Multi Site Pitfall #2. Going Multi Site will stress your church to its core!
When we started our first site we had no idea the stress it was going to put on our church and staff. Here are some of the areas where Multi Site hit us hard.
1.To start a new campus we felt like we needed to put the project in the hands of a proven leader so we gave it to one of our Management Staff Pastors. He found out quickly this wasn't something he was adding to his plate, this became his plate. With him focused completely on the new site, which he had to be, things in the other ministries he oversaw paid the price. I firmly believe you need a proven and faithful leader to lead a project like this because that leader is the carrier of your churches DNA.
2. Two of our sites required build outs, and all of it was done with volunteers to keep costs down. A two to four month build out with volunteers will stress your staff and volunteers to their very cores. We just finished a 3 1/2 month build out at our 5 Points Campus that almost killed all of us, and I had a bad to the bone leader in Jason Curlee. I could not have pulled this off without him, because even with him, it still stretched me and my family to their limits.
3. As we began having church it quickly became clear that our already understaffed and over worked administrative team was going to be overwhelmed with the extra responsibilities. Adding a site, a full church folks, requires creating a whole new budget that someone has to manage. Then on top of the budget, that same overworked team, now had a whole new set of bills and expenses they had to take care of. Someone had to handle leases, phones, Internet, water, gas, maintenance, AC, Electric, Cleaning, Insurance, payroll, cleaning supplies and on and on. Those things just didn't just take care of themselves, someone had to add them to their already stretched responsibilities. And then there was the financial white elephant in the room that we all wish we could have ignored, getting that site up and running was causing money to pour out of the main campus like water through the Hoover Dam. There is a financial cost to going multi site.
4. As any church leader knows, Children's Ministry is not something you can throw up and just hope for the best. There was no way we were going to intrust the safety and future spiritual growth of all these new children into the hands of untrained people. So the main campus Children's Ministry had to step up in a huge way. I don't personally know any churches who have tons of extra staff just standing around waiting for a job to do, so we had to send over trained staff and volunteers from the main campus every weekend for a very long time. Our Management Staff Children's Pastor was overwhelmed by the added responsibilities, and her volunteer base base at the main campus was stretched big time as well. Because this campus was 45 miles away from our main campus, there were no trained Children's workers available, so it took a long time, and lot's of volunteers to get the BA Kidz DNA in place.
5. About six months in we started a Student Ministry, and of course everything we just talked about in Children's Ministry happened to the Student Pastor and his team.
I was asked to take over the leadership of that campus a little over a year into it, and it was not doing well. The stress it had caused to every ministry in our church was overwhelming. We weren't really ready to go Multi Site when we did, and we paid a price for it. It was by God's grace alone that the campus survived, because it was really struggling financially when I took over. I remember a meeting that Pastor Bil and I had shortly after I took over where he calmly but firmly let me know that something needed to be done to solve the problems, and soon.
We were able to turn it around over the next year and it became our model for how not to go Multi Site, and thankfully we did a much better job when we started the next two campuses. Had we known then how much adding a site was going to stress our church to it's core, we certainly would have done some things differently. In our defense, we had never added a site, and didn't really know anyone who had, so we just stepped out on faith and moved anyway.
As with all these posts, I am not in any way trying to talk you out of going Multi Site, I love it, I live it, and I believe in it, I simply hope that reading this might help you to be better prepared for the stresses your church will face when adding sites. But if God is calling you, and you have a plan, then go for it, and God will bless your ministry like He has ours. Even when we made mistakes, and we made plenty, He blessed us anyway because He had called us to do this, and He will do the same if He has called you.
Next week we'll talk about Multi Site Pitfall #3 which is the importance of finding the right leader for a new site.