By Jeff Brodie
I’ve been working with students for a long time and have never worked at a church with one location. Multi-site church is the only kind of ministry I know and over the past 10 years here is what I have learned from doing student ministry in a multi-site world.
1. Decide when to be big and when to be small
Find your rhythm of small church community and large church opportunity.
In my opinion multi-site churches get the best of both worlds. Smaller student ministries at the individual sites offer the potential for great community and relationship building. But pulling all of the sites together generates momentum and energy when it comes to doing an event, a retreat or taking trips. Knowing your rhythm of when to come together for something larger and when to stay in your local communities takes careful intentionality and should be established well in advance to the start of the year..
2. Determine the strengths of all different sized ministries
Make the location’s attendance size work for you.
When starting new campuses, you’ll often have lopsided attendance where one campus is smaller than another. Rather than see this as a hindrance, consider what each individual campus sizes allow you to do that only they can do. For example, I had a campus that was just starting and was very small (sometimes as low as eight students). We would sometimes do things we could never do with larger campuses— like buy everyone their own Starbucks order, or take them on a road trip for a weekend. After a while they felt they had it better than the larger campus (who had their own great nuances to the culture), and loved to invite their friends. Whether big or small, optimize the size of your student ministry.
3. Know how to leverage gifts and relationships
Leverage gifting across the locations and relationships at the locations.
Multi-site churches are full of debates around what should be centralized and the same across campuses and what should be unique to each site. In student ministry, the greatest strength comes when you leverage the gifts of leaders across the campuses (communicators, hosts, and musicians) but keep the relationship building with small group leaders and students on the campus.
4. Use individual sites to experiment
Innovate on the side, then systematize.
Having multiple sites means you can try something out in one location first before deciding to systematize it across locations. This is a unique opportunity to experiment, without having too much to lose if it doesn’t work out.
5. Focus on exporting the right things
Exporting your organizational DNA to all locations is the most important thing you can do.
Logistics are a big part of multi-site and how you resource and equip your sites is important. However, the most important thing you export is your DNA. You can never over-emphasize the core of your church’s mission—which makes it foundational to the growing and expanding process. As you grow, you will also find character and alignment is crucial.
6. Draw up a 5-year plan in pencil
Strive towards a clear model that you may never achieve.
Multi-site churches often involve a lot of change, and sometimes it can feel like the structure or model is always evolving. Knowing a long-term plan or model may never happen makes it tempting to avoid creating one in the first place. I’ve found creating a plan and moving towards it is important to do, knowing it might change anyway. It’s always easier to adjust when you have a target, rather than trying to get momentum from standing still.
7. Stay flexible
Be open to different communication mediums and temporary locations.
Multi-site has taught me to be flexible when it comes to things like live vs. video teaching and live music vs. recorded music. We’ve also had to remain flexible as we grow and change. We’ve met in hotel ballrooms, warehouses, coffee shops, rehearsal studios, and restaurants. Wherever you are, make it great!
What secrets to multi-site have you learned?
Jeff is currently the Executive Director at Connexus Community Church, a multi-campus church north of Toronto, and a strategic partner of North Point Ministries. He has been working with families and students for over a decade and is passionate about family and church coming together to reach this generation.
Jeff invests his time in developing teams of leaders, discovering innovative and practical ways to partner with parents, and finding ways to inspire communities with timeless truths. Jeff and his wife Leslie have two young boys who love NFL football, soccer, mini-stick hockey, and bedtime stories.
If you’d like to get in touch, take a few minutes and email Jeff today.