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The Multi-site Maze, Part 4: Some Final Tips, Tricks, and Tidbits

Saddleback Church is about 7 years into our multi-site journey, and I’ve learned a ton along the way…mostly through the school of hard knocks. So I’ll wrap up this little series by sharing a few tips, tricks, and tidbits that may be worth considering on your journey as a multi-site maze runner.

  • The bigger the consequences of getting it wrong, the more important it is to align.

Unless your church has pre-determined that there needs to be 100% alignment, don’t try. Instead, think about the areas of youth ministry that are most crucial; areas that if campuses stray the consequences are high. Consider saying “yes” to freedom in whatever areas you realistically can, so your “no” to requests for freedom carry weight and feel reasonable.

  • Allow new campuses to view themselves as “young,” NOT “mini.”

A “mini” version of your youth ministry on another campus implies that they are doing everything the mother ship is doing….just at a smaller level. But a “young” version gives them the freedom to not do certain things that they may not be ready for, or don’t yet need. The older the mother ship, the more history, tradition, resources, support etc. it has….and the less realistic it is for the newer campuses to look like a mini version.  Let them be a young version instead, and give them time to grow and mature before they are expected to implement everything happening at the main campus.

  • When possible, avoid terms like “main campus” and “mothership.”

Even though the oldest campus/main campus/mothership/central support campus functions that way, try to constantly send messages that remind everybody involved that the other campuses are just as important, that you truly are “one youth group in many locations”, etc. It isn’t easy, but I’ve learned over and over again that the leaders of even the youngest, smallest youth ministries simultaneously need to tap into the mother ship on a regular basis for support AND want to be viewed as equal partners in the organization. An interesting dance, for sure!

  • Embrace the fact that your role is changing.

The more campuses you launch, the more your role will change. If you are the point-person for the youth ministry at your church, you will need to embrace this. In the last five years my role has morphed and changed and grown…and then morphed and changed and grown again! Being responsible for the student ministry departments at 12 different campuses in 5 different countries will do that to one’s job description! I’m not sure how the change will shake out for you, but it’s almost certainly coming your direction. If the senior leadership at your church has tapped you on the shoulder to lead the charge, embrace it….It’s actually a lot of fun!

  • Keep an open mind.

The world of multi-site youth ministry is still a baby. The reality is that nobody has it all figured out. Read as much as you can about it (although very little has been written), get on the phone with other men and women who are in a multi-site setting. Keep good notes about your journey so you can re-visit decisions and milestones from time to time.

Keep an open mind, keep learning and keep on keeping on!

– Kurt / @kurtjohnston

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The Multi-site Maze, Part 4: Some Fin...

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