Going Multisite: The Advantages and Challenges of MultiChurch


We're talking about pillar model. Pillar model is one location, one service, the entire church can gather at one time. You could put this up as Nine Marks. This is Nine Marks model of church. Gallery is multiple services in one location, so different rooms, usually through video.

Franchise is different locations with typically video venue, one personality spread out across different locations in a city or even beyond. Federation is typically live preaching, more local contextualization in different locations. I prefer federations in a city, but you could do federations beyond. 

Guys coming in? Sneak in I guess. We get into multi church. Multi church is now you start having those campuses start functioning like churches. These become a cooperative of mostly or potentially independent churches that have chosen to form a cooperative of one church, particularly these are for city reaching. They're oriented towards one location. These are just two different variations of that. Make sense? Good enough?

The question is, or the topic for this one is the opportunities and challenges of multi-church. For me, it starts with why did we think it was necessary to take another look at these multi-site models and say, "Hey, is this a valuable opportunity for the church, or is this just a fad that should die out? Should we let it die or not?" 

We talked a little bit about this in the last session, but maybe if you have a Bible, you can open it up to 1 Corinthians 12, which you know where I'm going once you know the text. I think this is really important for us as we're thinking about the church. We talked in our last session about the idea that one of the driving critiques of multi site is this idea of why not raise up churches once they're able, to send them off into autonomous churches. That's one of the driving, I don't know if it's a critique or just what seems to be an assumption, I think, that if you have a multi site church and you need it to do that to get it up to a particular maturity, why wouldn't you then. It seems like the natural evolution would be to let those churches go, if you love them let them go. 

To me, there's a big assumption built into that and that assumption of autonomy. One of the places that gets me thinking about this is that 1 Corinthians passage. So we go to 12:12, you guys know this verse. I don't know that I have to read it all, so you get the idea that, "Now for just as the body is one and has many members, although members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ, for in one Spirit we are all baptized one body." You guys know this. "The Body does not consist of one member, but many. The foot can't say, 'I'm not a hand, I don't belong here.'"

He goes through this section, which is saying, "Hey, you shouldn't look at yourself and say I have no value," and then he continues ... make sure that door's open for someone's trying to get in there. Okay. 

Essentially he goes through this understanding for the church. We tend to read this, and probably ought to read this as one church that each member has a place. The strength of the whole is determined not by the strength of your preacher, but it's everyone from your preacher to your janitor to the guy that just walked off the street. As we come together as a church, the overall strength and maturity of the church is dependent on everyone in the church. 

I think when we read this, we agree with it. I don't know if practically we believe this all the time. Does that make sense? I think many of us maybe if we are pastors and lead pastors, sometimes we lean into, what really makes this church strong is my preaching or what really makes this strong is my lead team, or what really makes this strong is our vision, but what Jesus says makes us strong is all of the people that he's given us and all of their different. 

He does these amazing things with this. He says, "You shouldn't disparage your own contribution. Don't say as the foot, 'I'm not a hand, so I'm not valuable.'" Then he says, "And the hand can't go and say that the foot's not valuable, so don't disparage other people's contribution." He says, "And on the parts of the body that we think are less honorable, we stow great honor, and on presentable parts, they're treated with great modesty." Even the weakest and those things that we have a tendency in our human nature to hide, those parts of the body we should actually show modesty and honor and understand their contribution. 

This is the picture that he has of how interplay as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. He does this thing in Ephesians where he says, he calls us to unity, Ephesians 4, he's calling us to unity and says just as others, I can take us there. He uses the Trinity, that's his basis for calling the church to unity in Ephesians 4. We went to this verse actually with Jaiman as he called us, this idea of walking in a manner worthy. He uses the Trinity as the argument for why we should be unified as one, but without the loss of the individual gifts that Jesus gives us. 

What is the end goal? Anybody know what the end goal in Ephesians 4 is? What the end goal of the church, the unity is? It's for the maturation of the church, the glorification of God. To know Jesus in his fullness. That the church's maturation and it's knowledge of God is dependent on the whole of the church. It's not dependent on the preacher. It's not dependent on the apostle, it's dependent on all of them. 

The more that everyone thrives, the stronger the church is. Does that make sense? I think of these concepts and I think about this idea of wouldn't it be best if we just let everyone go autonomous. There's dissonance between those two concepts in a way that it seems that God has built the church, at least for me. I feel that dissonance. 

Speaker 3: Isn't autonomy greater maturity?

Brad: Is it? Why would autonomy be greater maturity? Someone asks me what would I prefer? I would say, "I prefer autonomy." Why I prefer autonomy? I don't have to ask permission. I don't have to ...

Speaker 3: Okay. I'm not talking about unhealthy autonomy. Okay. Since you're speaking of unhealthy autonomy. 

Brad: No, but I just think autonomy in general. Autonomy as a concept of saying that the concept of autonomy is that I am not dependent on anyone else. That's autonomy, but God has built a church that says that maturity is interdependence, not autonomy. 

Autonomy, as a high virtue, is an American concept. 

Speaker 3: I think we need a different word.

Brad: Maybe.

Speaker 3: Because I look at some of these models as restricting maturity. If some of the models restrict having your own 501c3 legal status, they restrict financial freedom. If it restricts having a leadership team or elders in a body, to me that's restricting maturity. That would be my concern. I don't know whether the autonomy word fits in on that. 

Brad: Yeah, I think that ...

Speaker 3: ... restricting maturity is a problem.

Brad: Yeah. I would say that some of these models restrict the expression of leadership, but I would argue that when you get to these models, when you get over here where you're saying, "What I want out of a cooperative model is I want a local church that's operating with its own local leadership team, that's working with its own elders, making its own decisions and having responsibility over the majority of its own budget. 

What they're experiencing is, maturity as in our kids' maturity. You got you're own bills to pay, you pay your own way, yeah, that makes sense. Over here, there's a restriction of those opportunities to do that. 

What's required in these models, when you say, "I'm going to by my own choice, decide to partner with other men in other churches in other leadership teams," that requires much more maturity than to just do it my way. Autonomy actually limits maturity in those areas, in the areas of submission and the areas of ... even the stuff that we heard today from Stensiano is this idea of collaboration, what we see in Ephesians 4, it requires patience. It requires humility. It requires long suffering, and my phone won't open up. Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. You guys know this. When we talk about the fruits of the spirit, require someone else to ... how do you express patience unless you have someone who tries your patience. 

Someone once told me, he said, "You can't really ...," it's not that you need other people to live out the fruits of the spirit, you actually need annoying people, because it's not hard to bear with someone who's kind and nice and generous. You actually need some people to try your patience. That's one of the ministries that I try to provide my friends, is opportunities for them to express the spirit.

As someone who's lived in probably all of these models, I believe there is a maturation required here that strengthens the church. I think there are some restrictions here that I think stunt the development and the maturation of the church. 

Speaker 3: Having lived those as you have, I think the autonomy word's just loaded. I think it's just not a good word. 

Brad: Yeah. The reason that I use that, is because right now that's the argument. The argument is why wouldn't we want to move in that direction, call it independence or unaffiliated or disconnected churches. To me, I know why people want that, I don't necessarily think that that's going to reduce stronger, heather churches in the long run. 

Speaker 3: You talked a little bit about in these models [inaudible 00:13:14] the word used, stunts growth or ...

Brad: With these models, for a franchise model, it's like dealing with, this isn't meant to be condescending in any way, but if you imagine these are your children and one of our elders once said, he's like, "Your child will never learn to pour milk if they're not allowed to spill it." If you have a system in which no one can make a mistake because they're always told what to do, they never have any opportunity to actually lead and make mistakes, they're never going to grow. 

These models, especially if you've got a video venue model and you never have an opportunity for someone to preach in front of adults, it's going to be really difficult to develop preachers that you could eventually send out.

Speaker 3: I was a franchise situation, and the lead pastor was afraid that the other campuses might go independent, so he refused to let me get my elders, excuse me, what was I saying, leaders of each of the ministries together. I had to meet individually with each of them. He refused to let me meet with all my leaders in all ...

Brad: They might unionize and then what would you do?

Speaker 3: So that meant I could develop leaders individually, but I couldn't develop them into a team. As an example of ...

Brad: It's an extreme example, but actually not one that's far fetched. A lot of some the reasons that we get into weird models is because there's a lot of extreme fear. 

Speaker 3: What's interesting, both of those look [crosstalk 00:14:55] system-ish.

Brad: These?

Speaker 3: Yeah. In my speaking about the heart of that, the leader at the center of the model, regardless of the heart, the size dynamics of that is any large body had gravitational pull whether they want to exert that pull or not. Try to think of we were planted or I was planted out of a large church and I thought, "I wonder if we go serve the city together," I just started laughing. It's like 1000 people, 50 people, we'll just get lost. It's a good idea, and thank you so much for inviting us, but it's not even meaningful to cooperate together with you because of size differential. How do you navigate those inevitable size dynamics of cooperative relationships?

Brad: I think it depends. If what you want to do is serve the city in a particular way. We have a robust mercy ministry at our downtown campus. At East, we do some mercy stuff, we don't do a ton of it. We're out here in the suburbs. Needs are different, but we definitely have people in this congregation that have those type of gifts. Maybe there's ten of them. There's probably more, but say there's ten of them. Being a part of this type of eco-system, they're able to go and serve at some of those opportunities at Midtown as part of their church, because we're one church and it doesn't matter that they get lost. East doesn't need ... we don't need any recognition for the fact that we sent ten people down there. They're using their gifts for kingdom work within. It's easier for them to do, because we're one church in that sense.

They could do that with other churches and other organizations and we're fine with that as well, but there's less energy barrier, because we're part of one collective. 

Even some of the stuff we talk about today, yeah, it takes humility to collaborate and even be able to go, "Hey we're just going to add a little bit to this big event that's happening, but that's okay," unless we're stuck on the, "Hey we want this to be our thing." If we're okay that it's not ours, then it becomes a lot easier. Make sense?

When I think about, I think this is important, we talk about multi site and again, you're going to see me advocate probably if I'm, I don't know what happened to my pens. Stick them somewhere? I'm probably advocating in this world. I don't advocate much ... we can talk about gallery as someone's getting started, but I'm more advocating in kind of those worlds. It's important to understand some of the myths when we talk about opportunities for this. I have yet to find a model that's financially more beneficial than being independent. Lots of people move towards multi-site because I think there's all these economies of scale that are going to make it easier and better and more financially viable. That's not true.

I have an engineering degree. I'm very good at statistics. I'm pretty good with spreadsheets. I have yet to find one that says you're going to save a ton of money by going this route. Most cases, it costs more. It's pretty easy, simple to figure it out. If you've got one mortgage vs. two mortgages, right, or two leases vs. one lease, all of a sudden it really gets hard to find economies of scale. There are some and the bigger you get the more there are, but it's not worth doing multi-site or multi-church for economies. 

Speaker 4: Do you have any data or just experience to apply what you just said, specifically to the launch of new campuses? I have seen some churches where they almost circle a particular neighborhood. They rent the space, they send in great musicians. The first day that they have a service or a missional objective, it's fully staffed, fully funded, the best of everything and they almost completely sail past, at least as far as certain things, what other churches in the neighborhood ...

Brad: First you got to find out if they got oil money. The Koch Brothers behind this? I don't know what's going on. What you have from an economic standpoint is you have leverage. We've got four churches and five buildings. That gives us leverage with the bank. If I want to take a loan out to start a new work, we have leverage. It's not any cheaper for us to go to another site, but we do have leverage because of the size. I could go out and get a loan whereas if I was a church of 300 and I wanted to get a loan to purchase or to put a lease on a building, I would have much more difficulty than if I had a collection of five churches of 300 and then now we have some capital that we can leverage.

When I say economies of scale, I mean, if we had one church with a big building vs. two separate churches with smaller buildings, it's rarely going to be cheaper. You might maybe get lucky with a gifted building or you live in a town that leases are really cheap and maybe you can find some economies, but the reality is that complexity is always more expensive than simplicity. As soon as you go to multiple services, multiple staff, you end up ... it ends up in a wash. 

I only say that because I don't want you coming in here and saying, "The reason we're going to go to multi sites is because we're going to save all this money, we'll be able to put it towards ministry." I've yet to find that unicorn and when I do, we'll have a good barbecue.

What's that?

Speaker 4: It seems like another form of 10,000 is going to cost a lot more than ...

Brad: Maybe building it. But, if you were to say, "I could build an auditorium of 10,000, or I could have ten buildings of 1000." You have to buy the property and you have to build 10,000 room auditoriums or rent them or lease them. At the end of the day, you're just not finding those economies. The models are generally like, "Oh it's going to be cheaper," and then when you look at here, you don't know what these numbers are if you just came in, but in these models, 66% of every dollar went to central to make that thing function. That means locally you got to keep 33 cents of every dollar that was given at a local campus to do ministry with, pay your staff and do ministry. That's not a very good economy. Does that make sense?

Speaker 4: Probably your per capita giving is less with a franchise.

Brad: Usually it is, but ...

Speaker 4: Usually that's true.

Brad: Usually it is. 

Speaker 4: You know the reason why.

Brad: The point of that is, "Hey that's not why ...," I wouldn't encourage you to do multi site.

Speaker 4: It's like when two people ...

Brad: It's cheaper ...

Speaker 4: ... live together it's cheaper to live together than ...

Brad: I won't use that because we're the Southern Baptist Church. I can't use that example. 

Why do we do it. One is this passage from 1 Corinthians, Ephesians 4, this idea that we do believe that God has built us in such a way that when we work interdependent, that we're able to not only do more together, but we're able to do it in a more healthy way. 

The guys over here heard this analogy and so I'll just use it again for the guys that are new, is that I was interviewing with a guy the other day and he said that he was told that when you take draught horses and you add one draught horse to another draught horse, you increase its ability to pull by four times. 

One horse can pull 100 pounds, you put two together, they can pull 800 pounds together. It's a really cool analogy, but because we are so achievement driven in our typical context, we think, "Well shoot, let's redline both horses and now we can do amazing work." To me, the goal, when I hear that, what excites me is that we could accomplish twice as much of what we could've accomplished alone and we can do it in a way that our horses survive. We could have healthy horses. That to me is the goal of multi church. It's not to redline them so we can build this great empire and everyone can talk about how great we are. 

To me it's that I want to be able to have pastors and staff that 20 years from now are glad they were a part of this church, that they were actually able to accomplish more because they were healthier and we were able to advance the kingdom more than we could've alone, but we did in such a way that we didn't have to burn everybody out and we don't have people blogging about how much they hate our church, because I worked there, it's horrible inside. I don't want that story. Does that make sense?

If I can latch two together, I don't have to pull eight times, I can just pull four times. We get the advantage of both. We accomplish more, but we accomplish it healthier. For me, you've got this opportunity, one, to live out Ephesians 4, this unity, this strength that comes from that, you got an opportunity to collaborate like we talked about in the main session, to genuinely have to ... get the opportunity to walk in humility and collaborate with other people and actually acknowledge that my ideas are not always the best ideas. When I actually put multiple leaders in a room, we may actually, the spirit may move in a way that's not necessarily going to move if I just sit down with a piece of paper and try to solve the world's problems. 

You have unity, collaboration, and one of the things we talk about in the book was really a driving force for Greg and I, was one of the movements that we've seen in the church planting strategy is this idea, and some great concepts from these books and I'm not ripping them down despite what's being recorded, concepts like simple church. What's the concept of simple church?

Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:25:59]

Brad: Find the one thing you can do that's great, do that great thing and the mediocre things, what do you do?

Speaker 4: Don't do them.

Brad: Don't do them. Let somebody else do them. That's great, right? That's beautiful business principle. You want to make some money and create business principle. Problem is, is that we have a Bible that calls us to what it means to be the church. 

We don't get to just be driven by our desires. We actually have some obligations as the church and what the church is supposed to be and supposed to do in the world and for our people. We have some constraints on what we can do. What happens with those ideas, like the hedgehog principle or this simple church principle, is that we begin to reduce the church to those things that we're good at and we begin to neglect the things that we're not.

Who decides what we're good at? Who decides?

Speaker 4: The people [inaudible 00:26:57]

Brad: Is that what really happens? All the people vote? We all think we're good at this. What would happen if you let everybody vote? It's a curious concept. We see in 1 Corinthians. What would we find if we polled our people what we're good at? 

They're all good at different things. Why? Because God made it that ... he's like, "I'm giving you a diversity of people with diverse gifts because that'll make you stronger." But, they don't usually decide. Who decides is the lead pastor. What the lead pastor's good at what the lead pastor's ... or the leadership team. What they're passionate about, what they're good at. 

What happens if you say, "I'm going to do simple church, I'm just going to do what we're good at," what you've not only done is, you've not only zeroed in on what you're particularly good at, you've also neglected what other people in your congregation are good at. 

There's a trade off when you do that. There are people in your church that no longer get you use their gifts, because they don't have the same gifts as you. Make sense? We call that ecclesiological reductionism, because I work with Greg and he likes big words. You get the idea. We start reducing the church to things that are manageable for us. The problem with the manageable church is that you don't need the Holy Spirit. 

Something interesting about the way God designs a church, the expectations on the church and the way he designs it, that it requires a dependence not only on one another, but it requires dependence on the Holy Spirit.

We can build a church that doesn't need either one of those things. I don't know that that's what God's called us to do. I don't believe that that's what God's called us to do. What I'm seeing right now, is churches neglecting their responsibilities. Example. We won't use the name because we're just trying to be nice, but I worked for a really large church, one of the largest churches in America and one of the fastest growing churches in America.

You know what it didn't do? It didn't do international missions. Maybe near the end it started thinking about it. I was there for 13 years. Missionaries coming, "Hey, we would like to go out in the mission field." "We don't really do that. You have to go somewhere else to do that. We don't have any money for international missions, that's not what we do." 

We didn't do international missions. We didn't do mercy for the most part. We had said, "Well, that's not what we're good at. We'll let somebody else do that." That just let us off the hook. We didn't give to that, we didn't put money to that. We didn't empower people that were gifted in that way. 

I see that, not just at that church, I see that in churches all across America right now. Maybe they're neglecting international missions. Maybe they're neglecting evangelism. Maybe they're neglecting community. Seeing this a lot in large churches these days, where they're saying, "You know what? I don't know if you noticed, but developing community's really hard. It's really hard." 

Churches are now saying, "You know what? I don't know if it really affects our bottom line if we develop community or not. We're just going to stop doing it. They still show up on Sunday and their checks still clear, so we'll stop developing community." I don't think that's a long term investment. I think that's a short sighted way of looking at developing the church. 

One of the things that we're trying to do with these models is say, "Hey there's a reality to the fact that as a lead pastor and a leadership team, you have certain strengths and certain weaknesses, and your church is going to reflect that. Most people, that's a common adage within church planting world. Your church is going to reflect your strengths and weaknesses. How beautiful is it though, that if you build a system in which it's not just one person's strengths and weaknesses that are reflected in the church, but now you have multiple leaders and leadership teams and elders teams that have different passions and different giftings in which, instead of those being neglected, now those begin to synergize with one another. Does that make sense?

We're not trying to have one person or one leadership team say this is what we're going to do, say this church does some ... they're really good at international missions. They're a really good sending church. They're great at leadership development. This church is really good at counseling in care. They start a counseling center. This church is killing it in evangelism and community, and now we can learn from each other, grow from each other, and when we think about our church, we can start to see those gifts effect on another more than they would if we were just independent churches, because we wouldn't collaborate at the same level. 

That's the vision of combating that idea of reductionism. I don't think I'm going to be able to make everything happen, like say, this local congregation, this is Sojourn East, are we going to be able to do everything that the Scripture has called us to do as a church. I don't think we're going to get there. 

Do I think I can begin to see that develop in Louisville as a whole with multiple churches linking arms together. I actually think we can start to chip away at that vision of what the church could be, so that all of these churches are influencing one another. They're all growing in those things, but they don't have to feel like, "I've got to make everything happen here."

In a federation model even, what tends to happen is say, this is what it means to be our church. We do music, community, counseling, women's ministry, men's ministry, children's ministry, these are the things we do and every one of these expressions has to look the same. We have to do those in every one of those expressions. That's what Sojourner was trying to do when I got here.

Who do you think that frustrates? 

Speaker 4: The lead pastors end up [inaudible 00:32:50]

Brad: The lead pastors because they feel like what? They're always failing, and how about the people in those ministries? Always failing. Some of it's because some of them are small. Some of them are big. They don't all have the same resources. They don't have all the same talents. 

But, if all of a sudden we say, "Hey we don't have to do that at every one of these, what if we just made sure that all of those were happening across all of what we do. Some of them are going to be duplicated because we have some overlap, but what if what we were trying to do is say holistically we want to make sure ... we care about those things.

There are some things that every church does, but there's some things we just try to make sure we're developing across all. To me, being able to combat that reductionism for what the witness of this church will be in Louisville, is a big deal. 

Speaker 5: I wish I had ten minutes to talk, because I'm trying to not screw up my question. It's kind of a multi-part so, try to show a little bit of patience.

Brad: Long suffering. Here we go. 

Speaker 5: I'll try. I'll be that ... the last session, you talked about the federation model that one of the ideas that you guys were thinking you were accomplishing, but failing actually at, was we can bring in these really high [crosstalk 00:34:11] and then we can offer that to these churches and that's a good thing, but in fact, they don't need them or want them ...

Brad: They wanted them but they didn't have the resources to take advantage, yeah.

Speaker 5: ... in fact, you are hurting them without meaning to and certainly here, this is the first part, how that's not the same thing in the cooperative idea, and then second, how what you just described is not letting the right-handed church, right sided church off the hook, because they're not really good at sending people out in international missions, but the pop church is and so we don't worry that the right side church is not growing up ...

Brad: What I'm saying is that as one church, you have the opportunity for those to be influencers, so they're influencing us more and we're going to let those churches grow, but we're not going to expect every church to hit maturity at the same time. 

We may have this picture of a holistic church doing these things, but I'm not going to expect this church that has 300 people to be there, because you just can't. You just don't have enough resources to make it happen. 

One, they can learn from the fact that we are doing this as a church, maybe at a different congregation, and they can learn and be influenced and be challenged to, as they have the opportunity, grow and do it, but you let a kid be a kid. If you've got a two year old church, let it be a two year old church. Don't expect it to do everything that a 20 year old church can do, but there's something that we can celebrate by the fact we are doing that within the whole. 

The first question you asked, how is this different? Well, one, these churches aren't paying for those experts anymore. Here, they're paying for it. They're actually paying for salaries at a central location for those people. They're not doing that anymore, once you get to this side.

Speaker 5: Do a follow up then?

Brad: Sure. One more.

Speaker 5: Do you guys have a mechanism in place to help prevent inadvertent draining. Again. We're on the right side church. They're not really good at sending missions, but I have a heart for missions. I'm in that church and the other church is doing it really good. At some point, I find myself just wanting to go be part of that, because they're better at what my heart is, and I end up ... how do you guys work towards guarding brain drain of various things, specialized churches, and you're right back to square one.

Brad: That happens. From a mercy standpoint, we've had people from this congregation go to the downtown congregation because there's more happening on the mercy side of things. It happens. But what we do try to do is, you might tier it. Which are the ones that we would like to do that the least. International missions, we want all of our churches being sending. We've developed some staff, some non staff at each of the churches to own that piece for the local church, because our vision for international missions ... we had a centralized international missions program, but even when it was centralized, the idea was, we need local ownership of local churches. We want missionaries sponsored by local churches, we want them invested in those folks. That's part of that holistic vision for what that looks like so we're developing that at each local church. 

Some of our churches are much farther down the road. They've got many more missionaries in the field. Other churches have a few, but they all have someone who's responsible for developing that at their local church. As we decentralize that, that's part of the drive there.

There still may be some things that we still feel like, centrally, we get some economies, like trip management, like someone who's really good at putting all those mission trips and coordinating missionary care. We might do that centrally, but we're going to try not to have a missionary agency within the center.

Speaker 5: You talked a little bit about what in the coop, the structure's going to look like centrally and not to confuse having more of a federation, but there's got to be some sort of structure. You have leadership interdependent to other churches. What's it going to look like?

Brad: Two different types of structures with a coop, the idea is you got a coop, someone's leading the coop, not the only way to do it, but for the coop model, we had executive team and a leadership council, leadership council overseeing governance, executive team overseeing management of the central operations and the church as a whole. 

Depending on how you do it for us is representation. You have members of each of the lead pastors run leadership council and some non-staff as well as the executive team functioned on that. The idea is you can't separate governance and management and you have representation so that each of the congregations feel like they have some ownership in the decisions that are being made. 

The executive team would oversee all of the central staff to provide services for each of the local churches. As you move more down the scale to the collective, you have less control, you're trying to provide less control centrally. At that point, there's less of an executive team, there's probably more of someone who's overseeing the central staff, the central services that are providing that, but giving less direction to the whole. The direction to the whole is done more as a team of the lead pastors and maybe that director leading the direction and vision of where it's going and then a board of directors that's overseeing the governance, policies and procedures, but only those policies and procedures that are important for the solvency of the organization as a whole. 

They're not saying, "Here's what you do in children's ministry. Here's what you're going to teach or here's how many crackers you're going to give out," but they may say, "Hey any one of these churches is going to do background checks for kids' ministry, because you screw that up, we're all going down."

Things like that would be handled at a board level. 

Speaker 5: Does each local congregation have its own elders?

Brad: Yes. In this model. Yes. Once you're at a multi-church model, each local church has its own leadership team for management and then elders for the governance and care of the church. 

Speaker 5: The assumption that as the leadership separates, so the budgets are kept separate?

Brad: The way that it ... we talked about this in the first one, but it's helpful here is that in these models, generally what happens is the budget is managed centrally. When you get here, what happens is that there is a cost to the central functions and my budget locally is I pay for that cost and that's all I have to pay for. 

That's a set percentage. I think the best way to do that is a set percentage and then I ...

Speaker 5: Despite the size of the other churches?

Brad: Yeah. Regardless of the size it's a set percentage, so everyone's paying the same percentage, and then they manage their own budget locally. There may be some policies in which we say, "Hey here's some guidelines on how you do compensation so that we don't get in trouble down the line, but for the most part, you get to hire your own staff, you get to decide how much money goes to ministry, how much money goes to flat screen TVs, that's your call, it's your church." 

The beauty of this is, you have a bad year, it's up to somebody to figure out how we're going to cover it, which is how it always worked. The challenge here is that if you don't make your local budget, you're firing someone from your staff. There's not a lot of room. 

Here there's a lot of room. We can juggle a lot of things. Here it's, you had a budget. You had to stay within your budget. You don't make your budget, you have to make cuts to make it happen.

Speaker 6: Other examples. I can see how things on this side of the line, the transition to that side of the line, are there examples of where those things have emerged with a founder. The founder changes things in terms of the vision and the implementation of now all of a sudden the circles aren't equal in terms of their ...

Brad: You're saying the founder being at a particular location?

Speaker 6: Either the founder ... I'm trying to picture it. I'm not saying it's bad or good, I'm just trying to figure out how in reality, they all look very well balanced and concentric, and they all are rotating in ... but the reality is that ...

Brad: Some of these are bigger, some of them are smaller. 

Speaker 6: But even when it involves a founder in one of those circles, now things aren't. Even the intellectual, the spiritual capital that brought this to fruition, do you stick the founder in the circle and let him balance in [inaudible 00:43:59] space or is he on one of the planets [crosstalk 00:44:04] just in the real world, how does this actually work?

Brad: I think it can work in a lot of different ways, but sometimes that founder sits here and is working towards expansion and vision and resourcing of each of the local churches. He may be at a local church, maybe a preacher at one of the local churches, or he may be preaching at all the churches in a rotational piece. 

I don't think there's, in all of this it's a spectrum, I don't think there's one way to do that. The challenge is, is what often happens with founders is that if I'm at this church, that's the preferred church and that's the church that gets all the resources. If the founder doesn't believe in this system, what does it take? Ephesians 4. It takes humility, patience, long suffering. It takes humility to say, "Even though I'm the one that founded this, I'm not going to demand that I get special treatment." That's very difficult to do.

There are plenty of pastors out there that have been able to do that. When they're able to do that, these things function really well. If what's happening is that all the resources are going to one location, that throws the system in balance, causes lots of frustration, makes it very difficult for central staff because they're being told to serve everybody equally, but they have someone who's saying, "But I am special and I'm going to walk into your office and my name's on the door, so make it happen for me."

You do have to ... I don't think the system works without humility. I don't think it works without humility in lead pastor, I don't think it works without humility in the elders. I don't think I works without humility in the staff. That is one of the, I think it's one of the beautiful principles that make me want to do it because why would I want to be a part of a church that wasn't driven with humility in the leadership. It's also one of the challenges that makes it really difficult, one, to get to, and then the sustained, to say, "We have to constantly grow and mature in order for this to survive." I think I'd rather have that struggle all along and make us better leaders than for that to work and we don't ever have to grow. 

Speaker 7: Kind of follow up on that, because with the coop, as Sojourn pushed toward coop and Daniel, if I'm right, was going to go into the middle, he found himself no longer ... I know that's reductionism in itself, but then Veritas with McKnight, same kind of thing happened, but then Redemption Arizona, who's a a great case study on this being successful, they brought in a non-founding guy to hold the middle and seems to be doing great. Is there other churches than those three than you guys and Veritas and Redemption that we can look at and say, "Here's a case study of a founder in the middle, working wonderfully. Here's a case study of a non-founder in the middle, but a founder still had a campus?"

Brad: Yeah, one I would say that in both of those cases, I don't think any of the three of those cases that the model drove anything to do with whether the founder was there or not. Redemption it was essentially retirement succession plan that drove that. That's a really long story of how Johnson got there, but with Sojourn and with Veritas, I don't think these models effected any of those transitions. 

Those transitions were issues that were being worked out, I think, separate. What I'm seeing founders who are looking out into the future and saying, "We've built this over here," and how do you hand that off. You build a franchise, you build eight churches. I'm talking with a church that's up in Detroit right now, can't remember how many churches they have, 12 or something like that, and he's like, "I'm going to retire." Where do you go find a guy that can lead 12 churches. Those guys don't grow on trees. You get the advantage of growing with it maybe when you're the founder, but that's not going to work, so what's happening is I've seen more and more guys earlier and earlier saying, "I founded this thing, but I'm realizing it's not going to work unless I move to something like this."

Right now I think that's what Brandon Shields is working through right now. He's a founder, founded it, he's working through that right now. I'm going to end up in this ... he's early in that saying, "If I don't get to something like this, I'm going end up in that place where we're going to have to use dynamite to fix it." 

That's why when we explore the future of multi site, I think that's the future that's going to allow us to do these things.

Speaker 7: [crosstalk 00:49:37] franchise model requires certain personalities gifting out there. Typically, you're going to have to replace all those campus pastors with leaders who can lead enterprise and you can't just do that.

Brad: Yeah, although what I would say what's happening right now is that most franchise churches are hiring guys that have that capacity and then sucking the life out of them by keeping them in that model. If they haven't lost the first generation, they might be able to do it, but if they've lost the first generation, then you might have to say, "Hey who could actually do this, it's much different to push play than it is to lead and preach." Sometimes you can develop those guys out of that group.

Speaker 7: Speaking of succession, your design, who is the decision maker for a new pastor interesting the coop and collective model. 

Brad: What happens is you want to plant a new ... you're talking at an existing location?

Speaker 7: Existing location, have to go somewhere, who decides the new ....

Brad: We've been in that conversation. How does this work? You got to assume that either ... the same question applies to adding someone to it, because you have a team that there's a team dynamic and there's an impact on the whole if you add someone new. The way that we've looked at it is that the first owner, if you will, or maybe if you're doing RACY, responsible, RA is accountable, C is consultant, the R is going to be the local elders. They're responsible, we want them to make the choice, but there's a loop in which feedback from the other lead pastors and the board of directors are able to speak into that. 

The idea is, "Hey if you're going to bring in someone that no one likes, that's going to make this thing hard to sustain. Give us three candidates. Let us meet them and let us say, "Hey, all three of them could work," or let us say, maybe these two would probably work for us, can you pick between these two, but there's got to be that extra feedback loop. It's a little bit harder. 

The ultimate decision maker, you want to be local church elders. One of the challenges, some of the things that we were going to talk about, one of the challenges of multi site for me, that I thinks really important to understand why you would maybe go to one of these models, is that multi site allows you to inject steroids into church growth. What it does is, you go, "Man we're running up into ... what we're doing's pretty good, people are coming, we're starting to run out of space." I just start another campus. I can double this thing if I can start two more campuses. I can go really fast.

The problem with that is that what generally happens is if you're a church planter, you know this, you start with 20 people in your home. You don't know anything. You know the Gospel and you're doing a little bit to help them, but as that group grows, you learn how to counsel people who are struggling in marriage. You learn how to deal with people who lose their job. You start learning how to do these things and by God's grace, you grow with the congregation. 

What happens in multi site is that I can instantly grow or almost instantly grow from 200 to 400 to 600 and I didn't get to grow with the congregations. What ends up happening is that lead pastors often find themselves, their churches have outgrown their leadership and that's where I think I see a lot of multi site churches. It gets unstable and then you end up with significant problems. Some of those churches don't survive or they have to do some major remodels. 

That's why some of these, why I don't recommend them, is because I think they're dangerous. I think they're dangerous for your soul, I think they're dangerous for your peoples' souls. 

In these models, you're not trying to just start something new, throw a worship leader and a guy who can press play at it, you're allowing those churches to grow and allowing those lead pastors and the elders to grow with those congregations. You may get bigger and you may reach more people, but you're not doing it at that pace. This takes a lot more time, because it takes patience and humility and collaboration and working together. It's not going to be as fast as the multi site, franchising works, but I think that's to the benefit of leaders in the model.

Speaker 8: [inaudible 00:54:28] you say that's money going into central?

Brad: Yeah.

Speaker 8: What if you have, we're looking at doing a daughter plan, different city, and what we said is it's going to be the same name, 501c3 and all that stuff, but two different budgets. Nothing coming into any centralized thing. It's just two groups giving to two different budgets. Is that unhealthy or ...

Brad: I guess if you're in two different cities and you have no overlap of budget, I'm trying to think of what the benefit of being one 501c3, because what I hear is, I hear risk in that. We're one organization but we don't have any authority over what happens there, so I'd be concerned about that.

Speaker 8: We're sharing pastoral leadership team. 

Brad: Okay. 

Speaker 8: So leadership wise ...

Brad: You're just assuming that the percentages work out?

Speaker 8: ... I'm coming into central, we didn't structure that way as far as them giving back anything to a centralized pot is what I'm saying.

Brad: Who pays for the leadership team? Is that leadership team on salary, or staffed ...

Speaker 8: Right now it's one guy who's part of a larger pastoral team. Most of the pastors are at the mother church, but the new church planter is still on that pastoral team, but he's leading the charge with the ...

Brad: I think when you start that, there's a lot of ways we start things that are pretty simple and easy, that become more complicated once you start adding staff and you start going, "Okay, who's overseeing the payroll at both locations," because the argument at one church was like, "Why don't we just have our own person doing payroll or doing finances and payroll." If you've ever been part of a business or a large organization, if every individual's doing that, then you have to hire another individual to make sure everyone's doing it right, and you coordinate that because you're one organization. You're one 501c3, you do taxes for one organization.

Speaker 8: ... one payroll involved, but what I'm saying is there's no percentage back or ...

Brad: So who's paying for the ...

Speaker 8: Mother.

Brad: So the mother church is paying for everything.

Speaker 8: The payroll. 

Brad: So this is just like my kids. They're like, "Hey I want to go buy this stuff." "Where do you get the money?" "You're giving it to me Dad." I think that at some point you're going to get to the place where who's paying for that. If the mother church is doing great and they've got all these funds and they don't mind, but I will tell you this, that at some point, someone at the mother church is going to say, "Why aren't they paying their fair share?" 

They're going to go, "I want to hire a youth guy, and I can't because we're paying for two bookkeepers because the second church isn't paying for that. At some point, you're going to have to work that stuff out. To me, it's fine for the first, the first work is always an overflow room. It's minimum, get it started, that's fine.

Speaker 8: You're talking about longevity and ...

Brad: As it grows, then you want to have a system in which everyone feels like there's at least equity. Everyone's paying their fair share. What I look at is, first three years of one of those plants, they're not going to be able to pay their fair share, but at some point, we have a model in which we expect self sufficiency, unless we've got to work, we're just like, "Hey we know that particular part of town will never get there and so it's a missional work that's worth putting money into." From an ecosystem standpoint, if you have multiple churches, four churches, you're going to want at some point, we understand where the money's coming from, how things are getting paid and everybody's contributing.

Speaker 8: Would you consider that a federation though if they're not, if it's two separate budgets and the new daughter church is paying for their own budget, is that a federation or are we using federation still where there's a percentage back ...

Brad: A lot of it depends on who has say over what happens. Who has authority structures. These are typical ... the authority when you get a mature federation or a mature franchise, high control costs money and so it usually costs that amount as a ballpark number. 

Speaker 9: So the network clearly, we're here, I'm from Norfolk Virginia, so there's very wide reach, in so many cities and places. I think I heard you said last session that the coop and the collective are typically in a local context ...

Brad: My preference is, is do it for city reaching, because I don't think you're going ... if you say, "Well Brad told me to do collective over a tri-state area, one, I don't think it's going to work and I don't want to be blamed for it.

Speaker 9: I would maybe talk afterwards, but I'd like to hear what your vision for that would look like in the coop and collective language, but is it going to come to a point, like I heard brother over here say, is it Redemption Arizona and Veritas, I've never heard of those places and I'm doing research myself on these kind of things. Does there eventually need to be a network of coops and collectives that are helping each other learn from each other about these kind of things. I'm just still ignorant and in my infant state in this process of learning. 

Brad: I think that's going to happen within this network, there's more and more churches that are moving to that, so there's going to be a group of guys that are like, "Yeah, we're all working on that together." I don't know that I would have want a separate one because I like the diversity of what we have. We have different types of churches here and stuff. 

One of the things that I'm seeing ... one of the examples that you brought up was Redemption. What Redemption was, was they were a traditional church, I'll get the numbers on how long, maybe 25 years old, hadn't really planted any churches, was just a typical mega church that was growing in the suburbs of Phoenix. They then got the conviction of, "Hey we need to actually start planting churches."

They have a complicated history, but in a simplistic sense, they started planting a few churches and then they ended up partnering with another church and started thinking about this multi site concept. What happened is as they started doing a multi site, which is more on this side, so it was a multi church model, the churches that they sent out came calling and saying, "Hey is there any way we could ... you planted us as autonomous churches, is there any way that we could actually get back into the collective?" They didn't use that language, but that's the language that I would use.

So they said yes, and what they ended up doing is growing a collective really fast, because what they were doing is not just planting new ones, they reconstituted the churches that they had planted out because those churches realized that there was an advantage and a benefit for them being a part of Redemption rather than being their own individual independent church.

I think that's going to happen more and more, and I think should happen more and more, where smaller churches that are doing okay in a particular city, but actually could come together and form one organization and end up getting that support and do more together, do better together, hitch those draught horses and be more sustainable. I think that's more ... it's not only more sustainable, there's a stability that comes from that. We have a bad year, we can weather that a little bit more. 

My hope is that this maybe inspire some churches that are out there, independent, struggling to make it work and then being able to go, "Gosh, what if we did this and now we're combining super powers." That's the intent. Are we run out of time? We'll wait till they come and grab us.

Some of the challenges, just to be real with it, is that it sounds beautiful to require maturity of your leadership, but here's something I learned about lead pastors. Lead pastors are artists, they're not accountants. I don't know if you've ever tried to wrangle artists, but artists are not the easiest to manage. They're creative, so you have to manage creative differently than you would manage accountants and engineers.

That's tough. It's hard. It's work that you have to do to manage the emotional energy of the organization to make sure that people fell empowered and have opportunities to speak, and yet you're still trying to maintain one vision. When I think of the same things that excite me about multi church, it requires maturity, it requires humility, are also the things that are most challenging and threatening to the organization.

You really have to know that going in, it's like, "Hey if we're going to do this, we have to know what we're signing up for. Some of those models are actually probably easier than doing this. I've never really been one to go for easy models anyway, so if you've read my community stuff. 

The other one of the issues when you have a centralized ministries or these may just be operations so, maybe it's finance, payroll, HR, technology facilities, that kind of stuff, communications. If I'm working with my accountant or communications director in my local church and I did their wedding and I did their counseling and they screw up, I'm pretty flexible, and more apt to say, "Hey it's all right, we'll figure it out." I'm very gracious and patient. 

If I outsource and someone makes a mistake, if you ever had to call Comcast or Spectrum or your cable company, we tend to lose graciousness when we don't know the person personally. That make sense? What happens in here is despite the fact that most of these people actually attend the church, it's your church members, the relationships here tend to act more like outsourcing. There ends up being less grace, less patience sometimes with that stuff. It's a reality that you're either going to have to deal with cultural heat and actually really work on it, or just make sure no one ever makes a mistake.

Speaker 10: Am I allowed to ask?

Brad: Yes. You're back in.

Speaker 10: If it's inappropriate just [inaudible 01:05:40].

Brad: What kind of question you going to ask over there?

Speaker 10: ... things that come to my mind. Federation, because what Sojourn was, it's now a cooperative.

Brad: Yeah, it's kind of in this boat. You can come in if you want.

Speaker 10: So you get, everyone was tossing in 40%, now they're down to how much a year?

Brad: Right now we're averaging about 25 and we're on our way to 15 by the next budget year. 17, sorry, 17.

Speaker 10: Did you guys have to face the uncomfortable reality that there was going to be reduction in staff because, or did you just shift from that mother church or whatever you call it, did you just shift some of those bodies into ... 

Brad: We did make some significant shifts in staff and those were usually at the top of the organization, not the bottom. We brought in experts from around the country to do some amazing work. We had to say we can't do ... if they can't be afforded at the local level, then they're probably not going to be able ...

Speaker 10: So you did have to make some of those ...

Brad: Yeah. These models, I use a story in the book, when I was a kid, my dad worked for the state of Michigan and he had graduated, got the job, stayed working for the state of Michigan for the rest of his career. He managed budgets for all the airports in Michigan and worked for the aeronautics department. One day, my dad never worked on weekends, except for one time I remember he's like, "I've got to go to this meeting about this project."

I'm like, "What is it." He's like, "Oh I really don't want to go, I don't want to do the project." I was 17 or something, and I'm like, "Well if you don't want to do the project, why would you do that? That's stupid," and he's like, "Well, if I don't spend the money this year, then I'll get less money in my budget next year, so we have to do this project so that we can retain our budget." 

Use it or lose it, so I learned a lot about politics and the economy. That happens in the church all the time. This, if I don't spend my budget, then it will be taken away from me. If I don't grow my ministry, then I'll be seen as unsuccessful and so there's this pressure to grow, spend more money and build things that I think sometimes are unnecessary. It's very easy, I think, all the way up to a federation model, to have over bloated budgets, not because people are bad or evil, there's a momentum that takes you down that road, yeah freakonomics kind of stuff. 

Some of that we're able to clean up, that allowed us to do that. Some of that was staff roll offs. We took a couple staff that were really high quality staff and said, "We're going to roll this off to its own 501c3, because you'll actually probably get more money and be able to do more ministry outside of our church because with these changes, we just don't have the funds for it anymore. We actually started two non-profits, one was a non-profit that is now a for-profit, but we started a couple of those that are doing great ministry, but we just had to say, we can't afford to have these high level leaders because we're trying to get the money back to the local church. So some of that was able to do that, some of that was cleaning up budgets, some of that was letting people go.