Multi-Site: How to Build Church Culture Across Campuses
In multi-site church world, it’s scarily easy to expand because of the identity of the mothership, and then lose that identity as more campuses are launched. In other words: the excitement and growth that led to a multi-site approach can get diluted as each campus takes on an “autonomous outpost” persona.
Much ink has been spilled on culture-building, but I think there are a few things unique to the culture of a multi-site church. I’ll touch on five today, and come back to this topic in future posts to talk specifically about staff culture and volunteer culture in the multi-site universe.
1. Know who you are.
Every church has a little something that serves as their distinctive, the thing that makes you, you. Maybe you’re a sending church. Perhaps you specialize in serving the local community. While the Apostle Paul pursed being all things to all people, when it comes to the corporate body, we tend to run in a few specific lanes that God opens for us.
Knowing that DNA is vital if the DNA is going to be transferred to other campuses. If something serves as the heartbeat of your congregation, you’ll do well to replicate that as you grow.
2. Rally around common values.
I wrote an entire series around the four values that our church rolled out in the fall of 2020. These were not aspirational statements, but the result of asking hundreds of people over the course of a couple of years, “Who are we?” Those four values serve as the bedrock of our “do” and “don’t-do” list for our entire church. Moving from church to campus, if every campus is clear on identity (who we are) and expression (how we exist), it keeps all campuses in sync on the big things.
3. Acknowledge and accommodate differences.
…but then there are the not-so-big things that can feel like big things: things like permanent campuses vs. portable campuses. Things like a campus with 3,000 attendees vs. a campus of 300 attendees. Things like a campus that is made up of a ton of college students (and therefore attendance tanks in the summer) vs. a suburban campus that is made up of established families and retirees.
Multi-site necessarily means multi-standards, but there are a few non-negotiables we agree upon. And there are specific things we accommodate based on context (which I explain here). However, unity doesn’t have to be measured by uniformity. We can be heading towards the same destination, even if we’re getting there at a different pace.
4. Think global and local.
While it may be true that campus #7 is a piece of a larger ecclesiastical puzzle, the fact remains that campus #7 is the primary representation of your church in that local community. So your campus leadership should think locally: how do they specifically serve the specific needs in that specific community? But they should do that against the backdrop of thinking globally: how do they lean on their identity (#1 above), values (#2 above), and central resources to serve most effectively?
(And to be clear here, when I use “think global” in this sense, I don’t mean missions, but rather the entire ecosystem of your organization.)
5. Get the band back together.
Recently our entire congregation gathered together in one place at one time for the first time in nine years. It was an incredible sight to see nearly 16,000 people worshiping together, and allowed us to see the entire family at once. While that may be a logistical challenge depending on your context (and certainly something that can be overdone), having occasional regional or all-church gatherings reminds us that we’re part of something much bigger than our campus in our community.
How does your multi-site model build culture?
Thanks to Mike Passaro for helping me articulate point #3, and Matt Pearson for help with #2 and #4!