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The Multi-Site Maze, Part 2: Does Alignment Matter?

A few weeks ago my seventeen-year-old son returned from a day out with his buddies and told me something was wrong with his car. “It’s weird, if I let go of the steering wheel, it pulls hard to the left”.  My first response was to remind him that there is virtually no scenario in which he should be letting go of the steering wheel. I then told him that it sounded like his wheels were out of alignment, which often happens if you hit a pot hole or curb…which is much more likely when you let go of the steering wheel!

Alignment matters on a car. Without it, things become hard to steer and have a tendency to veer off course. And that’s also the case with multi-site campuses. Or is it? How important is alignment in a multi-site setting? If it’s important, is it safe to assume that more alignment is better than less? If it’s negotiable, on what things do you align, and who decides?

As I mentioned last week, there are three prominent practices among multi-site youth ministries:

  • 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.

So how do you decide which is best for your setting?  Here are a few thoughts that may help:

  • What model is your church at large using?  I know youth workers like to go against the flow, and there could be a reason for you to structure your youth ministry differently than the rest of the church…but there probably isn’t. Most of the time, it’s best to follow the lead of the church, even if the model they are utilizing isn’t your preference.
  • What level of authority does the “central campus” (the main campus, the oldest campus, the “mother ship”) hold over the other campuses? The more level of authority it has, the more likely, and the more sense it ultimately makes, to be in fairly tight alignment.
  • Are resources shared between campuses or is each campus entirely independent? More shared resources make alignment easier and more natural, less sharing makes alignment less natural.
  • What type of youth workers are in place on the campuses? Full-time, professional youth workers can simultaneously make alignment more or less necessary! Part-time or volunteer led youth ministries usually benefit from a tighter alignment because the central campus provides all kinds of time-saving resources and services.

As surprising as this may sound, most multi-site settings I’ve engaged with haven’t really taken the time to identify where they fall on the alignment spectrum. They are mostly winging it and figuring it out as they go.

Which, to me, is a good recipe for hitting a pot hole or a curb…like when a seventeen-year-old lets go of the steering wheel.

Kurt / @kurtjohnston

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One thought on “The Multi-Site Maze, Part 2: Does Alignment Matter?

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    Great stuff. Currently leading a multi-site youth ministry and trying to navigate through “program structure” and alignment. Very helpful.

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The Multi-Site Maze, Part 2: Does Ali...

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