It’s all in the title, right? Some of you who saw this blog post knew instantly what it meant and that perhaps someone else out there has traveled a similar path of ministry. For others, perhaps this can serve as a guidepost for a path you have yet to travel. Although, I myself am still a sojourner I sense there is no better time to discuss transition than in the midst of it. Our church has been multi-site now for approximately two months, a mere infant in terms of longevity and yet no one from the leadership team is missing hair, either pulled out or fallen out. We have maintained our sense of purpose but even going beyond that to learn and embrace the greater depths of our identity and mission. What else is our modus operandi but to be bold and flesh out those dreams birthed of yearning for God’s manifest presence in our lives? All that to say, I feel I have gained some credibility to contribute to this conversation.
So for those readers who are looking for the 1-2-3 approach to multi-site kids ministry, stop looking for a shortcut, hear my heart and then gain the “practical tools” so often espoused by similar voices. The first solicitation I would make of anyone entertaining the idea of multi-site is to ask yourself “Why”. I promise you, it’s not easy. Spiritually, you need to have heard from the Lord, not just the latest church growth blog. Beyond that, our reason was actually pretty simple…logistics. Our main facility was reaching capacity and we already had two services on Sunday morning. This could have been answered in a few different ways, like adding a 3rd service on Sunday morning (no thank you) or adding a service to Saturday night, which is what we did. In keeping with the bold approach, however, we also looked at the demographics of our parish and saw a large number coming from another city just across the state line. To strategically position ourselves for greater influence in our city and surrounding areas we pulled the trigger and created a service in Ft. Mill, just south of Charlotte. Sounds great, right?
So how does one “offer” (and I say that with the most contempt possible for consumerism) the same ministry at two campuses across three services? Yes, I know that this has been mastered on the daily by your standard fare mega-church but then again we’re not standard and we’re not mega-church (as defined by Attendance, Buildings & Cash or ABC’s). We are mega- in the sense that we’re seeing a movement of God’s Spirit in liturgical, charismatic, theologically proper but uber-cool ways. However, I will have to be honest with you and say that I too like the 1-2-3 “how-to” approach as much as the next person. So to borrow language from Jim Collins’ Good to Great and more specifically Good to Great for the Social Sectors there are three “keys” to making this multi-site transition both possible and successful:
1. Define success or greatness. Ask yourself and your organization what a win looks like. In most contexts, specifically secular, this could be dramatically different for two organizations who are reaching for the same goal (e.g. money, market share, etc.). However, we don’t have the typical metric structure that a large corporation might utilize. How do we define success on a spiritual scale or other non-tangible metric. In case you think I’m anti-establishment, I do believe that such things like attendance and income are measures of a healthy organization, I just don’t think they are goals in and of themselves. For us, offering the same quality of ministry to families and children without sacrificing any age group is a win. It’s also a challenge as I’ll elucidate in the next key. Suffice it so say, we have a manifesto that helps us to define what success looks like.
Fair warning here…be prepared for a bit of resistance. As my pastor has said, a soldier on the front lines and in the trenches shouldn’t be surprised when he or she is shot at. In defining your win you are also defining your vision. Some will be on board with you and some will not but if your goal was popularity in the first place then brother or sister, you are in the wrong field. I’m getting a little ahead of myself here but I want to be absolutely clear that your team has to be unified on what a win looks like. For us, that means children are experiencing the presence of God in worship, prayer and scripture not just lights, camera and action. Ultimately, a “win” or “success” is His Kingdom come, His will be done. I’m so thankful for a pastor who promulgates this personally and corporately above everything else. Beyond that, you’ll have to wrestle within, wait and hear for what God speaks to and through you. I’ll soon post more thoughts and keys to multi-site children’s ministry but more importantly, I’ll post on how I’m learning to know who I am in all this, which ultimately means success in my Father’s eyes.