Our church is launching its sixth campus later this month in Charleston, IL. Since we’ve done this a few times before, other churches are asking us how you launch a new multisite campus. Here’s how we do it.
- Identify a multisite pastor. Our church uses a very leader-centric strategy. We do not start new campuses in the most “logical” places. We do not look at which outlying towns are the largest or where we already have the most members to form a core. We look for a leader with a passion and calling for a certain place and that is where we focus. I’ll write in a future blog on how to identify the right leader. For now, I’ll just give you the key principle. The primary training ground for future campus pastors (and church planters) is leading and multiplying small groups. That is where we look for success and proven leadership.
- Start small groups, gather people, and pray. We want to see a few small groups in a town or area before seriously considering a new campus. We also want to see a team of people who are praying for that community and the emerging work there. Besides regular home groups we often
will offer the ALPHA course in the target community as a way to gather people, particularly seekers.
- Identify key ministry leaders. We can’t start a new campus until we have leaders for three key areas: small groups, worship, and kids ministry. Often the campus pastor heads up the small group ministry. Then we need leaders for a worship team and a kids ministry team. The word “leader” is key. You are not looking for someone who loves children, you are looking for someone who can gather a team of people who loves and serves children. You are not looking for someone who can sing and play guitar. You are looking for someone who can recruit and lead a team of people who can sing and play guitars.
- Set a vague launch date. When we see momentum and the senior leadership approves of the emerging campus pastor, we set a vague launch date about 9 months out. What I mean by vague is naming a month or season rather than a specific date. For example, our first target for the Charleston campus was “September of 2012.” Setting a vague date takes the excitement and momentum to a new level while allowing us the flexibility to change things.
- Do outreach, training, and team events. At this point outreach to the community goes to a new level as the emerging campus team does more kindness outreaches and fun events. It varies from place to place, but some of the things we have done are passing out water at July 4th and Labor Day Parades, doing picnics and hayrack rides, passing out hot dogs in the park, doing concerts, and offering healing prayer training.
- Find a building. Up to this point we have been scoping out possible building locations but now we have to determine exactly where we are going to start the new campus. We look for a rental property in a good location that we can outfit for powerful worship and great kids ministry.
- Set a specific launch date. When we see that there is continued momentum and that the leadership and core team needed is gelling, we set a specific launch date. We announce the launch date usually about five months out.
- Get to work on the space and the teams. Now a new level of work begins, the building space needs to be renovated for ministry. Also, the primary teams (worship, kids, and new small group leaders) need to be recruited and trained. If you are launching your first and second new campus that means that your worship, kids, and small group pastors need to get to work training new people. If you already have more than three campuses, your “central support” team spearheads this. Also, secondary teams like the welcome team, coffee team, and tech team need leaders and workers identified and trained in this season.
- Advertise. In the month leading up to the launch we do a lot of advertising. The heart of this is four attractive postcards that we send out to every home in the community—one each week in the four weeks leading up the launch. These get about a 1% return. For example, if we send them to 10,000 homes, we expect about 100 people to come specifically in response to those cards. It costs us about $1 per home (25 cents per postcard). Extra copies of these cards are also given to everyone on the launch team to give to their friends. Besides postcards we do signs, news releases, and sometimes TV ads.
- Launch. We do two practice services on the two Sundays preceding the launch to test our systems and technology. Then we launch with two Sunday morning services. By doing two services, we offer more options, get more space optimization, and can allow people to serve at one service and attend a second one.
- Follow up. We do special events the Sundays following the service. Typically, we’ll do a hog roast or cookout the following Sunday. Sometimes we launch two weeks before Easter and the holiday gives people a third reason to come back. We contact visitors and do a small group push to relationally connect as many people as we possibly can.
That’s it in a nutshell. This all sounds real clear and smooth in my outline, but it feels hectic and scatterbrained when you are actually doing it because there are always bumps, turns, and unexpected challenges. Perhaps you can tell from what I have said that launching a new campus actually involves more work and expense than planting a new church. But it’s this deliberate and strategic work that gives campus launches a higher success rate than church planting. We want to launch with strong momentum that allows the new campus to be high impact right from the beginning. Our goal is reach as many unreached people as possible with the love and power of Jesus.
What questions do you have about launching a multisite campus? What have I left out? How could we do this better?