Recently, Aspen Group and Fishhook collaborated to host a roundtable gathering for a group of Indiana-based churches that have invested in the multisite ministry approach. The conversation focused on some of the challenges related to multisite communications, like naming, branding, online presence and staffing.
Over lunch, these leaders shared their stories—what they have learned so far and what they are tackling next. Their multisite ministry experience ranged anywhere from one to thirteen years. Although their approaches differed, they found common ground in their focus on kingdom work and how to do it well, how to be both open and organized, to be dreamers and doers, to steward their resources well and have a far-reaching impact.
In relation to the following communication topics, leaders discussed what they are wrestling with and what they have learned along the way.
1. Multisite: Church Naming
All churches had decided to use the same main church name at each of their sites, and then distinguished locations by a street name, city name or region. However, for one church, going multisite had prompted an overall name change since the original church name included its city. The challenge arose when multisite locations were chosen in different cities. Although for some it was hard to part with the heritage of the original name, choosing a new church name that reflected their mission instead of location helped clear confusion for the new sites.
2. Multisite: Budgeting
We heard various approaches to budgeting as well. Some churches let the entire church budget rest with the original location and staff while others created separate budgets for each site, giving them some autonomy in how they allocated funds for communications and other pursuits. For each church, the decision was closely tied to their leadership structure, site staffing and specific multisite goals. One leader mentioned the importance of being open to adaptation as you grow and learn.
3. Multisite: Online Presence
Most churches had embraced an all-in-one website strategy, meaning that all multisite information and messaging stemmed from the same URL. Within the website, specific location information was highlighted in the newcomers and individual ministry areas.However, social media allowed for a wider range of expression among the various locations. Some churches had even enlisted site-specific teams of volunteers who were trained to manage their location’s social media accounts on a weekly basis. This helped support the sense of community at each location and addressed the promotion of site-specific events.
4. Multisite: Centralized vs. Autonomous Communications
We also reviewed how churches were staffing their sites, specifically for communications. Should it be a centralized team or autonomous in each location? One church leader shared that as they added more campuses they found that the support systems began to break down. “We were doing separate versions of bulletins and websites. This year, we have decided that we are going to be central and have more of a franchise model. So it’s really changed. We had to scale down in what we were going to do. We either had to add a lot more staff to support all the campuses or we had to change our model.”
This decision can also affect how churches approach branding consistency. Should the brand be completely unified, similar to a franchise? If so, how do you ensure consistency among locations? Alternatively, is there a good reason for each site having a sub brand under the main brand?
Other Multisite Topics
Additional conversation centered on knowing when it’s time to refresh or refurbish the original campus so that it doesn’t stand in such stark contrast to other newer facilities.
Building signage was another common challenge, especially related to the original location. In new locations, churches were able to be much more strategic with their signage in contrast to their original location, where the facility likely expanded in phases over the course of many years.
We are learning that there are so many ways to approach the multisite model and much of it is still new territory being explored. The beautiful part of kingdom work is that churches have so much to glean from conversations like these with one another.
If you’d like to continue learning about multisites with us, be sure to register for Aspen’s 2016 Alignment Conference where we’ll reveal all-new CKN/Barna research, commissioned by Aspen Group, Fishhook, and Exponential.