. // There will always be a tension among campuses, no matter how many or few you have, but it’s a tension to be managed, not to be solved. Get outside eyes on it to help you see what’s normal and what isn’t. Bill also advises that you have a good grasp of the direction you want to go instead of just jumping in with no plan. Are you trying to reproduce the original campus, or are you trying to do something unique in each community? Have a plan and know the warning signs to prevent the us versus them mentality that can kill your mission.

You can learn more about Parkview Christian Church at their website

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Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // Evernote, Asana

Ministries Following // Life.Church, CCB in Phoenix

Influential Book // The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency by Chris Whipple, Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It by Ichak Adizes

Leader to meet // Warren Buffett

What you do for fun // following baseball, being home with family

Contact // website or email Bill 

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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.