My ministry setting is a “multi-site” church.

Your Question:

“How can I best serve in a multi-site ministry setting?”

The Issues:

Multi-site churches are wonderful and complex! Unity between the various children’s ministry (CM) efforts is a challenge. The “issues” come when the “home church” wants unity and conformity among the sites. The CM vision may be the same, but the “culture” and specific needs at the various sites bring complex challenges.

Scripture Foundation:

“The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.’Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.’”  Exodus 18: 13-23

Short Answer:

Multi-site churches are interesting “creatures.” They are formed at the upper level of the church leadership for a few reasons:

1) To increase the size of the church without requiring additional facilities on one location.

2) To increase the “spread” of the senior pastor or church’s influence. 

3) To provide ministry to people farther away than a comfortable drive (in other counties, states, or countries).


Multi-site churches either broadcast the senior pastor’s sermon to the other sites, who watch the sermon on a video screen, or establish “campus pastors” who preach the same sermon as is preached at the “home” church.  It is more often that the sermons are broadcast to the smaller sites from the “home” church because there is a “star” senior pastor who delivers the sermons. 


For a children’s ministry (CM) director at the “home” church, there may be various levels of expectations or responsibilities connected with the multi-sites.  Here are the various possible levels of expectation or responsibility:


Level 1: No specific connection – The “home” church doesn’t expect the CM programs at the various sites to be affected by the “home” church.  They are left to be their own ministries based on their own cultures or communities.


Level 2: Same curriculum – The “home” church dictates the CM curriculum for the various sites, but that is all.  The sites are free to utilize the dictated curriculum however they choose.


Level 3: Same curriculum, same CM team conditions – The “home” church dictates the CM curriculum, and controls how the CM team is recruited, trained and supervised. This level requires conformity to the “home” church’s process, policies, and procedures.  The purpose for this level of unity is to provide a “franchise” look and feel for all the sites. The senior pastor expects that a person who visits any of the sites will experience exactly what they might experience if they visit the “home” church. 


The answer to your question about “how to best serve in a ministry that is multi-site?” is different based on what “level” your multi-site church employs. For the sake of clarity, I’ll provide some thoughts or ideas for each level:


Ideas For Level 1: The greatest challenge may be in communicating with the sites.  If you, as the CM director, are not officially required to “oversee” any of the CM programs or efforts at the sites, they may not view you as an important person.  You might simply connect with those who lead the CM at the various sites and let them know that you are available for any help that they might need.  If the site church was “adopted” by the “home” church, there might be some animosity toward you and the “home” church for “taking over” the church. If you sense this animosity, there isn’t much you can do about it.  If the senior pastor doesn’t want to control the other sites’ CM programs, all you can do is to be kind to them and remain available should they ever contact you. 



Ideas For Level 2: If the sites are being required to use the same curriculum, hopefully the “home” church is offering to either pay for the curriculum completely or to assist with the cost in a significant way.  If the “home” church simply expects the sites to use the same curriculum with no financial assistance, you will find yourself in a very “caustic” situation.  The sites may be offended by the requirement to use the same curriculum if they cannot afford to pay for the cost.  If you are in this situation, you must encourage your supervisor to pay for all or a significant portion of the sites’ curriculum needs.  This will open up good conversations with your supervisor about the CM curriculum.  It will draw the supervisor and senior pastor into “your world” a bit more.  You will probably be asked to provide the costs for each site’s curriculum.  You will be asked to express what parts of the curriculum are “necessary” and which parts are “optional.”  In today’s world of downloadable curriculum, it is easy for the “home” church to pay for the curriculum license and give each site the option to download and use what they want or are required to use. Level 2 will draw you into the “world” of each site.  You will need to become familiar with each site’s needs and challenges.  You should visit each site and personally become acquainted with those who lead the CM and the challenges they face.  Obviously, all of this increases the CM budget for the “home” church.  It will also increase the administrative “load” that you carry.  If the “home” church expects you to oversee the curriculum use at the other sites, they should also increase your CM staff.  Your responsibilities will now not only be related to the “home” church CM, but also include communicating with the CM leaders at the various sites.


Ideas For Level 3: If the sites are required to use the same curriculum and utilize the same CM team requirements, policies, and procedures, this is an extreme expectation!  Ideally, the “home” church leadership approached you with this added responsibility before other sites were added.  Hopefully, you were given additional administrative assistance, and your CM budget was increased to reflect the new responsibilities. Hopefully, you have on-going, regularly scheduled meetings with your supervisor or senior pastor to discuss your needs and the condition of the various sites’ CM programs.  If your support and assistance wasn’t increased, and the “home” church leadership simply added the responsibility of creating a “franchise” unity among the other sites to you without either asking or increasing your support, you have a significant challenge ahead of you. If this is your situation, it is important for you to communicate your concerns to your supervisor.  Schedule a meeting with him/her.  In this meeting, you must help the supervisor understand your “world.” Give him/her a brief “fly over” of your role regarding the various sites.  Help him/her understand your passion for unifying the various sites, and yet your own responsibilities and priorities within the “home” CM.  Before the meeting create some proposals for the “solution.”  These proposals should include increased administrative assistance, and an increased CM budget that reflects supporting the CM leaders at the various sites (your travel, CM team training costs, curriculum costs, CM team appreciation costs, etc.) Don’t “hold back” in this meeting.  You have probably earned the church leadership’s respect.  Now is the time to “cash in” some of that respect. Remember that there is a dangerous administrative perspective that says, “We’re doing fine…nobody’s complaining!”  Your meeting with the supervisor is not “complaining,” but it is communicating the necessary steps that need to be taken in order for the CM supervision of the various sites to be successful.  


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