Why Multisite Campuses Fail

When a multisite campus fails, there always needs to be an autopsy. After all, isn’t that just plain ‘ol good leadership? Learning from your mistakes?

There are several factors that contribute to a failed campus, like a lack of clarity, systems, funds, strategy, and prayer. However, we would be remiss to take the campus pastor out of the equation. After all, campuses rise and fall on leadership; particularly, the campus pastor’s leadership.

So before you apply to the seemingly endless amounts of campus pastor job postings, make sure that the role is a right fit for you. This is the third post in this series, so make sure you read the first two before finishing off this one:

1. 10 Signs You Shouldn’t Be a Campus Pastor
2. Campus Pastors NEED to Take Risks and Raise Funds

In my previous post, I explained the first five signs that were intended to help you discern whether or not you were cut out to be a campus pastor. Here’s the rest of the list.

5 Signs You Shouldn’t Be a Campus Pastor:

5. I need to be the one in charge

  • There are some that liken the campus pastor to being a team player, while the church planter or senior pastor is the team owner. I can understand how that distinction was made, but it’s not completely accurate because both church planters and senior pastors have a boss over them. I feel like the better analogy is to say that the campus pastor is one of the coaches, while the senior pastor or church planter is the main coach or manager of the team.
  • There are very few positions in this world where you have no boss, and you are the absolute authority. So instead of wishing you had ultimate control, why don’t you follow the footsteps of the centurion in Matthew 8 who knew what it meant to be a man of authority and a man under authority. In your role as a campus pastor, you will absolutely be in charge of many areas, but there will also be areas where you won’t be – learn how to deal with it. That’s life.

4. I hate politics

  • Politics = (Multiple Levels of Leadership + Dotted Line Reporting Structures + Solid Line Reporting Structures) x Sinful Nature.
  • Politics are inevitable in multisite churches, in fact, in most human run organizations (which is every organization), there will be politics – that’s just the nature of things. So instead of running away from them, it’s important that you learn how to deal with them.
  • “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.” (Matt 10:16 HCSB). What does it look like for you to be as shrewd as a serpent and as harmless as a dove?
  • The presence of politics doesn’t mean that you have to play the game of politics. In other words, be honest, full of integrity, faithful in your responsibilities, and make sure that you’re clearly communicating your wins, your losses, and expectations. Even if people are throwing you under the bus, don’t throw them under the bus! See Rom 12:17-21.
  • Lastly, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19 HCSB).

3. I’m not adaptable

  • The one thing that is constant in ministry is change. There are some ministry roles where adaptability isn’t a critical trait – like in curriculum development. However, if you’re the campus pastor, adaptability ought to be your best friend. As a campus pastor, you need to be a generalist, or a jack-of-all-trades, to juggle all of your responsibilities. On any given Sunday, you may have to step into the chief greeter role, the setup crew, or run the slides, depending on your volunteers. So be adaptable.

2. I feel sleazy when I market something

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Campus Pastors NEED to Take Risks and Raise Funds

As the number of multisite churches continue to increase, so will the demand for campus pastors.

In an earlier post, I introduced the difficulty of discerning whether or not you have what it takes to be a campus pastor. After all, there is no universal job description for a campus pastor since every church does multisite differently. Make sure that you read that post before continuing on – it’ll give you the foundation for these next five points.

Most likely, if you’re considering campus pastoring, you’re also considering a church planting or senior pastoring role. The point of this post is to help you figure out if campus pastoring is the right road for you to head down on.

Here are five signs that you SHOULDN’T be a campus pastor:

10. I’m not a risk taker

  • There’s a myth out there that goes something like this: Church planters are the real risk takers, while campus pastors are just playing it safe. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Both church planting and campus pastoring are about the advancement of the gospel and seeing God’s Kingdom come and his will be done in a local community. There’s nothing safe about that.
  • When you launch a campus, it is going to feel more like a startup since it’s new. That gives you the opportunity to experiment, take risks, and try new ways of doing ministry that perhaps couldn’t be done at the more established sending campus – just make sure you’re not ditching the DNA of the church when doing so.
  • Essentially, if you are risk adverse, you won’t thrive as a campus pastor. In fact, you probably won’t get much done either. Since most multisite churches are still trying to figure out central support and DNA, you, as the campus pastor, have the opportunity to help define that by being on the front lines. In fact, the most successful campus pastors take the initiative and risk to help define those grey areas, rather than waiting for someone else to make the decision.

9. I’m bad at fundraising

  • When comparing campus pastoring with church planting, it’s easy to feel like the campus pastor is getting it easy, since they can just rely on the sending campus for seed money, budgeting and shortfalls. However, unless someone is bi-vocationally church planting, most church plants will receive that same type of support from the denomination or network that they’re planting from.
  • Successful campus pastors need to take ownership over their budget. Unless your campus is focused on college students or is in an economically challenging area, you should aim to match and exceed your budget year-over-year. If you don’t pay attention to this detail, and just expect the main campus to carry your weight, then you should also expect your position to be a temporary one.

8. I can’t bear the weight of leadership responsibility

  • You may not be the senior pastor, but you still carry a heavy weight of responsibility over your campus. If you expect the senior pastor to care more about your people than you do, or pray more for your campus than you do, then you’re in the wrong position. Campus pastoring is not a cop out. You need to bear the weight of responsibility over your campus.
  • Also, you need to be careful to never create an “us vs them” mentality. From the church’s perspective, you are a part of the senior leadership over your church, regardless of whether or not you sit on the executive team. So take full responsibility over the decisions that are made by your senior pastor and the executive team, and convey them to your campus as YOUR decisions.

7. I don’t like administration

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10 Signs You Shouldn’t Be a Campus Pastor

The Campus Pastor role is arguably the hottest job on the market, yet it is one of the most complex and challenging ones to fill.

This is due to the fact that every multisite church does things differently. So, depending on where a church lands on the following questions, ministry will look completely different:

  • How centralized/decentralized will our model be?
  • What constitutes central support?
  • Is the campus pastor role full-time?
  • How fast does the campus need to be self-supporting? Do they have to be?
  • Are we going to use video preaching or ask the campus pastor to preach live? What about a mix?
  • How far away will the campus be?

Do you have what it takes to be a campus pastor?
This is a difficult question to answer, since there is no universal job description for a campus pastor. So the way that a church answers the list of questions above directly affects the shape of the role.

After consulting with a multitude of multisite churches, reading and pilfering through who knows how many books, articles and campus pastor job descriptions, being on staff in three multisite churches, and being in the role in two of them, I feel like I have a good grasp of the broad boundaries, or the riverbanks, of being a campus pastor. So the point of this post is to help you figure out whether or not you fit within the broad boundaries of campus pastoring.

If you agree too much with this list, perhaps campus pastoring is NOT for you.

campus pastor multisite signs

Watch for my next two posts as I explain these 10 points and help you figure out whether or not campus pastoring is for you.

If you’re at Exponential 2015, check out my seminar, “Are you a Future Campus Pastor or Church Planter?” for a fuller explanation of these ideas!

Don’t Miss the Twelve Conferences by Saddleback


I am a huge fan of Saddleback, the Small Group Network, and everything that will help you grow in your leadership. That’s why I’m excited for the way that the upcoming online Twelve Conferences (April 14-16, 18, 2015) will transform the way that your church does small groups, adult education and community.

The lineup of speakers includes: Eric Geiger, Malcolm Gladwell, Rick Warren, Kay Warren, Nicky Gumbel, and more. After these plenary sessions, you can then take one of these three learning tracks: essentials, leadership, and next-level groups.

I’ll be one of the speakers on the next-level groups track speaking on “When do mid-sized groups make sense and how do you employ them,” as well as “Leadership development for mid-sized groups.”

I hope you’ll be able to take advantage of this conference and transform the way that your church does small groups, adult education and community.

Click here for an interview that I did on the Small Group Network entitled, “Is This the Future of Group Life?”

Developing a System for Leadership Development – MSC Leadership Training

Is your leadership development haphazard?

Do you have a system for developing leaders or do you just pick the low hanging fruit? Are you being intentional in your church’s leadership development process? In other words, do you have a leadership pipeline to move someone from the pew into a high level leadership position?

When talking about leadership development within the church, we need to have the big vision in mind. We cannot just narrowly focus on developing leaders for our own ministry areas, Our goal and vision needs to be bigger than that – it needs to be about creating kingdom workers for the harvest.

When I developed this Mid-Size Community (MSC) leadership training program (which became a farm system to develop future church planters), I was not going off of nouveau leadership sayings and tacky workshop techniques. Rather, I created this system intentionally around a multi-dimensional adult-education oriented model for leadership development.

As a result, this program takes into account a variety of learning methods, such as, personal growth, conceptual understanding, feedback, and skill building. This program is also focused on developing leadership competencies, in addition to role based skills.

It is important to note that this program is merely the primary/initial training for MSC leaders and leadership team members. Successful ongoing leadership requires secondary/subsequent training, which will be the topic for another post/workbook.

The diagram here outlines how the leadership training is laid out. Each session can be accomplished in a two-hour time frame. Furthermore, the all-day retreat setting gives you the opportunity to observe the personality of these future leaders in a relaxed environment. [Read more…]