Developing a Leadership Pipelinemultisitepodcast

Mark Lunsford on Healthy Multisite Staff Dynamics



Mark_Lunsford_podcastWelcome back, everyone. Today I’m honored to have Mark Lunsford of Hope Fellowship with us today. Hope Fellowship is one of the fastest growing churches in the country. It started with 51 people in Frisco, Texas, in 2001. It now has 3 campuses and over 5,000 attendees.

Mark is the executive pastor at Hope Fellowship. He partners with lead pastor, John Mackenzie, to plan what’s next at Hope in the areas of staffing and hiring, ministry, finance, and more. Mark also coaches and mentors the staff at Hope Fellowship.

Mark is here today to talk with us about the challenges that come with working on a multi-site staff. Listen in for some great advice on preparing for growth.

Seed the new site with DNA from the original location. // One of the most challenging things about a multi-site church is building new sites with the same culture and DNA as the original site. It’s easier with one site, Mark tells us, because that staff is around each other regularly and can grow together. With multi-sites, it’s more difficult to maintain culture, especially in new staff members. To help with this, Hope Fellowship seeds new sites with a few staff members who have been with them for a while and know the culture of the church so it can be spread to the new hires.

Lessen the learning curve. // As Hope Fellowship brought new staff members on board to support the multi-site model, they knew there would be a learning curve to understanding the church’s DNA even with the new campuses being seeded with current staff. To help close this gap more quickly, Hope Fellowship developed six culture statements that embody who they are and what new hires can expect. These culture statements summarize Hope Fellowship’s values, covering everything from cultivating a healthy personal life to looking for ways to constantly improve to serving fellow staff members.

It’s easier to add than subtract. // When Hope Fellowship started their first multi-site campus, they had an expectation that they would grow quickly in a certain timeframe. As a result Hope Fellowship found that they had hired too many people and staff began to get bored because there wasn’t enough to do. The key is to prepare for growth, but don’t staff as if you’ve already grown. As Mark says, it’s always easier to add than subtract when it comes to staffing.

You can learn more about Hope Fellowship at their website, You can reach Mark through Twitter @MarkLunsford or by email [email protected].

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Episode Highlights

00:50 // Rich introduces Mark Lunsford and welcomes him to the show.

01:37 // Mark explains his role within Hope Fellowship.

03:40 // Mark talks about their decision to go multisite and where they are today.

08:29 // Mark talks about the learnings of becoming a multi-site church.

10:24 // Mark talks us through the six culture statements.

16:13 // Mark gives an example of using a culture statement in practical terms.

17:11 // Rich and Mark discuss the challenges of staffing for growth when launching new campuses.

20:35 // Mark offers encouragement to others with staffing issues.

22:35 // Mark highlights some job opportunities at Hope Fellowship and offers contact details.

Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // Roku Box with Noah USB

Ministries Following // Life.Church

Influential Book // Mastering The Art Of Trust by Aubrey McGowan

Inspiring Leader // Jeff Bezos

What does he do for fun // Exploring culture and events in the local area

Contact //  marklunsford  [email protected]

Episode Transcript

Rich – Well hey everybody, happy Thursday, welcome to the podcast. My name’s Rich, the host around these parts, so glad that you’ve decided to spend some time with us today. I know that this weekend, you may be a little bit nervous because you’re like, “Gosh we’re heading into the weekend,” there’s a lot coming up at your church and I’m honored and privileged that you would take time out to listen to us today. I know you’ve got a lot of things you could be doing with your time, maybe you’re out running this morning or doing something, getting ready for today, I’m just thankful that you would take some time to be with us today.

I’ve really been looking forward to this conversation, I think we’re going to learn a lot, this is going to be an interesting kind of dive on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. We’ve got Mark Lunsford with us, he is at Hope Fellowship. Hope is one of those churches that you really should get a chance to get to know, it’s one of the fastest growing churches in the country. They started, it’s kind of a little bit of that classic story, Frisco Texas, they started with 51 people in 2000 and has grown, now over 5 thousand people expanding. 3 campuses. Rumor has it that they’re working on thinking through the next one and maybe we’re breaking some news there today. A great church, you really should be following them and we’re just glad to have you on the show today Mark, thanks for being here.

Mark – Hey, great to be here, I’m excited to join the conversation.

Rich – Nice. Now how would you describe your role? When people stop you and say, “Hey Mark, what do you do?” What do you say?

Mark – Well people ask me that all the time because my title’s Executive Pastor and they’re like, “We don’t see you on the stage, in fact we see you, you’re kind of around every now and then, report for multi-site and traveling to different sites.” So I’m not there all the time at their campus, so they’re like, “So what is it that you do?” I’ve had a difficult time trying to explain it but what I’m always doing for Hope Fellowship, I partner with our Lead Pastor John McKenzie and my role is to help him think through what’s next. What are we doing next, what’s our next step?

So from the time when I first arrived at Hope and we were just running a thousand, now we’ve grown a lot, over 5 and 6 thousand, there’s been a lot of steps along the journey. So I’m always trying to think about what’s next and I’m thinking about what’s next in the areas of staffing and hiring, what’s next in the areas of ministry, how are we expanding ministry, what’s next in the areas of finance and I serve as our CFO for our organization? So it’s just all of those areas of what’s next and then I coach and mentor and lead our staff. So primarily now I’m mentoring and leading the leaders who lead the staff, the pastors on the ground and the leaders on the ground. It’s just been an evolutionary role and it’s kind of hard to describe but the easiest way is to just say, “I’m always thinking about what’s next.”

Rich – Absolutely, I appreciate that, that’s a good way to describe it. I know I serve a similar role at our church and I sometimes say I feel like I’m a professional poker, I’m kind of poking us to where are we going next, “Hey what about this, what about that? Maybe we should be thinking through these kinds of issues or maybe we should be worrying about that?”

Mark – Right.

Rich – Now you lead a multi-site staff and today we’re going to try to dive deep a little bit into the staffing issues. Why don’t you give us kind of a capsulation of your multi-site story?

Mark – Sure.

Rich – Give us a sense of why you got into multi-site and what does it look like today and then we can pivot into what you’re learning from a multi-site staff point of view.

Mark – Well our church was, as you mentioned, it was launched in 2000, it was launched portable and in 2005 we moved into our very first building what was a 500 seat auditorium in Frisco, on the east side of Frisco and after a couple of years of growth we actually felt the need to expand that. We had a 9 acre place right there on the east side of Frisco so we expanded that to a thousand seat auditorium that opened up in 2009 and God just continued to allow us to grow.

So around 2010, 2011 it was obvious that we knew that our mission was to reach as many people that God will allow to come into our community and our community was continuing to grow, so we were kind of at a crossroads, do we relocate and get a bigger site, or do we start to explore this idea of multi-site? Honestly, for us, multi-site was not… kind of right now it’s a very normal, natural and in a way it’s kind of trendy to think about, but for us it was just not what our experience was. So we really thought and prayed hard about it, but in the end we just really felt, “Okay you know what, I think God is calling us to expand by being local to different areas and really be able to reach that community better.” So that’s when we made the decision to go multi-site.

One of the things, when we first started thinking about multi-site, the places we went to ask them about it, a lot of them would say, “One of our first mistake, a big mistake was going too small.” So we said, “Oh man, we’re going to go big,” you know?

Rich – It is Texas after all, right?

Mark – It is Texas.

Rich – That joke was to set itself up, come on.

Mark – Our first multi-site is in McKinney, Texas and that’s just our neighboring town from Frisco. What we did was we bought former Albertsons and it’s basically right on two highways, the corner of two highways and a very highly trafficked area. There’s 50 thousand square feet and we remodeled that and that was our first, we launched that in August 2012. When we launched that we sent several hundred people out there plus, then they started to impact their community but back at our original site we continued to grow and we knew were going to have to do something quickly. So another Albertsons on the west side of Frisco became available, so we purchased that and that opened in December of 2013.

So right now we’re at three sites and it’s a kind of unique situation, where our physical campuses are similar sizes.

Rich – Yeah.

Mark – Our production site is at our original location and then it’s a live video at our other two sites. We have campus pastors at each site and full staff from children’s, student’s worship, it’s [Inaudible 00:06:35] ministry etc., at each site. Then we support that through our central team. So each department has a lead from student’s, children’s worship, communication missions and then we have campus staff right on the ground.

Rich – Yes, so you’re looking for the next Albertsons to go bankrupt really.

Mark – We’re kind of running out of Albertsons and you know what, as we’ve done three, now we’re open to different models, you know, it’s not going to have to always look the same and right now that’s what we’re praying, you kind of mentioned, well right now we’re just praying about, “Okay what does it look like going forward?” We’re praying about do we expand our original campus again, if we possibly can, we’re just limited in our acreage right there or is there another site and what’s the best way to leverage that? Right now we’re trying to move people off to that Frisco east side to then allow that to continue to grow. But it’s also a challenge because three years later, getting leadership at that campus, from a volunteer standpoint and doing that quickly, we’re still working through that and still trying to figure it out and learn out to do it best and so we’re continuing to learn and grow.

I’ve been in the ministry for a long time and you always think, “I’m going to know how to do it at some point,” and I’m still looking for that point, you know? I’m still waiting for that.

Rich – Well let’s talk about maybe some of the things you’re learning from a staff point of view. As you’re kind of leading the staff, from a multi-site point of view, it is more complex as a leader who’s been in it for a while. Same thing, I feel like I’m constantly learning, trying to learn and so what are some of those things that you’ve learned about leading your staff in a multi-site church that maybe are a little different from when you were in a mono-site church?

Mark – Well the biggest thing is when we were one site it was much easier for the culture and the DNA to just infuse into our staff. First of all you have fewer of them, so it’s easier to have one on one conversations with them, but also they’re around you more, they’re around the leaders more, the lead pastor, myself, maybe other leaders that have been in the ministry a long time. So one thing that I’ve found that’s just vital is to see that new multi-site with the DNA and the culture that has been there from the beginning. So I think that’s important. Now at the same time, like for us, we weren’t able to fully staff a multi-site, none of our multi-sites with people that we already had, because we needed to, we had to pull some people in from the outside because we needed their experience.

Rich – Right.

Mark – We didn’t have everybody ready to go, but at the same time we needed to make sure that we seeded these sites with people who had been on our staff. So that’s one of the things about it.

The other thing about it that we’re still learning is that we’re trying to figure out that balance between, like for instance we’re one church in multiple sites, so what does it look like when a staff member moves from one site to another site, is that a negative, is it a positive? How do we help people to understand the positive around that?

Rich – Right.

Mark – So that’s like further down the road, but at the beginning, seeding that with people that have your DNA that have your culture, have been around, that have as a leader, whether the lead pastor, the vision of the church, their heart and they can communicate that, so when you’re bringing in new staff they’re not going to be around the ones that have been there forever as much, so you need to be able to infuse that DNA.

Rich – And how are you practically infusing that DNA? What does that look like for you? What are the kind of tools or approaches that you’re using to kind of ensure, particularly those new staff?

Mark – So one thing, our central leadership team, last year we got together because we started to recognize this. What happened was we knew that we were going to have to seed people but then after a couple of years, after you bring in more people, now we’d done our third site, we recognized that there’s a learning curve and how can we make that learning curve of, here’s who we are and here’s what your experience has been, how can we close that gap? So we got together and we said, “Let’s create culture statements?” These are the culture statements that say, if you come to our staff, this is who we are, this is what you can expect. So we ended up coming together and we created six of them.

Rich – Okay.

Mark – I’ll just run through them real quick.

Rich – Absolutely.

Mark – The first one is Choose Your Lens. Your lens is like your glasses because you can look at things through a lot of different lenses. So we want to choose the lens we look at and for us really one thing is trust. Choose the lens of trust when you’re talking to other staff members because trust that they have the goodwill, the position of hope in mind, but also choose, there’s positivity, there’s change that’s going to be happening. How can you choose a lens of positivity as you’re going forward?

The second culture statement is Healthy You Equals Healthy Us. Now one of the things that, as John and I, the lead pastor and I, we have talked for years about leading a church and impacting not only community but even beyond, what would that look like if we could do that while having a healthy staff? In our experience, I mean we kind of look back and we say, “I don’t even know if we have seen that happen, where a megachurch, even larger than a megachurch has a healthy staff.” So if we didn’t think it was possible we wouldn’t be trying it and I’m not sure if we’re 100% successful but what we’re trying to do is say, “Hey we want you as a staff member to be healthy.” So we try to put tools in their hands and we try to mentor them towards that, but Healthy You Equals Healthy Us because if you, as a staff member, is not healthy, whether that’s spiritually, staying connected in your spiritual disciplines or physically or mentally, if you’re not healthy in all of these ways then how can we, as a church, be healthy? So that’s what we do.

Then our third statement is We Is Greater Than Me. We just like the fact that we’re a team.

Rich – Right.

Mark – You know what, together we’re going to be better than doing our own. So yes, I might think I have a great idea but you know what, it gets even better when it’s around the team and we often kind of think that way. You might think you’ve got a great idea but you know what, let’s listen to some collective wisdom and let’s do it together. Togetherness and being a team, that’s a really important value for us.

The fourth one for us is Make It Better. We just want, as a staff member we want you to be thinking about how you can make it better. How can you, whatever you’re doing? There’s simple things that we think about like, you’re walking by and you pick up a piece of trash that is on the ground because that’s our church, that’s not just for operations or facilities that come by and thinks, “Well I hope they fix that,” or “I hope they do that,” or even if you see something in a ministry that, “You know, if they did this they could make it better,” well go to that leader and share that with them, not out of, “Hey I’d like to help you do your job,” but “Man I want us to make it better,” because when we work together we is greater than me and we come together.

Rich – Very cool.

Mark – So the fifth thing is Live Mission.

Rich – Okay.

Mark – Our mission is love, connect, grow and serve. So that’s not just something we preach to our congregation, that’s something that we have to live. Sometimes when you’re in the business of ministry, sometimes it’s easy to say, “Well I clock in, I clock out, I do this and they do the mission.”

Rich – Yes.

Mark – No, “How do I do it because am I in a life group, am I in a small group, am I in a home group, am I going to bible study because I want them to grow but how am I doing that?” Sometimes we think, “Well I do that, that’s my job,” but what are we doing personally to love, connect, grow and also serve. “How am I serving? Maybe my role allows me to serve.” whether that’s in an outreach ministry or like I said in a home group or something like that.

Then the last thing is Towel Over The Arm. We just want us to have a culture where we serve one another, put a towel over our arm. So those are the six culture statements, so that’s how now, we’ve tried to close that gap between when somebody’s coming on to when they’re part of our team, to where they can just get connected and understand better.

Rich – I don’t want people to miss what you just did there. So this is incredibly important for you as you lead particularly a multi-site church but in any church, as your team grows, those things that are implicit have to become explicit.

Mark – Right.

Rich – So it takes time to kind of step back and say, “What is it about the kind of people we want to create? What is it that’s important to us and how do we make that explicit?” You’ve got to be super clear, one of the things that just says a journey longer in leadership, we have to articulate it in as clear a manner as possible and I love what you’re doing there with those six values or six approaches to the way you lead and those become handles that you just then pound all the time with your team and reward and say, “Wow that’s a great towel on the arm moment that you just did there, that’s a great… This is one of those We Is Greater Than Me moments. I really thought this was a really good thing but then Bob came along with this other deal and man I’m so glad we’re working together. Isn’t it great to be in a team where we is greater than me?” I’m not even on your team and I can repeat that back.

Mark – Rich well as an example of that last night we had our ministry team, our weekly ministry team, our church greeters, parkers, from all three campuses got together for a training and the leader of that sent out an email to our whole staff that said, “Wow thank you communications team for creating this great brochure that took our content and made it look good, so that we can make it better for our volunteers.” So that was an example of celebrating some of those things, team to team, that doesn’t necessarily get seen by the rest of the church. If you’re in student ministry or children’s ministry you wouldn’t have any idea about that but then that reinforces to them, “You know what, that communication team does that for us as well and what a great overall team we have.” So it’s just like reinforcement of communication.

Rich – Now when we opened our first campus here at Liquid, so I’ve been at two different multi-site churches, well actually three different multi-site churches, one was in Canada called The Meeting House, then here, I’ve been in Jersey now six years, we started a campus before I started on staff, we got too far ahead of ourselves.

Mark – Yes.

Rich – We hired a very large team and that caused us some problems. How have you guys kind of wrestled with those dynamics as you’ve started out? Your physical spaces are the same size, how has that kind of impacted you as you’ve stepped forward?

Mark – Well you know what, as church leaders we have a lot of faith right?

Rich – Yes.

Mark – So we were like, “We’re going to open this campus, it’s going to be the largest church in the world, so we need to have a lot of people to help us in that.” So what I’ve learned from experience as well as that, you can get ahead of yourself. For instance, we launched our first campus and I thought, “Well this is going to be a certain size in six months, I want to prepare for that. I want to err on the side of we’re ready for it versus we’re not ready for it.” So we actually probably hired a couple, about probably two people too many for what ended up happening. Then what I learned about eight or nine months in is that they were kind of bored, like there was not enough for them to do because of the size of that. So what I learned is, you can get ahead of yourself. It’s easier to add than it is to subtract and for us we moved some people around into different areas within the organization but it’s easier to add.

So don’t get ahead of yourself, we want to prepare for growth but you don’t staff as if you’ve already grown.

Rich – Yes.

Mark – Because that’s not guaranteed but here’s what I also learned through that. You know, even though the experience didn’t meet my expectations, you know what I had to recognize is, the people that we’re ministering to, those are who God has chosen for us to minister to, so we’ve got to do the very best job. So all we do is we just keep doing our best, day in, day out and one conversation at a time. If we have a visitor, well that’s an opportunity for us to grow, so let’s have a great conversation with them, let’s connect with them better, how can we get them to understand who we are as a church? How can we also get our people to continue to be inviting their friends and neighbors and understanding what the mission of Hope is?

Rich – I think this is a good lesson, I think particularly it’s somewhat of a gold-plated problem in a fast growing church but we’ve experienced a similar deal where, the way I’ve articulated it internally is, we have to make sure that we’re not applying magical thinking, that our planning is connected to reality and I think one of the things that can be good, particularly for staffing for growth is to benchmark what is happening at your church and what has happened at other churches when they’ve gone multi-site and try to find some dynamic equivalence where you’re like, “Here’s this other church, I hope would be a great example of that.” Lean into that story, what was their growth actually like in the first year, second year and find half a dozen churches out there who are experiencing a similar thing and find out what that could look like for you, rather than thinking…

Mark – Yeah.

Rich – We did the same thing where it was like, “Well this is going to grow as fast as our first campus,” which I frankly haven’t seen, although there is a growth spurt that takes place when you launch new campuses, sometimes it’s a little different and you don’t want to put undue expectation on the new campus team and all of that. You can get into all kinds of issues there.

This has been a fantastic conversation. Is there anything else you’d like to share on the kind of healthy multi-site staff dynamics before we shift into the next part, as we kind of wrap up the episode?

Mark – Yeah there’s two things I want to share. First of all, as I’ve been thinking about our conversation and staff in general because we’re in the hiring mode right now, there’s some of it that can be discouraging because sometimes you can feel like, “How in the world are we going to find the right people to come and partner with us?”

I was reading this passage and it was encouraging to me and it’s a little bit of a stretch but I wanted to share it with you guys as well.

Rich – That’s why you’re not a preaching pastor, is that what we’re saying?

Mark – That’s why I’m not a preaching pastor, yeah.

Rich – Just kidding.

Mark – In 2 Kings Chapter 6, the King of Aram has sent his armies to surround Elisha and his servant. So the servant wakes up the next morning and he goes out of the tent and looks around and says, “Oh my goodness, the army’s surrounded us, what are we going to do, how are we going to survive this?” And this is the stretch part, but I look at that and when I’m trying to find staffing I look around and like, where are they, I can’t even find the right people? But then Elisha comes out and he says, “God I just pray that you would open his eyes,” and when he opened his eyes he saw on the hillside, that it was filled with horses and chariots of fire. So how that encouraged me was like, I think God was speaking to me and saying, “You are only seeing what you can see with your human eyes, but if you could see how I see and see that, I’ve prepared so many people and it’s so much bigger than what you think.”

So I just want to encourage those of you that are trying to hire staff that God has the right people and he’s going to bring them at the right time and I often encourage myself in that too.

Speaking of hiring, we’re always hiring, we’re hiring for a children’s pastor, we’re hiring for a videographer, we’re hiring for an addiction recovery pastor and you can find out information about that at

Rich – Nice, well that’s great. What a great plug, I’d love for people to check that out. Hope Fellowship’s a great organization and you get to work with a nice guy like Mark.


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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.