Going Multisite: What Are My Options?


So, we're here to talk about multi-church, multi-site movements been going for quite a while. Been pretty hot for the last what 20, 25 years. Is really kind of ramping up. We have some arguments on whether we think that's a new phenomenon or just a renewed phenomenon from the early church, but it's been a pretty big deal. And then somewhere around 2008, people stopped writing about it, but the phenomenon kept going. And then from 2008 to 2011, the only books that really came out were critiques and there really hasn't been a lot of self-reflection on multi-site. There really hasn't been a ton of self-reflection and saying, "Okay, what have we learned in the last 25 years?" Like everyone was really excited about it, and it continues to grow. What have we learned and kind of where are things going? And one of the challenges with that has been, when you talk to people, if you've had these conversations about multi-site, what people actually mean when they say the word multi-site can be a little bit confusing. We have this picture in our minds of what that actually is and what that means. 

So one of the things that we try to do is say ... part of what we want to do with this work is we want to say, "Let's get a common language so we all know what we're talking about." No one's really kind of done that, at least in the last ten years so that will help with the conversation.[inaudible 00:01:35] had an argument on Twitter, which you shouldn't do ever, and [inaudible 00:01:40] at that point, but you realize words have meaning and they're different for people and its really hard to actually have a good conversation if you don't define terms. 

So I was going to ask Greg to speak a little bit because he's worked with PhD students and research and churches. Kind of speak a little bit about kind of your experiences with language and trying to work through that, so we're just kind of doing this together. 

Greg: Thanks man. So if we dial back the clock, maybe 50, 60 years ago, when you would think of a church, you'd think of a building, a place where people would gather. There would be one service. Everyone meet together, would be worshiping the Lord, preaching and things like that. In fact, there's still a large group of people today who say the word ecclesia, the new testament word for church, means a gathering of all the congregants together. You must have just one service, one church, and its where everybody can gather together for preaching the word, for baptism, Lord's supper, and things like that. And so that was the common notion of church 50, 60 years ago. 

And then, I don't know when it was, 50 years ago or so, churches started do multiple services. So when I was chairman of the Deacon Board back at Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, we were experiencing some growth. We were also a congregation that was largely senior citizens. We wanted to be able to attract the children and the grandchildren of those senior citizens and so we started this 9 o'clock classic, Hinson Classic and 11 o'clock Hinson contemporary. So we were in the same building, but we had two services, different services. So we became a multi-service church. One church with multiple services. And I think we're all familiar with that phenomenon today. 

And then 30 years ago, 25 years ago or so, this new phenomenon hit us, with different venues in the same location. Different venues in the same location. So you have a couple of acres of land and you've got different buildings. In one building you would have a traditional worship service. In another building, you'd have a jazz worship service. Another building, you could have a cowboy service. So multiple venue church. One church with multiple venues. And then you had this phenomenon, various sites. Same area, same city, but different sites. You'd have the originating site, you'd have a 2nd site, a 3rd site, and 12th site and so forth. So we had the phenomenon of multi-site churches. One church with multiple sites. And somehow those sites began to be called campuses. So same region, various campuses. You had a downtown campus. You had a suburban campus, other suburban campuses. You had rural campuses. Same region, but a multi-campus church. One church, multiple campuses. And then someone discovered it's hard to raise money for a campus, so why don't we call it a congregation? Or even, let's call it a church. And so it began to be one church with multiple congregations, even multiple churches. 

And then we have the phenomenon today. We've got realities called franchise churches, clone congregations, interdependent churches. We've got cooperating congregations. So what we've done in the last 20 to 30 years is we've multiplied terms and I think there's a lot of confusion. And so one of our goals in this book was to provide language, common language, so that what we're talking about we understand what we mean by those terms. 

Brad: Yeah. And so, if you've guys have kind of delved into this a little bit, there's a couple things that are going on. One is all these terms are multiplying, but there's also kind of a right now a pretty strong critique against multi-site, so not just them but from kind of the Nine Marks wing of things. And then you've got a lot of people saying, "Well look. Multi-site is clearly failing. Look at these churches that are failing." Well they're not really pointing at the thousands of churches that are multi-site. They're pointing at the two or three that are pretty famous and really kind of personality-driven churches that have gotten really big and then have either, like in the Mars Hill side of things, it kind of collapsed, or you have what's happening right now with Matt Chandler's church, where they've decided, as more of a transition legacy plan to say, "Hey. We've built this up, now we want it to go independent churches." 

And so with that, I would feel like, "Hey, maybe if we can at least kind of get some common language around this stuff that we can have some open conversations about what are the positives, strengths, weaknesses and challenges of that, of these different models in order to help churches." I think, I don't know if you guys remember the Mark Twain quote. Mark Twain at one point, the newspapers reported that he was dead. And I don't remember the exact quote, but he came out and said, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." That was kind of his statement.

I think the reports of the death of multi-site are greatly exaggerated and that, it's a phenomenon that continues to grow. And I think a phenomenon that actually is very powerful in advancing the kingdom if approached in a godly and biblical way. And so we're trying to do is kind of .... The goal of this is to say, "Hey, let's talk about what some of those models are, give you some language, let you ask some questions about what these things mean so that you kind of ... What I want to do, as churches are thinking about this, I don't want them to be moving into multi-site like multi-sites were moved into which is, "We're just trying to solve problems." And so we come up with practical solutions to practical problems, but we don't put any thought into what are the implications of what we're doing. Does that make sense?

So a lot of multi-site in the early days. Yeah, Greg was kind of going through, here's these things that are happening and it's multiplying all over this language, but a lot of it was just natural evolution. We don't have enough space. The city won't let us build. We've got opportunities that are just popping up and we're taking those opportunities and it was a little bit haphazard. We're just moving into it, seeing what happens, and that's how you get all these different models. Which isn't terrible but some of them have implications that we don't think about. 

So that's what we tried to do. You've got a picture in your handout. So this spectrum. And one of the things that we found is we started thinking about this and for us here at Sojourn and then some guys saying, "Hey, could you maybe write something on this?", was that most of the books the multi-site revolution and some of the books kind of in that area, kind of 2001 to 2008, they talked about a theory of multi-site and then they gave just kind of random examples of churches that were doing it. And for those that know me, I've got an engineering background, so I'm like, "Well, there must be, there must be some connection between these models. There's got to be something that we can kind of look at to understand what model is best for our church here at Sojourn." And as Greg and I kind of worked through some of the research, talked with churches, we started seeing a pattern of ... There's some connection between these models. And so if you look at ... This takes up a lot of space.  Can I get rid of Jesus here? Will I get in trouble? It's like the best writing space at the top of the thing. Chelsea, I'm going to get in trouble for this. 

Chelsea: No. 

Speaker 15: You just got to put it back. 

Brad: I just got to put it back. I want to take the nail out. It's not going to come off. I'm about to rip out my knife. I've got it. Come on. Got it. You did it. Great.

Greg: I know what your problem is.

Brad: What's that?

Greg: Just pull hard. There you go. 

Brad: Here it is. Didn't want to wreck it. So you got that pillar model. So that's your one site, one location. This would be the Nine Marks model, one service. You've got the gallery model and its intended to be kind of drawn with the, you've got multiple screens, where you can go ... these are screens. That's why they're square. Which is what he's talking about. Greg was talking about where you have kind of your contemporary service, your classic service, your film noir service, whatever you feel like you need in your context. 

And the idea is that this is how churches tend to evolve is that we run out of space in one room, so we go to multiple rooms, and so when we talk about this model that's gallery, we look at that gallery model as anytime you go to a second service, because if you've done that you know man those congregations actually feel very different. And you still have one church and there's overlap in the middle when you go to your second one. But there's still this like, "Man, that 9 o'clock and the 11 o'clock are totally different." They're totally different churches it feels like at times. So we want to just acknowledge that. So we put it on the spectrum of multi-site.

You've got the franchise, which is, when you're thinking about language, the franchise is kind of the clone.  Each church looks exactly the same, or as much as possible. That's why you use the franchise right? So when you walk into a Starbucks you know you're at Starbucks, right? When you're at a franchise church, it's like, Hey, when I walk in there, I want to know that I'm at that church." And a lot of times what happens is, you go, "Hey we went to multiple services", or kind of in the same church, different areas, we've got overflow rooms, we're doing this. And it's like, Oh gosh, that's working, so why don't we just transplant that across the city and do that in another spot? And so conceptually we're used to this model. This is the most critiqued model and this is the when someone kind of builds a straw man and tears it down for multi-site, they're usually building this one up and tearing it down. So that's usually the straw man model. Its a model that's out there, its used a bit, but its actually not the most popular model in multi-site or the most prevalent. 

Well we've seen is an evolution from this, the challenges that come from this model often are your driving at like ... when you're going to start a new campus, what kind of leader do you want? You guys going, " Man, I want a C leader. Looking for someone for kind of C, Ds in pastor school." Or you're looking for, "Man, I want an A+ leader, entrepreneurial leader." That's generally what we're looking for right? Problem is that when you're in a model that says we want everything to look exactly the same, who makes the decisions? Someone up here makes that decision. And so those leaders eventually are like, I could train a guy to do this in ten minutes. I don't need to be the guy pushing play. And so this has caused a lot of strain in the multi-site world. Typically as these leaders develop and grow, they tend to want to leave because there's a spiritual component to the gifting of pastors right? So you have that spiritual gift of leadership but you're in a context where you actually have no say and cannot lead. Eventually that's going to create some tension and something is going to have to break. 

And so, one of the things that we've seen is the movement towards the federation model. And the federation model, the reason that we drew them as circles was the idea that they don't look exactly like the mothership. They may look a little bit different. There's a little bit more freedom. Federation think more like federal government. You've got states rights and you got federal laws and states laws. You've got kind of things that are universal and then you got things that happen at a local church. And so we've seen a lot of churches kind of moving more towards this federation model, which tends to see more live preaching. This one tends to be more video venue. These tends to be more live preaching sites with more freedom. Does that make sense? 

That for us was kind of the multi-site spectrum, like what multi-site is. And then there's a change kind of at that point, where we see structurally these things are significantly different after that point. So is there any questions kind of about the differences in these? Thoughts, critiques, questions? I see one forming. Yeah.

Speaker  13: I don't know if I want to ask you, but I'll go ahead. 

Brad: The bearded guy in plaid. I'll wait. Sorry. 

Speaker  13: [inaudible 00:15:23] say the bald [inaudible 00:15:24]

Brad: I was going to say the bald [inaudible 00:15:24]. 

Speaker 17: No

Brad: Hey, you guys every play that, what's the game?  You play with your kids, where they have the pictures of people?

Speaker 12 : Guess Who.

Brad: Guess who. It's kind of like Guess Who. Does he have a beard? And they all go down. 

Speaker 3 : The gallery model. If the two services are the exact same, would you consider that still ...

Brad: I still consider it a gallery model because Greg and I kind of walked through this. Once you have two services, and you're reproducing it, you do end up with congregations that have their own personalities. And so even when preaching, you're often adjusting how you preach to those different congregations based on their response, based on their makeup. I only have four services that are midtown service and even the diversity of the services are very different. The evening service is more younger college students. The second service is very ethnically diverse, the early service is not. They're just different congregations. 

The other option was to say, was to add another category, which we felt was like, it'd be a category on itself. And I think the challenges that you start having with multi-site, start as soon as you go to multiple services. How do you manage different volunteers from different teams? The complexity begins as soon as you're not doing one service, right? Make sense? Yeah. 

Speaker  13: Is the main nuance between gallery and franchise, the gallery can exist in one building with multiple services, but gallery could also be understood in the franchise frame? 

Brad: I think the gallery is like you're doing it in one location, so like we could hae services in the chapel, in the auditorium, and maybe gymnasium, and everyone comes to one destination but they can go to multiple services. So this is like Seacoast and wherever Seacoast is.

Speaker  13: When you say venues, you still mean within a single geographical location. 

Brad: Yeah. When you're talking gallery, you're talking multiple venues in one location. When you go to franchise, you're talking about multiple locations. 

Speaker  13: Gotcha. Okay. That makes sense.

Brad: Franchise and this is federation. And federation is, we're seeing more of this happen as a response to the pain of this. Is saying we do need to spread out a little bit more. 

Greg: So gallery would be both multiple services, so the 9 O clock and the 11 O clock and also multiple venues in the same location. 

Speaker  13: Okay. It has to have both or can it- 

Brad: No, It can be one or the other. 

Greg: No, it's one or the other. Yeah. So it's the big category. Those will be two permutations of that. 

Speaker  13: Gotcha. Okay. Yeah. Thanks.

Brad: And what you'll see and we talk about this in the book, but its really important in kind of understanding your options, is that what ties these together or what kind of puts them into a rubric that we can kind of look at options is that, when you look at things like control ... So you've seen these maps before, control versus influence. You've got to decide, how much control do you want? How much influence do you want? And it's a balance. These are high control models and as you move this way, you're getting less and less control. So, if we put control here. Whoops, I never .... Put control here and influence here. As you move this way across the spectrum. You've got one church, it's all control. You go to gallery, you're really just letting different bands play, but the message, everything's the same. Franchise, it's the color of the paint on the walls. You have a video venue, so you only have one speaker. How you do community groups and how you do women's ministry. Everything is dictated for you. You get a script and you do it.

As you go to a federation, you're starting to say, "Hey, there's contextualization going on here, live preaching. So less control because the pulpit's not controlled anymore. Maybe more contextualized ministries as you move that way. Make sense? 

And then there's a gate at this point where you go from multi-site to multi-church. And this was pretty important to me as we're talking about this. That difference between campuses, which is kind of where we are here, to multiple churches, What makes that distinction? And I was working with a large multi-site church and we made the change from the language campus to church. And the question was, "Well, why did we make that change?"  Because that's a really important distinction. What does that mean? And the distinction that was made at the time, there was a distinction that was kind of publicly articulated, which was well these are churches, they're people gathered for the worship of Jesus. But I was also part of the back office discussion of why we would call those churches and part of it was, "Well, people don't give to campuses, people give to churches." It was about getting more money into the organization and trying to articulate it in such a way that people would be more apt to give. And that just didn't feel right. There's got to be a better reason than this is just more marketable. 

And what I was finding as we looked at the models was that as we look at these models, you're really dependent on the central organization. Even within a federation, there's still enough dependence that the churches would have a difficult time functioning as a church on their own. And as you move towards more and more independence, so less control, and more and more independence at the local congregation, they actually begin to have enough of a leadership structure locally. So they have a local elder team, they have a local leadership team that's able to lead that church that if it had to, it could go independent and it would be able to fully function. Does that make sense? And so, to me it's about, do they have the power to make decisions? Do they have the power to spend their own money? And if you get to the place where they have that type of freedom, then they're actually functioning as multiple churches. Does that makes sense? And so we have the co-op, which draw the picture there, it doesn't really matter. So the two options are co-op and the collective. And the difference is just how much control. So the way that it's drawn on there if you see, it's like these are all connected and they're connected to the center and as you move to this one, the idea is that they're connected together. There's still a center but it doesn't have as much influence.

And so a co-op concept is like, think of a farm co-op or a store co-op, an artist co-op where you're saying, "Hey, we want someone to run the store, so we're going to pay someone to run the store, but we operate mostly independently. We're still interdependent with some ministries and stuff, but we're going to operate as one entity, one legal entity."

Collective is the same. You still have one legal entity but you're trying to strip it down as much as possible. You're saying we still have someone who's kind of helping coordinate collaboration, but not necessarily someone running the store. Does that make sense?

Speaker 2: Two clarifying questions. So both of those models, its still functioning under the same 501c3

Brad: Yes, up until it, so-

Speaker 2: Til the next [inaudible 00:24:16]

Brad: Yeah. So all of these are one entity and then when you get to a network now you're talking about independent churches. Like we're all members of churches that are part of Sojourn Network or most of us are. We have our own 501c3. There are no authority lines that cross in a network. We have connectivity for the sake of a particular outcome. 

Speaker 2: Could you give one minute of an example of where the distinction of that center point-

Brad: Talking about this? 

Speaker 2: Yeah. You said one would ____ to co-op. There's a sharing some ministry____ like what? I guess I don't really see my mind in different ___[inaudible 00:24:58]__________

Brad: Yeah. You could also take control and you could put dollars here, like how much do you spend for it? So when you talk about a co-op, like a co-op is going to have some more centralized leadership and may still have some centralized ministries. So 

Speaker 2: Like put a name.

Brad: Like international missions might be centralized. You may find that you have another ministry like community groups or something that you feel like, "He,y we still centralize that and we staff it." You may have more central leadership in that like running the store, if you will. The co-op probably has more often than not, has a lead pastor. The collective may not. Does that make sense? Because you're paying for centralized leadership. At a collective you're saying, Well, that's just going to be done collectively. Co-op could survive without that but those are the kind of, you're moving towards less and less control and less and less dollars going to that central support. That make sense?

Speaker 2: Yes. 

Brad: So if this is the difference between campuses and churches, the ability to function. This is like you said, the 501c3. This is moving towards independent. You have your own non-profit. You want to come up Greg and answer questions.

Greg: Sure. 

Brad: Yeah. 

Speaker 5: So in the co-op and collective model, do all those churches share the same budget?

Brad: In which one?

Speaker 5: In either of them? The co-op or the collective? Do they share a budget together?

Brad: Yeah.  So how budgets work right, so if you're somewhere in the franchise and federation model, generally the way the budget works is that you have someone who is over that budget within the organization that lives up here. And so they determine what the budgets are for the local churches. They may say, "Hey. This is what I need," but someone up here determines that. So when I came into Sojourn which was somewhere in this bucket, I was having this conversation yesterday, my first job as the executive pastor of ministries was to tell everybody what their budgets were. Not just what's your budget for your church. It's like, "Well, here's what you spend in your kids ministry, here's what you spend in your..." Didn't make a lot of sense. I wasn't there. I didn't know what their needs were. Why was I determining and telling them what to do, but that's the way the system was built. It was kind of up in this area. 

Once you get to this place, budgets generally work on ... this is going to be recorded, so I'm going to get in trouble for this, but it's more of like, "Hey, there's a tax to being a part of this thing." It's not like the tax doesn't go anywhere, there's a tax to pay for the central functions that you have. So that's usually like payroll, finances, legal, HR, technology, probably communications in most cases. And so that costs money. So the budget works like, if my church brings in $10,000, a percentage of that goes to pay for those central support, but it's a percentage. So if it's a co-op, you're talking maybe 25%. If you're a collective, its usually around 15% or somewhere in that area. 

And so the way the budget works is, if I'm a local church, I know what I bring in, it's going to cost me this to get that, just like you were outsourcing it to, like your outsourcing your HR and all that kind of stuff. It's going to cost me this to get that done. The rest of the budget I control locally. Whereas as you're over here, its more of like, what allowance is Mom and Dad going to give me to be able to run my campus?

Greg: So just an example for Sojourn East, under federation model, were you up as high as 63%?

Brad: It was pretty bad. 

Greg: So ...

Brad: Yeah. Yeah. So-

Greg: 63%. This year its 28%. Now take Redemption Church in Arizona. They're at 11% with the collective. So pretty significant amount of money going to the local ...

Brad: So if I was doing averages, it was like ... and its in the book, but it was like, 15, 25. Federation was like 40. Franchise when .... and then these are 100% because they're just one. Like when I was in Seattle, the idea was for every adult giver, the expectation was $30, and $10 stayed local. $10 went to, I don't know what it went to, and like $20 went out, $10 stayed. So it was 66% went away. And that's pretty common for video venues because I mean when you think of the cost of capturing video and sending it out. And then these models tend to have a really high value on branding, so they tend to have communications teams that are really big. Those are central teams that cost a lot of money. You have a lot of designers, a lot of creatives. And so that costs a ton of money. Yeah. 

Speaker 6: Was some of the leadership challenges in the franchise in some ways harder on the leaders there but [inaudible 00:30:38] The co-op and collective. Can you guys speak to some of the challenges of empowering leaders, but then as guys have different vision, want to go in different directions, how to work together and navigate the complexity of that well. 

Greg: It gets way messier. 

Brad: Yeah, we're going to spend more time on that this afternoon, but the short answer is, is that if you reduce control, you're taking more risk right?  You're going to have more diversity, you're going to have more challenges in that area, so your challenges move from ... Here it's, Hey. How do we keep things controlled and how do we keep people happy?" As you move here its like, "How do we manage all the different ideas?", and what you have to end up moving towards here is caring about some things less, right?

So you just take something really simple because these are complex problems. You take something like branding, right? What is a flyer going to look like for trunk-or-treat? Up to about here, there's one person that's in control of that and it doesn't matter. As you move over here, you've got lots of different opinions and the freedom for people to do different things. And so if you care that every piece of paper that leaves your church or represents your church looks exactly the same, these models will drive you nuts. You're going to have to let go of that and at this point you say, "Hey, here's the colors we use and the fonts we use and we're going to let you outsource that or use people in your church. And if you do something really goofy that's really off-brand, we're going to let you know and try to correct it. But we're not going to freak out and fire somebody because the branding doesn't look right. Because we're not a high control model. We're a low control model." But we'll dive into some more of that later if we don't have any questions about kind of the models and the options and we can start diving into that today. 

Greg: I don't know if you're going to get into this, but the beauty over here is that the lead guys and then the individual elder teams are growing in their leadership ability, their teaching ability, their shepherding ability, praying, taking care of their flocks. And so as the pastors and as the eldership teams grow and mature and develop, right, they're going to be aching for this. But then they're also just morally committed to one another. This is a moral decision, it's not from the top down. And they're just saying, "We want to collaborate or cooperative together." As Joel was saying, because we can better together than we can separately. 

Brad: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Are there scenarios where you see I guess churches, individual churches naturally going along this progression. [inaudible 00:33:34] federation to co-op and then to collective until maybe they even become independent churches. Is that common phenomenon? 

Brad: There are some models, we call those kind of unbilicall planters, where they use some form of this and then the goal is hey, we want to spin these out into independent churches eventually. Some churches like this is going to work for them, based on the leaders that they have and the demographic that they're at in their church. I don't think these are unbiblical. I think the future of where multi-site is going is you're going to see more and more of these models pop up then these. And not every church evolves along this line. Some of them are going to get here and they're going to jump over here. Some of them are going to ... Our hope is that people will have more of a vision and they won't have to go through these rough years of adolescence. 

But I think of it as the ability for churches to kind of find themselves on the spectrum and some will continue to kind of do the unbiblical thing and kind of spin out independent churches. I had people ask me that question and kind of underlying that question sometimes can be this idea that autonomy is the highest goal. That if we could get more autonomous churches that would be better. I don't actually believe that's a biblical concept. I don't see autonomy lifted up in scripture. I see a picture of interdependence as the way that God has created us, not only as individuals within a church to be stronger, I think that that applies to the church beyond just whether its 80 people or one church but the idea of What's going on in Corinth? What's going on in Jerusalem? What's going on in Rome? Did they see themselves as independent churches that were just kind of working together in a network, or did they see themselves as one church? 

I don't know about you, but we read the Apostle's Creed today during Worship service, and if you remember they say, "We believe in one," they use universal, but one catholic and apostolic church, right? Catholic meaning one universal church. We see ourselves as one church. So the idea that in the early church, they valued autonomy I think is an American projection on reality. 

Greg: So to drive this home, so lets just take the example of Village Church and let's just say that they're going to move to five autonomous, independent churches. What Brad and I are thinking about is kind of like this. So people are cheering that on, because they're elevating autonomy and independence as the highest value. The question we're going to have is, over the course of the next 5 to 10 years, is the impact of those five independent autonomous churches going to be better than what it is if they would stay together in terms of evangelism, mission, theological training, shepherding, community groups, impact mercy ministry and things like that. I don't know, that question is just out there. 

But what we're questioning here. Is autonomy and independence the highest value or are there other values that we have to weigh in with this? That we have to consider.

Speaker 1: I think for us one of our biggest questions is timing because I hadn't read your book yet, but we would probably fit into ... We have a strong vision for that cooperative model. The language we've been using is a collective, semi-autonomous local congregations. That's what we've said, who we are. 

Greg: Succinct. Very short and succinct. I like that. 

Speaker 1: But we didn't have words to put around ... we had gotten glimpses into this before. Whatever, but yeah. This collective of semi-autonomous local congregations and we have a vision for this. We just planted our first semi-autonomous campus. 

Brad: West side.

Speaker 1: West side. Yeah. And we're using campus in a geographical sense, but they both of them they have local [inaudible 00:37:56] and so forth. But that's our first one. Now we have a strong vision and so [inaudible 00:38:03] is like when we try to pop up into a ... I would love to like draw up the model of leadership and all that. Tough questions, but having that you said lead pastor of the cooperative that kind of holds the center and then there's a staffing reality in that. When do we move to that? Is three the magic number? Is four the magic number? Do we do it now because we have the vision and want to build the infrastructure on the front end? 

Brad: Yeah. One of the reasons we wrote the book is I want, and this is just kind of the way I'm wired is that, I want to look out and say, "Where are we going?", and the last thing I want to do is waste my time building something that I have to break down, right? And so, even if you don't move to that leadership structure today, I want you to have that in your mind so when you're hiring people and you're building your staff and you're figuring out your budgets, you're not building in something that you're going to have to tear down later. Does that make sense?

Speaker 1: Yeah. 

Brad: Because what happens is, how these things kind of get built? And we talk about this a little bit in the book is that there's this inertia for kind of growing central. What typically happens when a church goes multi-site is the first one just kind of ... We send a worship leader and a preacher out there and they go and do their thing and they don't care because they're happy to start it. They've got all the support in the world that they need. They just feel like almost like an overflow even though it might be across town. 

But as multiple churches start to grow out, the complexity increases and you start going, "Well gosh, we got to add staff centrally to support these works that are going on." They need staff and there's kind of this momentum that says, one I need to justify my existence so if I have multiple staff under me then I'm a bigger deal, which is a human problem. It happens in all businesses. That central starts to grow and grow and grow and then if you say, "Hey we're going to do that for a while, but then we're going to go here. I mean you have to light a match to it. That's a lot of work to undo not only kind of the people and the positions, but also just the culture. 

So if you're saying, hey we want to be here, then as we're evolving and we start with multiple services and then we maybe go to an overflowish type of thing is I want to have in the back of my mind. I'm not going to build up my central staffing and that central vision because I know that we eventually want to be here. And so I can do that a little bit more thoughtfully. Does that make sense?

Speaker 1: A little bit. Yeah. When you say central staffing, are you speaking to the first church as your central church or are you speaking to the middle of the cooperative?

Brad: I'm saying when you evolve you start that ... maybe you're saying, Hey we don't want to do this. We want to do live preaching. We start with one kind of a federal model. Everything is still run by the mother church, but we have one expression that started up in northern [crosstalk 00:41:22] west side.

Greg: This is Missio Dei and this is the one their starting. 

Brad: And so you say, well we got one-

Greg: And this is the river.

Brad: They're not fully functioning yet. They don't have a leadership team and elder core developed. They're not ready to function. What can easily happen is we say, "Lets start building the team that supports this church and the multiple churches." And I would just argue like, "Hey, right now you're functioning as one church that's able to do that. Resist the temptation to bloat centralized staff because these are not centralized models." 

So an example would be when I came here we had on our central staff here we had said, "Makes a ton of sense that we could get world class guys in kids ministry and community ministry and worship ministry and women's ministry if we paid them centrally. We could have a lot of these really great people that could serve our churches really well." Does that make sense? So if I had a church of 200, but I was attached to that, I would have resources that I could never have as a church of 200 because we had this central ministry right? Makes a ton of sense. I thought it did. Here's what happens though. 

What really happened, so what that meant was 40 cents on the dollar had to go to central because we are paying part-time all these ... they were working locally but also working centrally. 40 cents on the dollar had to go to central to pay for that children's guy and that worship guy and that community group guy. So we did that. I said, "Well gosh that should be helping those smaller churches." But the problem is is that the smaller churches because they were giving 40% were understaffed. They only had a lead pastor, maybe a worship pastor, maybe a part time executive pastor. And so the only people that benefited from the fact that we had world class leaders over these ministries were our larger churches. So if you follow what I'm saying, what was happening was that our smaller churches were subsidizing the bigger, not the bigger subsidizing the smaller. Does that make sense?

So I had this great idea, which I don't think I'm the only one that's ever thought that that would work and realized, it actually worked exactly opposite of how I thought it would work. And so they were dying, smaller churches were dying because we had overbuilt this central ministry that we thought was going to support but it didn't. And so for me what I'm saying is, there's a point, that point is usually around three to four churches where your structure just has to change. How you lead it, I've found its kind of that three to four. The first one just feels like an overflow.  Everybody's cool. Second one you still trying to figure out what it is, but a third one, everyone's like, "There are some serious problems here." And so that's when you know that that's when things are going to ... you're probably going to have to change kind of the way your leadership structure and your budgets and those kind of things happen. But if you know where you're going, you don't have to deconstruct a bunch of stuff to do it. 

Speaker 1: Yeah, and that's what were trying to do now is understand, what would be held in the center and what would be given in freedom to the local congregation. More looking at influence like, "Okay so we want to go after men. We want to go after family. We want to go after ..." So these core value and focuses have to be in each congregation but the freedom of how they do that is there given to them contextually. But then, taking 20% is the number we've kind of come up with and start funding central so that it sustainably grows as the need gets bigger [crosstalk 00:45:10] And again, I love talk more about it. But I think that the vision for us is the cooperative and we've got one off and going and we've got a lot of momentum for three more in the next five years and we would love to see. I just want to know when do we jump into it. 

Brad: Yeah, what I would say, you have a great strategy, which is to say, "lets limit what we build centrally by that 20% and let that drive it and live within your means." Which I know church planters, sorry ... probably heard this a million times. Live within your means, right? Don't get any credit card debt. If you stay within that, that'll be in the easy transition when you get to that third church, you'll be able to make that transition and it won't be very painful. But if you don't live within your means and you start building out these then there's going to be some transitionary pain of having to ... We literally, what was it, moving from us I think the average was 44%. Our next budget will be at 17%. That is six figures of dollars every year for the last years that we've had to reallocate from central to local to get to where we want to be. It took us three years to make the transition. That's not easy to do. That's a lot of money. 

Greg: And an oversimplified question would be, these guys what don't they want to do? What do they want off their plates so they can preach, pray, shepard, disciple, things like that. They don't want to do legal stuff. 

Speaker 1: That's the fundamental question for ... yeah.

Greg: So ask them. What do you want off your ... again, it's oversimplified, but what do you want off your plate that we can do centrally?

Speaker 1: What we've understood the collective center as, one of its main job is to protect the pulpit. So, that's the way that we've approached it from the very beginning. To free them up and protect the pulpit to do those things-

Brad: What do you mean by protect the pulpit?

Speaker 1: Protect their ability to focus on-

Brad: Oh, okay. 

Greg: Spiritual things. 

Speaker 1: [inaudible 00:47:31] shepherding, because we saw we're at the backyard of a huge, the fourth largest church in America. Fastest growing church in America and when we talk to the campus pastors, they're all just GMs. If that. And the frustration and all the-

Brad: Because they're here. 

Speaker 1: Oh yeah. They're there out the ying-yang. And they're one of the best in the country right now. But all of their campus dudes are completely frustrated. And so, that's where we said, if we're going to have any centralized anything, their number one goal has to be able to protect those men who we want as entrepreneurs, leaders, preachers, prophet kind of gifting. 

Greg: Let's also think about this with two important resources that whatever you call that central thing. Resources your lead pastors and the congregations that help them be flourishing congregations. So is that periodic retreats with the lead guys? Is that consultation with the churches and things like that. So you want to resource them to make sure those congregations are healthy and flourishing and then a second one would be resource for multiplication so you're adding obviously with their cooperation, their collaboration, their support. They're morally committing themselves to go from four to five to six congregations, to reach the metro Cincinnati area. So it's resourcing the churches so they're healthy, they're growing and resourcing the churches so they're expanding. Two other ...

Brad: If you think about these models, especially kind of here. Again, an oversimplification. I'm not trying to villi anize it. But generally what happens is that these churches exist to expand the influence of the personality or the organization, right? So we add more franchises so that Mcdonalds, so that Starbucks in bigger, so that put the church name in there, so that we have more influence. As you move over here and you get to here, the intent is that this exists only for the flourishing of the local church. Does that make sense? So a person critical of these models would say, "These churches exist for the perpetuation of the organization." This is flipped the other way around. So you could say that the local churches are sometimes used in these models. The intent here is that's what the church exists for, right? Conversions don't happen in my central office. Rarely, but they happen at the local ministry.

Greg: So multi-church exists for its churches. Multi-church exists for its congregations. Healthy congregations and expanding to reach your geographical area. 

Brad: And Greg said, you asked the question, what do they not want to do? That's one good question. Another good question is there's also a protection of the whole and those local churches, where you're saying ... There's a term that Luke uses. It's like the ... I would use irreducible complexity, but there's a irreducible legal obligation of one organization. So there's an irreducibility of the responsibilities that an organization has that their board has to consider, right? So financial, legal, fiduciary responsibilities. So when I think of central, there's the what do you not want to do so you can focus on ministry and there's also, what are the things that we do need to have some control over so that everybody stays employed and out of jail, right? So those things might be finances and payroll. 

When you have one organization, you have to be careful about disparities between how you pay people. You may have one of these congregations in an affluent suburb. You many have another one in a harder part of the city and you actually have to consider, "Okay, do we have policies in place in which how we compensate people so that there's not too big of a disparity," or at least you're within the whatever your state, legal requirements are right? 

So there's some pieces like that where you're saying okay what's the minimum amount of branding that we want? What's the messaging that's similar? What's the minimum amount of control over some of those services. And that's what you're trying to do here, because that serves them for the long run. Yeah.

Speaker 8: First of all, thank you guys for putting some language to some things that I've been developing in my own head and vision over the last couple years. We've been envisioning this collective and started to work with people that I've grown up with in ministry basically and so let's collaborate together to plant churches. That's the main goal of that. In the meantime, we're a 110 year old church that's been basically replanted in the last five years and now we got a 40,000 square foot building. And so we've got to use that space. We have a school [inaudible 00:53:16] during the week, so that's nice but we're envisioning the sending out and the planting part coming as well, so in the cooperative channel I guess you would say. And so I've got these two things kind of going on simultaneously almost, the cooperative probably happening within the next year or so, and so just any advice would be helpful of how can we pursue these two things and not drive ourselves crazy trying to ... just-

Brad: So the two things are the cooperative and then the development of your-

Speaker 8: The collective. 

Brad: So the-

Speaker 8: Yeah. So the collective and the cooperative. So the collective has started. We're working together. Pastors that have , three four of us that have been working together, we call it a family, but [crosstalk 00:54:08] but working together to look towards multiple occasions of planting churches together so the centralized part is that shared value of wanting to plant churches.

Brad: So I would say that is a network-

Greg: Network. Yep. 

Brad: Because you're not one legal entity. Or are you? 

Speaker 8: We're going to-

Brad: Oh, you're moving it to so-

Speaker 8: Right. Right. Exactly. 

Brad: All of your finances or just one or a little chunk?

Speaker 8: Just a smaller-

Brad: So to me, if you're saying we're tied financially, like we give to the ... that's more of a network. We're giving for a particular thing to plant churches in a particular region. So we're giving whatever it is, a couple percentage, 5%, 10% whatever to that. Here for a collective here you're one legal entity meaning all the money is, for us it's Sojourn Community Church. We've got four churches. East hear has its own staff but they're still Sojourn Community Church. They're not ... Yeah. So I think what you're talking about is a network, meaning you're taking resources and you're pulling them together for an outcome. That's a network. 

So your church is trying to build this while you're also trying to develop some type of a local network. That's what it sounds like. Because yeah. Unless you put all of your finances of all of the churches together, then that's something different. But I don't think you can do both. Does that make sense?

Speaker 8: Yeah. I think so. 

Brad: Networks still have leadership, you're still pooling resources, but you're not saying, "we're going to dissolve the legal entities and make one new legal entity." We're not doing that. We're working together with a non-profit. 

Greg: So Sojourn Community Church is a co-op that also contributes a percentage to Sojourn Network. So we ... developing healthy congregations, expanding in the Louisville metro, and planting churches through the network. 

Speaker 8: Right. So ... but you just said something about it being collective too. 

Brad: Well right now. So one of the things to understand, this is a spectrum. There's not five models as you know. There's something in between. Sojourn has kind of been evolving from a federation and I think it's probably going to settle more on the collective side of the spectrum. Part of that's just our history and our story and where we're at. I'm a big fan of the cooperative model and I'm a big fan of the collective model and its just kind of where each church kind of fits. I think some of these models probably, I'm probably comfortable up to a federation, then I start getting uncomfortable. But I don't think they're unbiblical, I think that they start creating problems that are difficult to overcome. 

Speaker 9: I don't know if I can express it correctly, so we'll just move on. It seems to me what we're trying to do is what you already ... you're Missio Dei?

Speaker 10: Yeah.

Brad: Yeah. 

Speaker 9: __[inaudible 00:57:22] And we're trying to do what you've already done in Milwaukee and with [inaudible 00:57:28]. So that's our Lord willing goal in the next three months. And then.

Brad: To start one or start five? Because that's a lot. 

Speaker 9: One.

Brad: Okay. 

Speaker 9: Well, it's-

Greg: Three months. Take your time. 

Speaker 9: [inaudible 00:57:40] other question is a lot of what we're trying to do is ... I came from Grace Community Church with John MacArthur. I was on the staff there so that's about as Gallery [inaudible 00:57:55]

Brad: That's about as high control as you can go.

Speaker 9: Yeah. I was still [inaudible 00:57:58] So I don't want that. I have no desire for that. And where we're thinking and wanting to do is start with some ... I appreciate you acknowledging the shadings between these things.  Something of a federation I guess you're going to call it an umbilical church with a goal that eventually, I think just reality demands it, it will eventually, we need to call it off and it will be its own entity.  And we can continue to cooperative, work together. So we're going to be over there, somewhere at some point. We're trying to keep all of that in our head as we think. But so much of what we're trying to do is being driven by our philosophy of preaching too, and I'm wondering how much of this is driven ... Is some of this driven by people's business model? Some of it by preaching model? I mean, like Mark Denver. He's got certain convictions about the pulpit, and what church is and I think that's why he speaks against. 

We don't want it to be I think what Sojourn does or at least they did where the pastors get together, talk about what, and then they each craft their own sermon. I'll be preaching at both churches and he'll be preaching at both places. And eventually our plan is once a month and then twice a month eventually. We believe it's just going to take on its own identity. I mean, they're up there. We're down here. And at some point, it's just like, Okay, be free. Because we can only ... if we preach that way, we can only do two churches. There's no way I can go three four places on that day unless we're just starting at weird times and at that point it's simply to preserve me in the pulpit. Well I don't want that. So ...

Greg: Who's the guy in your congregation who'll be the third one preaching? 

Speaker 9: We don't have ...

Brad: Not yet. 

Speaker 9: Well we have a guy we're willing to replace but at that point, that's why we're thinking it would be wise to just go to the cooperative eventually so that Matt will then be [inaudible 01:00:09] enough to go to leadership and doing the same thing. And that Beth will be starting a new Umbilical church with the goal of then- 

Brad: Well when we talk umbilical, umbilical we're saying, you start connected as one organization and the intent is that you become autonomous. People ask me, what is our plan for Louisville? And so for Louisville, how do we decide whether we plant a church independently or that we plant them as a multi-church? They plant them as one of these churches as part of our collective. And to me, it comes down to a couple philosophical questions. One is that we do believe that we're better off together. Not that we can do more together, we can do better together. And what we mean by that is that it's healthier. And that's more of a biblical conviction that as we look at scripture and that kind of interdependence, we believe that. So my first bent is, if I've got a guy that I'm planting in Louisville, I would prefer that they become part of what we're doing for their sake and for the sake of the whole, and the things that we're looking at is, theological unity and philosophical unity. So if theologically we're aligned and philosophically, how we're going to do this, we're aligned, then we'll bring it together. 

It's possible that someone could be theologically aligned and say, "Yeah, but I want to do something totally different. I want to do drive in church where we don't ever have to see people, they just drive in their cars and turn on their radio screens and we never ..." Well that's not us. That's not going to work. But God bless you. We'll plant you independent.

And then if you someone wants to ... they're like, "Hey, we want to go to Lexington." Then it's like, We'll raise you up and send you because we believe that this works to reach a city. If what we start doing is start trying to expand beyond that city where we have no relational connectivity, we an't really support each other well, then we're just falling into this trap of trying to expand our own empire. We'd rather expand the kingdom. Does that make sense? 

So those are the questions that you guys have to ask is do we want to remain one legal entity for the sake of the help of the church and the city or do we feel like we need to break apart? That's kind of the conversation. I don't believe autonomy is the greatest goal of the church. I think, if what you have is authority and power and you've been given it, the best thing you can do is disperse it among other like minded leaders and that's going to be the healthiest option that you have. I haven't met the man who can carry the ring yet. As Gandalf says, "Don't tempt me Frodo." Right? 

So that's why we continue to drive towards those. Make sense?

Speaker 11: Do you think the lifting up and raising it high autonomy is an over course correction to the franchise that's almost like a tangible repentance of maybe the celebrity pastor model or the personality driven that we really want to get away from that so we take a hard right and lets just make these guys autonomous. 

Brad: Without a doubt. Without a doubt it's a reaction to that. Some places it might not be an overreaction. It depends on the history of the church and those kind of things, but I think as an absolute, it's definitely an overreaction. That for me... So the southern baptist, one of the tenants is autonomy. What they mean by that is that there's not a Pope somewhere telling you what to do. I totally believe in that tenant of Souther Baptist confession of yeah, we want churches that are not being told what to do by some Pope somewhere, taking his indulgences. Totally believe in that. What I don't think though is that when I get autonomy, that the safest thing for me is to stay in charge and make sure I have a bunch of people listening to what I say, because I have at least I think a healthy fear of my own ability to handle the ring, right? 

So to me what this is, it's saying, You have the freedom to go independent, and we're inviting you into an interdependent relationship with one another. These models are saying, this is our system. If you want to be a part of our system, this is how it works. When you get to here, it becomes essentially voluntary. It's intended to be voluntary. So what you're saying is, I have the ability to be autonomous and run my own deal, but I think I'm going to be stronger and safer and it'll be safer for my congregation if I do it together. So that's the concept. 

We did an interview on Sunday and the guy, Don't quote this, I don't know if this is exact numbers but he said, someone told him that if you take two draft horses and you hook them together, they can pull eight times the weight of one. So it doesn't double the weight that a horse can pull, it actually multiplies it by eight. Or multiplies it by four I guess. Multiplies it by four. And what we do, and you know the school of thought that I was given was that if I can hook two draft horses together and they can pull eight times the weight of one, then I can redline them both and we can pull eight times the weight. 

What I believe God's doing in my heart in conviction and repentance, is what this allows us to do is hook two draft horses together and pull four times the weight, so that at the end of the day, my horses are healthier. We still accomplish more together, but we accomplish it in a healthier way. 

Speaker 11: Go farther. 

Brad: Yeah. We go farther, but we don't have to redline, right? Whereas, if I was trying to do that on my own, I'll never make it. The horse will die. If I feel like I've got to build my empire, then I hook all those horses together and then I burn them all out and they die before we get there, either we might have gotten a little bit farther, but it leaves a mess and a dead horse. And so what I want to be able to do is hook those horses together and say, "We're going to be healthier. We're going to accomplish what God's called us to accomplish in faithfulness, but we don't have to redline all the horses. Does that make sense? My goal is to survive ministry. Not even survive it, but maybe enjoy it. Flourish. That'd be awesome. 

Greg: What denomination are you a part of? 

Speaker 11: What denomination? We're nondenominational

Greg: Non-denom. Yeah. But you're a free church right?

Brad: Oh miles, they don't have any affiliations. They're out in the West. They don't care.

Greg: So I mean like Brad was saying, there's a historical reality to free churches or nondenominational churches, right? In the state church context, think of Germany or something like that, right? Autonomy and independence is a very high value. We're in a different context now right? And we're in the midst of a culture that emphasizes the lone ranger syndrome, so what was so valuable then? We need to rethink and contextualize it for today, but that past deeply influences us. I think we just have to recognize it. It's going to be a struggle to overcome it. But I think this structure helps us to overcome it.