Leadership Essentials for Multi-Site Teams

It was in Stephen Spielberg’s 1984 dark-comedy classic, Gremlins, where Billy’s pet, Gizmo, must avoid light, water, and post-midnight food.

Ultimately, Billy’s downfall occurred when Gizmo went multiple through water exposure, becoming too hard to manage.  Multiplication within this story, was a bad thing.

However, when we look at the idea of multiplication within the church, it has been a good thing.  The church’s “multiplication mantra” has played out in discipleship, church planting, and our most recent expansion of pseudo-denominationalism (based not on theology, but methodology):  the multi-site.

With any new model, a new context surfaces right along with it. So in following situational leadership theory and adaptive leadership practices, teams within multi-site churches require new forms of leadership.

Therefore, based on my experience of being a part of a multi-site church, staying in close connection with several progressive multi-site churches, and experiencing a 3-year, Leadership Network multisite collaborative, I would like to suggest three, main leadership guidelines for multi-site teams to function well (using the rules of Gremlins).

Consume the Culture: Unlike how Gremlins were to avoid food consumption, teams of multi-sites should consume their context, allowing their environment to appropriately shape their methodology.  They not only have to capitalize on the attractional buzz their church’s name may have, but they must also incarnationally embrace their God-given proximity.

Typically, this is seen when teams have a very good sense of what practices work best for their specific environment, knowing that what may work at the main campus or other site, won’t necessarily work as well at their site.  I believe in having teams that are very attuned to the culture of their campus and the needs of their community, allows them to better recapture Jesus’ original mission in Luke 4:18 stating, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”

Reflect Your DNA: As Billy wanted to detract all light from his pet, Gizmo, leaders of multi-sites must continually allow their church’s DNA to shine through everything they do.  That though there may be some methodological tweaks for the sake of relevancy, teams must still lead through the fiber of who their church is and the values, mission, and vision they seek to uphold.

Obviously with sites, DNA purification is determined by the church’s philosophy in either being a clone or hybrid, but there is always a need at some level to stay connected to the unified vision of the church for the greatest, most succinct missional impact.

Be Fluid: As mentioned before, with each new context, leadership teams must be adaptive and fluid, because what we find is that there tends to be paradoxical currents at play with multi-sites.

Though sites are usually riding the wave of continuing in the success of their church, they are also embracing a start-up or church plant mentality…pushing them to take on the role of a pacesetter, visionary, and coach.  And as they must be well equipped in team leadership and volunteer recruitment, training, and retention…they must also be able to adjust to their role typically moving from a position of authority to influence, depending on what reporting matrix the church decides to work through with staff.

Teams also need to be fluid in setting new patterns in when and where they meet, ensuring a regular rhythm in communication with both headquarters and the multisite team.

Judges 21:25 reads, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” These words not only reflect the scene of when the Gremlins took over the town of Kingston Falls, but it also reminds us about the importance of leadership.  And in an age of new multiplication avenues, leadership that is contextual, grounded in a unified vision, and fluid is needed now more than ever.

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~ by Dave Smith on June 20, 2010.

3 Responses to “Leadership Essentials for Multi-Site Teams”

  1. Dave Picked up this up from my google Alerts set to Multi-site. This is good stuff and I am going to use in our next staff meeting if that is Ok.

  2. Use and abuse however you see fit!

  3. you the man!

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