Multi-Site: 5 Benefits of an Incubator Service
At the time this post goes live, we’re just three days away from the public launch of another campus. Like an increasingly-growing number of churches across the globe, we’ve been
running stumbling walking in the multi-site space for a while. And for us, there’s been a key indicator in the efficiency and ease of launch day. If this piece of the puzzle is in place, launch day is usually easy-peasy. If not, it’s often met with angst, frustration, and the occasional wailing and gnashing of teeth:
The incubator service.
We call it by different names: pre-launch gathering or core team gathering or launch team gathering or Island of Misfit Toys (we should really work on our branding). Personally, I prefer the term “incubator,” because it helps us provide a controlled environment to get things fully cooked before releasing it to the world.
When we host a series of incubator services, it sets us up for a better launch than we’d otherwise have. Simply put, an incubator service is a several-week gathering of the core team and campus staff, – and supported by central leadership – to get everyone acclimated to the vision for the new campus, the various roles of the individuals, and to grow as a family before inviting guests in.
In our context, we hold the incubator services for six to twelve weeks prior to the public launch.
Here are 5 benefits of an incubator service:
1. It gets everyone on the same page.
People flock to a potential campus launch for a variety of reasons: the convenience of the location to their home. The desire to be missional in a new community. The entrepreneurial bent to be a part of something new. But an incubator service allows the central and campus teams to cast continual vision on why this new campus exists. We want people on the core team to know that core = commitment, and they need to know their role in launching something new. (More on that in #3 below.)
2. It benefits from existing services.
Whenever possible, we host the incubator service at the sending campus – that campus that represents the majority of the core team being sent out to a new area. We prefer to use the sending campus as the host until 2-3 weeks before launch, where we move to the new campus’ location.
Doing so allows us to have a little bit of hand-holding before the new campus is ready to walk on their own. The sending campus can provide kids’ environments, Guest Services teams such as parking and sidewalk greeters, and of course the facility is free and familiar. (For fuller context, we typically use a spare large-ish venue at the sending campus if one is available – think gym or fellowship hall – and if absolutely necessary, we might opt to host that incubator service at a non-traditional worship time like Sunday afternoon.)
3. It provides opportunities to be called out and equipped.
As I mentioned in #1 above, every core team member ought to know their role and serve in their role. Being a part of a new campus isn’t about convenience to your house, it’s about fulfilling Acts 1:8 in your particular Jerusalem. Each week at an incubator service, we talk about the various opportunities to serve, and then equip people to serve in those areas. In our most recent incubator services, we’d gather to worship together during the first hour, then the second hour each week was devoted to specific team training (Kids, Guest Services, etc.) or family time (a meal or other type of “getting to know you” opportunity).
4. It lets us get in our reps.
While we do take advantage of the services of the sending campus (#2 above), that doesn’t mean that the incubator attendees are passive receivers. No, in a “walk before you run” plan, we practice set up, tear down, some Guest Services teams, production, worship, and leadership and vision casting by the Campus Pastor. Doing this for 6-12 weeks allows us to get into a rhythm and to correct any missteps.
And in this launch, we will have actually been in the new space for two weeks before going live to the public. This has served as a dress rehearsal, final training on the space, road cases, and inventory, and a “ready, set, go” test before we invite others in.
5. It helps us be ready for guests.
Being a part of an incubator team or a new campus launch is kind of like being a middle schooler: you’re awkward, you don’t know what to do with your hands, and you feel like everyone is looking at you all the time. And when you’re focused on yourself, you can’t be focused on others.
Incubators help us get the middle school jitters out of the way, so that by the time launch day arrives, we’re fully present for our first-time guests and the new community we’re a part of.
If you live in multi-site world, what have you found to be successful in your incubator services?
Photo credit: Justin Manny