Like almost anything else in life, there is not a simple answer to how to start a second campus in a church. There are so many factors that go into launching church campuses that the approaches must be tailored to fit your context. For example, a church of 2,000 people, that is financially stable, and has the support to launch a campus may have a few hundred thousand dollars to spend up front and a few in reserve to staff said campus. While a smaller church of 500 or so may have to take a more conservative approach. Outside of finances, you have to consider demographics, location, congregational buy-in, style, whether you want to mirror the original campus or be a missional branch of it. These factors and more can be combined hundreds of ways to make what a multi-site church looks like extraordinarily difficult to establish. So I cannot definitively say what you should do to successfully launch your site. But I will tell you my multi-site story, and why I think it has been, and continues to be, successful.
To begin, I was hired in late in my church’s journey to a second campus; a few months before the launch of the campus, which was in the process of being renovated when I joined. The church from which we spawned was about 600 people strong, and really wanted to maximize its influence by replicating itself in a more urban population center. To the church’s credit the whole operation was being financed through campaigns and donations. No financing. The result was doing things primarily with little to no budget, and relying on some talented help to pull off more than we should have. Launching a multi-site with a dwindling budget can be done, but it takes a lot of work. This often looked like long days working outside of our giftedness. Keeping the vision and mission in the foreground was key to survival.
We had a full-time campus pastor and myself. I was not even part-time. Everyone else was a volunteer. I was offered what amounted to an intern position. This was the financial reality we were living in. But I was never really an intern. Please do not misconstrue the next few sentences as bragging, as I tell you this simply so you know our situation, and the reality of what it may take to get things off the ground. I have been leading worship in some context or another for 18 years. I began as a teenager in my parent’s churches (they were both pastors). And I have led in many church contexts both large and small. So I had experience in music, and experience in leadership. I was (and still am) working on my PhD in Theology and Church History, I hold a MDiv and BA in Religious Studies. More important than any of this is that I am desperate to see the Kingdom of God expand. Again, I say all of this not to impress, but to punctuate the fact that when launching our multisite, I was able, and needed, to wear a specific number of unofficial hats inherently because of who God has made me and my various life experiences. The same is true with many people in our church. I am one tiny piece in a movement of God that is beyond what we cold have envisioned at the beginning. But from a worship leader standpoint, I wasn’t just a worship leader, but someone who was able to see the gaps, have passion to fill them when necessary, and the know-how and skill-set to accomplish this.
As far as the worship team goes, we launched with a drummer (who had only ever played at church once), one singer, and a bass guitar player. Our tech team consisted of a woman who handled lyrics and pro-presenter stuff. No sound guys or lighting. The gathering of a team happened in spurts, but we definitely had to work hard, and live through the awkward stuff for a little bit while we got there. We were also trying to keep pace with the original campus and their high production environment. We were under furnished, under staffed, under equipped, overachieving and full of joy at what God was going to do in our midst (even though I admittedly grumbled a bit here and there). As trust began to develop among our community, and in our worship team as well, we began to see some great strides forward. It required perseverance, sacrifice, and vision. We launched with 35 people, and had 400 on our second Easter a few weeks ago. We have not arrived, but in our perseverance, God has blessed the community through us and we are humbled by it. Our worship team is getting there. We now have 5 guitarists, 5 pianists (one of whom is a sweet synth player), 7 singers, 3 drummers a 5-person tech team, and we are having a blast. More than this, every one of them understands that leading worship is a privilege and a sacrifice. None of this came quickly, but in all of it, I saw the hand of God move.
Why did it work? And what can you do to make yours work?
I believe first that God is in what we are doing. We are not growing to see the church get bigger, we are growing to see more and more lives transformed by the power of the Gospel. At every moment that is our focus, and we get excited as we continue to grow since it represents the move of God in our community. It is powerful and necessary to keep this perspective, because once we loose sight and begin to focus on numbers for numbers sake, we cease to understand the power of the Gospel to change the world. When we have kept the focus on life-transformation and the building of the Kingdom of God, we get to see the glory of God in our midst. Awesome stuff.
Second, we are staffed by multi-dimensional leaders and volunteers. I am not awesome at a lot of things, but I can do many things well. And again, that is not me tooting my horn, that is just the way it is. Launching a multi-site as a worship leader means being prepared to do more than lead worship, and you need to be equipped to do other things well. That will not always look the same for everyone. Many churches would love to see a worship leader who can also be a graphics person, and a communications person etc. That will not always happen. God has equipped each of us with multiple gifts and it is our responsibility to know what they are, and to leverage them as effectively as we can for the sake of the church and the Gospel. Know yourself, and know what you can bring to the church, and do it.
Third, gather great people to help you. When I cannot do something, I lean heavily on those that can and I look for multi-dimensional leaders to help in my sphere of influence. For example: a friend of mine, who plays guitar for the team, is an encyclopedia of guitar gear, has a phenomenal business mind, has his own online guitar magazine (which you have definitely heard of), has a career in marketing, is a social maven, and is generous and genuine. I lean on him often to accomplish things, and quite frankly we enjoy solving problems combining our skill sets (even if it often ends in me electrocuting myself). He is, and has been, vital to the mission of the church. It would not work without him and many others like him. They do lots of stuff in many different ways. Someday we will have enough volunteers and leaders to have specialists in one area, and they will take us to the next level because that what specialists do. In the meantime, when starting out, multi-dimensional people are key to accomplishing more than we should, with fewer people.
The most effective leaders are multi-dimensional for sure, but don’t have to be the best in the room at everything. I know my strengths, I know my weakness and I am blessed to be surrounded by so many people who fill-in the deficiencies in my life, just like I can in theirs. Launching a multi-site as a worship leader will most likely mean you are underpaid, understaffed, and under-equipped. You have to find solutions to all of these issues, and they will almost always be people. So surround yourself with the best you can find, and lead by example, with energy and vision and awe in what God is going to do through you and your church.