Category Archives: Church planting

10 Hidden Secrets of Multisite Churches

if-youre-afraid-of-multi-site-church-this-is-the-book-for-you0When we started down the multisite road at Seacoast Church 15 years ago we had no idea what we were doing. There were no books on multisite and very few models to learn from. Today there are over 8000 multisite churches across the country, dozens of multisite consultants and several books specifically written for churches considering becoming one church in multiple locations. Even with all of the available information, however, there are some hidden multisite secrets almost no on talks about. Here are my top ten:

  1. Boring in-person preaching is lethally boring on video

    I have been told video teaching won’t work in the the Northeast, the Northwest, the West Coast, in England, in Europe and in India. Although I’ve seen successful video teaching examples in each of these contexts what I’ve come to realize is that bad video teaching doesn’t work anywhere. When a church tells me video teaching won’t work in their context I often suspect the problem isn’t the video.

  2. Multisite won’t make a stagnant church grow

    Many years ago Larry Osborne said, “Multisite isn’t an engine for growth, it is a response to growth.” A church that isn’t experiencing numerical growth almost never  begins growing by launching a second campus. After the excitement settles down the church will be the same size it was before, but its expenses will be much higher.

  3. Great preaching and great worship grow a campus

    No matter what model you pick nothing grows a campus like great preaching and great music. Most campuses that struggle to grow are lacking in one or both of these areas. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, its just a thing.

  4. IMAG and video teaching are two completely different things

    Sometimes church will add IMAG (Big screens in the auditorium to project video of what is going on on the stage) to “prepare the congregation for video teaching.” This is similar to buying a puppy to get ready to have a baby. Its just not the same.

  5. Convincing people to leave a comfortable building to attend at a rundown middle school is really hard

    People don’t want to go to church in a school, theater or community center. They like a permanent building they don’t have to set up and tear down. It is a mistake to underestimate how hard it will be to convince people to switch from a worship center to a cafetorium.

  6. Ministries on a large campus are different than ministries on a small campus

    It is very different to do children’s ministry for 500 kids than for 50 or 5. Not everything that a larger church does scales well to a smaller context, so many ministries have to rethink their “non-negotiables”.

  7. A campus pastor has two jobs; develop leaders and energize volunteers

    A campus pastor who can develop leaders and energize volunteers will grow a healthy campus; anything else a campus pastor focuses on is a distraction. If he can’t develop  leaders and energize volunteers morale at his campus will suffer and he’ll constantly look to the mothership to bail him out.

  8. Half of the people who help start a new campus eventually go back

    People who are fired up about starting something new, reaching a new part of a city or following a new leader get tired of setting up and tearing down. They miss their friends at the original campus. Their kids miss the shiny classrooms and great teachers. Campus pastors need to know that many of these pioneers will eventually migrate back, and that’s ok. The goal is to have enough new people from the community to more than make up the difference.

  9. Adding new campuses is hardest on children’s ministry

    The most volunteer intensive ministry is always children’s ministry, and adding a new campus always means losing some of their best leaders. The children’s minister at the new campus has to instantly replicate what took years, even decades, to develop at the original site. Children’s ministry needs lots of TLC when new campuses are launched.

  10. Multisite impacts everything

    Unlike other ministries multisite impacts everything a church does. Every budget decision and every ministry initiative is now viewed through the lens of how it impacts every campus. Multisite is always complicated.

I still am a strong believer in multisite as a means of multiplication in the Kingdom. I have seen the incredible synergy of one church in many locations, and in the right circumstances I have seen the explosive growth that follows. It is important, however, to go in with your eyes wide-open to the hidden challenges.



Three keys to a healthy volunteer culture

iStock_000017831326Large-1024x768As I shared yesterday, the number one question my wife and I hear from  church leaders all over the world is, “How can we find enough volunteers?” The primary reason most church struggle attracting enough volunteers is they recruit to need. A good appeal to need will impact 20% of the people, a great appeal will impact 25%. The key to having an abundance of volunteers isn’t better appeals, the key is creating a healthy volunteer culture.

Today we’ll look at the three elements present in any healthy volunteer culture.


My wife tells a story Sue Miller shared several years ago that continues to impact her view of working with volunteers. Sue told of attending a mandatory meeting for parents of players on a youth baseball team. When the coach began talking about this year’s fund raising drive you could feel the air go out of the room. The coach, however, surprised the parents. He didn’t talk about the amount of money they needed to raise, nor did he show them samples of wrapping paper or candy catalogues and explain the fundraiser. He talked instead about baseball changing the trajectory of his life as a young man, and what an impact he believed this team would have on their son’s lives. By the time he finished painting a picture of the potential future Sue said she, along with most of the families in the room, we’re eager to participate in the fundraiser. The coach began with vision rather than need.

Its interesting when Jesus looked for volunteers at the beginning of his ministry he issued a challenge rather than an appeal. One day while he was on a walk beside the Sea of Galilee Jesus came across Peter and Andrew casting a fishing net. After watching them work for a few minutes he walked over and said, “Come, follow me, and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” He didn’t mention the needs of the ministry, describe the tasks that had to be accomplished or assure them the volunteer position wouldn’t take up too much time. Jesus invited them into something that would change their lives.

What would happen if, rather than focusing on how many volunteers you need, you focused instead on the potential life change that will happen through the ministry you lead? Ministry leaders who lead healthy volunteer cultures effectively connect the dots between the task at hand and a transformed future. 


As part of a small group campaign at our church in South Carolina every group was challenged to take an outreach project in our community. After much discussion our group decided to adopt a nursing home in the poorest part of the city. We began visiting the nursing home regular doing things like yard maintenance, giving Christmas presents and repeatedly cleaning urine off an outside wall (Don’t ask). This was not my idea of a good time. I prefer spending my Saturday mornings, well, doing anything but visiting a nursing home in the ‘hood. I went, however, because my tribe was going. Relationship, much more than need, was the driving factor.

We consistently miss the power of tribe in church. We focus on the ministry that needs to be accomplished rather than the relationships on the team. Volunteers who feel like a part of a tribe that is changing the world rather than an unpaid employee accomplishing a task will do almost anything the team needs done. Rather than recruiting to need we need to recruit to relationship, and then follow through on that promise.


If people never find a place of selfless service they will never find their true purpose in life. Every reputable mental health expert understands this fundamental law of the universe; the only path to wholeness is through serving. As long as we focus on ourselves and our needs we will never truly be happy; materialism, greed and selfishness rot the soul. We were created with a deep seated need to serve each other.

As ministry leaders we  have to remind people often that Jesus’ example of service is the path to peace and wholeness we are all looking for. We demonstrate it in our own lives and share stories of others who find purpose through serving.

What about your church?

A ministry that connects the dots to a preferred future, connects team members in deep relationships and helps people find their true purpose through serving will discover an abundance of volunteers. As you evaluate the ministry you lead how are you doing at casting vision? Are you creating an environment for healthy team relationships? Are you demonstrating a life of purpose through service?

The reason you can’t find volunteers

appeal_deniedRecently on a beautiful drive Sherry and I were comparing notes on what makes a healthy ministry volunteer culture. (Some couples talk about vacations, some about retirement, we brainstorm ministry ideas; that’s just how we roll.) Working with ministries around the world the one question we hear more than any other is, “How do you find good volunteers?” Almost every church is desperate to find more children’s workers, parking lot attendants, ushers, small group leaders and dozens of other volunteer positions. As we drove through the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in early spring we agreed on two basics:

Most churches can’t find enough volunteers because they recruit to the wrong thing

Having an abundance of volunteers is driven by a healthy volunteer culture.

Let’s look first at recruiting. Whether they intend to or not almost every church appeals to need. The church NEEDS volunteers. We need people to watch children, to hand out bulletins, to count the offering, to lead small groups, to play in the band. We can’t do what we do without volunteers. Imagine what church would be if we didn’t have volunteers; we’d have to shut down programs and change how we do church. We appeal to people’s sense of duty, or to their guilt. We parade the needs of others in front of members hoping they will feel the need to step up to the plate. We remind the congregation that only 20% of the people do 80% of the work of the church.

As it turns out recruiting to need is effective with about 20% of the people who attend your church. If you are really effective, you may get to 25%. The challenge is we are inundated with needs every day. We drive past people with cardboard signs describing their needs. We are challenged at the grocery checkout line to donate to needy children. On TV Sarah McLachlan shows us pictures of sad animals, pleads with us to meet their needs as she sings “In the Arms of the Angels” (I’m not sure who’s in the angels’ arms, but it seems very sad). There are only so many needs we can care about, much less meet, so we draw the line somewhere. For most people the needs at church are low on the list of things they care about enough to help fill, so the appeal to need falls on deaf ears.

If your church or ministry is struggling to find enough volunteers are you trying to recruit by appealing to need? In the word of the great theologian Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?” The alternative to recruit to need is to build a healthy volunteer culture. Its is slower and harder, but is really the only path to accomplishing God’s mission through your ministry. Tomorrow we’ll look at the three crucial building blocks of a healthy volunteer culture.


Measuring  Success

SuccessAs a church planter or a pastor when will you know you have succeeded? What is the goal? Where is the finish line? In the business world you fight for market share and profit. When you are in the top three in your market and you are dropping loads of cash to the bottom line you know that you are running a successful business. There are certainly other measures, but those two ring the bell almost every time. Why don’t we have similar measures in church?

The default measure of success for a lot of us as leaders, whether we admit it or not, is butts in seats. If attendance this week is bigger than last week or last month or last year then we are winning; if the arrow points down then we are losing. So the goal is to get more butts in more seats whatever it takes. We put up billboards, we send out flyers, we hype every weekend as the BEST WEEKEND EVER!!!; anything to draw a crowd. We don’t worry too much about whose seats those butts were in last weekend, as long as we can get them back in our seats next week.

Some of us are a little less crass and a little more self-righteous in measuring success. All we care about are souls in the Kingdom, so we measure salvations. But how do we measure salvation? The most common standards are baptisms and hands raised in response to an appeal. The focus then becomes how to get hands up and hair wet no matter what it takes. Now we’re on the same train as the butts in seaters.

Which brings us to the most pious crowd of all. We are not concerned about attendance or emotional response; we count disciples. And how do we count disciples? By activity of course. How many people lead groups? How many people complete classes? How many people participate in outreach projects? Unfortunately, as the WCA Reveal study showed, activity does not always equal discipleship. We are measuring, but are we successful?

When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22 for his definition of success (“What is most important?”) he didn’t mention weekend attendance, salvations or even discipleship. He gave two very clear criteria by which all success should be measured:

  1. Do you love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength?
  2. Do you love your neighbor as yourself?

This doesn’t preclude measuring attendance, salvation and discipleship; we measure what is important. But when we sit down at the end of the day only our love for God and our love for our neighbor should be considered. What is success as a church planter or a pastor? It is measured in how we love. So, are you successful?


Why Are You Planting a Church?

The most important question any church planter can ask is “ Why am I planting a church?” I have had some conversations with some great guys lately who I think are really struggling with that question. All of us struggle with why we are in ministry on Monday morning, but we need to evaluate our motivation on a bigger scale. Let’s look at what I think are some lousy reasons to plant a church and then share a great reason I recently heard. First the lousy reasons:

“I want to reinvent church”

This one comes in a lot of flavors, but it always comes down to the bottom line, I have a better way to do church. More hymns, no hymns, pews, no pews, more art, more coffee, more beer, less structure, less formality. We’re going to be radically sold out. We’re not going to cater to Christians. We’re going to go deep. We’re going to go wide. We’re going to be a church for people who absolutely abhor the awful church that I’m currently drawing my paycheck from.

The church doesn’t need you to reinvent it. God may lead you to do ministry a little differently (though almost all of the “new, fresh, casual, relevant” churches tend to look exactly alike), but that is not a reason to plant a church. The church is not a canvas for you to express your individuality. The church is God’s idea and he’ll let you know when it needs to be reinvented.

“I’m looking for my next ministry job”

The church staff business is a tough gig these days. There have been a ton of layoffs and there are some amazing people who are no longer employed by a church or are looking for a new place to work. But that isn’t a reason to start a new church. The church is not a union shop and we don’t need more so we will all have a job.

“There are no good churches in the community where I want to plant”

I would bet that almost every community in America has at least one good church. If you want a humbling exercise search for churches on a map of your area. (Here’s a link to a search of Orange County, California where I currently live. The churches are the red dots that look like measles.) Not every church is life giving, but I bet at least one is.

So why would you start a church? I was talking recently to a church planter in the Northwest. He said the reason he started a church was because his friends were going to hell and he couldn’t think of a better way to bring them to Jesus. He said that once all of his friends are saved (he’s personally led many of them to Christ in the six years since he started the church) he would probably go do something else. As he told me this story tears welled up in his eyes; he can’t stand the thought of his friends facing eternity without God.

We don’t need any more churches in America, but we are woefully short of life saving stations. If you just want to start another church please go somewhere that needs one. If you can’t stand the thought of people going to hell from your community, and you are convinced that starting a new church is the only way you can reach them, let me know how I can help.


Do we REALLY need to plant more churches?

Here is a question that has been bothering me a lot lately; there seems to be a new church plant in every theater and school in many towns, so do we really need more new churches? As I was reading the second chapter of Mark yesterday about Jesus’ calling Levi to be his disciple a couple of things jumped out at me that I think apply to this question. Read the paragraphs below and then I’ll share my thoughts:

As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

The first thing that jumped out is that Jesus’ followers included many “disreputable sinners”. Jesus didn’t just hang out with sinners; he hung out with disreputable sinners. And he didn’t just hang out with them; they followed him. Jesus’ church (gathering) was made up for the most part of people we don’t normally associate with elders and deacons.If we want a church that looks like Jesus’ church then we need to focus on gathering scum.I know this isn’t new or revolutionary, but it does seem to fly in the face of the “fly with the eagles” mindset.

So how do we gather scum when we are growing a church? This is the second thing that stood out to me in this passage, Jesus said; “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Jesus focused on those who already knew they needed a Savior.

This points to a couple of mistakes we often make in the church. First we focus on meeting the needs of the already convinced. We create programs and ministries that soften the cocoon of faith so that everyone is as comfortable as possible. Eventually the cocoon can become all that matters and we lose contact with scum like the sinners that followed Jesus. When talking to the already convinced Jesus said things like; “let the dead bury the dead”, “go and sell everything you have” and “take up your cross”. Imagine trying to recruit leaders for those ministries.

A second and less obvious mistake we make is spending a lot of energy trying to convince people that they are sinners. While Jesus never shied away from pointing out sin in the lives of the self-righteous, he didn’t waste time hammering the point until they agreed with him. He focused on those who knew they were headed down a dead end street. Jesus didn’t have to point out to the woman caught in adultery that sleeping around wasn’t God’s will for her life. He didn’t give Zacheus a lecture on Christian business ethics. The Holy Spirit was already at work in these people’s lives and they responded readily to Jesus’ message of forgivness and healing.

According to this passage in Mark the key to growing a church like Jesus’ church is to ignore the self-righteous and to offer forgiveness and healing to the disreputable sinners. The good news is that while there are already plenty of churches who cater to those who think they are righteous the market is wide open for churches who cater to the scum.

Do we need another cocoon for the already convinced? No. Do we need hundreds and hundreds more rescue missions for the lost and dying? Absolutely.