Not long ago I attended a two day gathering of about a dozen churches; all of which have had some experience in multi-site youth ministry. At the offset, each church was given fifteen minutes to monopolize the whiteboard and share with the rest of the group their multi-site youth ministry strategy in a nutshell. It was an enlightening three hours. During that exercise I learned all sorts of things, the primary one being that everybody (and I mean everybody) goes about it differently; there simply is not a “normal” way to approach this growing trend.
I think this is one of the best characteristics of the multi-site formula…that there is no formula. Around our table were churches that functioned with a central campus (almost always the original, and largest campus) that supported all the smaller campuses, churches that had an entirely separate central support team that wasn’t connected to any of the campuses, and churches in which the various campuses were allowed to function almost entirely independently.
Within these three structural groups, there was a ton of variation in the amount of freedom given to the campuses and in what areas. In some models, an independent leadership team dictated (and usually provided) virtually every aspect of ministry from lessons on video to volunteer training to when fundraisers happen and what type of fundraisers and for what events they happen. In some, there was a lot of stuff provided and dictated, but a lot of freedom as well. And still in other models, only things like strategy, values and safety policies were enforced but virtually all aspects of day-to-day ministry were left for each campus to navigate on their own.
For the next few weeks, I’m going to focus on the three most prominent models of multi-site youth ministry and share my observations about each. While I’m sure somebody out there has given official descriptors to these models, I don’t know what they are so I’m making up my own. The three models we’ll discuss are:
- We Will Dictate and Provide: An independent leadership team dictates virtually every aspect of ministry for each campus, and provides many of the resources.
- We Will Model and Work Alongside: The central campus models the ideal ministry and coaches, supports and encourages the younger, smaller, campuses.
- We Will Stay Out of Your Business: All the campuses function mostly independently. The central campus is there if somebody needs them, but holds no formal influence.
I’m sure there are other models out there, but around our table, everybody fell into some variation of these three, so that’s where we’ll start in this short series. If you are working in a multi-site youth ministry, this would be a fantastic series to share some of your observations and experiences in the comments each week. And if you aren’t, don’t ignore this little discussions because most church growth experts believe that multi-site campuses are going to remain a very popular way that churches continue to grow…so you may find yourself in a multi-site setting at some point!