“Here’s the plan…we need you to launch in six weeks. We want you to focus on the Rock Hill, South Carolina portable location, but we haven’t identified a children’s director for the University portable location, so we’ll need you to help order supplies and organize that one as well. The plan is to launch both locations on the same day, September 11, 2011. You good with that?”
This was the start of my journey into multisite. It was one of my first “official” conversations I had as a staff member of Elevation Church. To say it was overwhelming would be a gross understatement. I had no idea what I was doing. My response…
“For sure. How much money do I have to spend?”
It wasn’t as if the idea of multisite church was new to me. My husband and I had been around Elevation for nearly two years. At the time, there were already three locations, so I had a clear picture of what my supervisor was asking me to replicate. I had even helped my dad (I’m a preacher’s kid) launch three locations of a start-up church in a rural area of East Tennessee, but…this was different. Elevation wanted something specific. It needed to look, feel, and operate with the efficiency and excellence of a seasoned location, only with a whole new volunteer base, a campus pastor who was so new the ink on his Ordination Certificate hadn’t even dried yet (my husband), and no written instructions or documents.
“Oh! And we’re planning to do this again in the future, so can you keep track of what you order and how much it costs? That’ll make it easier in the future.”
I smiled and said, “Got it.”
I was a baby, an infant in the ministry world. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and I made a ton of mistakes. I also learned a lot. I wouldn’t change a thing. Actually, on second thought, the nylon canopy of leaves over the baby and toddler rooms that took a team of volunteers nearly an hour to hang every week was definitely a misstep. However, jumping off the ledge and plunging face first into kidmin multisite was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Fast forward nearly six years and I’ve had the opportunity to launch the children’s ministry at fifteen Elevation Church locations, some permanent, some non-permanent. Each and every one was life changing, not just for the people who attended, but for me personally. There is no high, no mountain-top ministry moment, I’ve ever experienced that compares to the hours before the door opens at a new location, nothing more fulfilling than seeing kids come to know Christ and know through sacrifice and obedience, God used you to make that moment possible.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, a launch looming, an untold adventure on the horizon, I want to take just a moment to share 5 questions that your team needs to be asking.
What is non-negotiable?
These are the things you want to be known for, the things that make you…you. In eKidz at Elevation, the #1 eKidz Value is, “We Will Make It Safe.” This means every blueprint, every transition, every item purchased has to first meet the safety standard. This conveys excellence to parents and builds trust. This is one non-negotiable. There are more than a dozen. Before you even consider moving to a multisite model, I suggest you put to paper what your ministry’s non-negotiables are. Knowing who you are and what you want to be identified as is a great starting point.
What are the priorities?
Don’t be confused, priorities are not the same as non-negotiables. However, one does lead to the other. Knowing your non-negotiables helps you establish your priorities. I know you want every aspect of each room to be superb, but let’s get real. Your budget is less than you hoped. Your timeframe may be as well. Whether you want to admit it or not, you are limited. I’ve never launched a location in which I looked at every room, every system, every supply and thought, “Yes! We nailed it!” You have to sacrifice somewhere. List the areas / rooms that must be prioritized. Don’t ignore the other areas, but choose to unfairly invest in that which you deem most important. (Tip: Start by resourcing small group leaders well and focusing on areas parents will see.)
What are the Haves / Needs?
I’m talking about human resources here. The most daunting task of any launch is volunteer staffing. Where are all those volunteers going to come from? Let me assure you…you’ll get there. With intentionality and a plan, you can and will meet those volunteer ratios, but it all starts with knowing the numbers. Identify the unique number of volunteers you need and compare that with what you already have. For example, if you have two preschool rooms that need four volunteers each, and you’ve already identified three, you need five additional volunteers. That seems much less daunting then saying, “We need to staff our preschool rooms.” Identify what you need, compare to what you have, and start recruiting.
How is leadership structured?
Unless you are a church of less than a hundred, it’s imperative that you have layers of leadership. You can’t be present during every parent interaction or technological mishap. You need leaders with a calm spirit and a mature perspective to act on your behalf when you are unavailable. Not every leadership position needs to be filled by launch day, but a leadership structure is an absolute must. An organizational leadership chart provides clarity to your volunteer base and gives them both a resource when problems arise and a sounding board for ideas. How will you structure your teams? Who will individuals report to? Who will report to you? (Tip: If you’re unsure of someone’s leadership potential, ask him or her to fill a position on an interim basis. You can see them at work and decide whether or not to make it a permanent position.)
How can I create ownership from the start?
Launching a campus or location is an experience unique to itself. It’s rewarding, frustrating, tiring, and life giving. It’s also an incredible bonding experience. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to launch nearly twenty locations with thousands of volunteers from all walks of life. Most of them I consider a close friend. You’re probably thinking, “Really? You have thousands of close friends?” Yes and No. Do I call them when my kids are driving me crazy and I need to vent? No. Do I know I could reach out to them if a dire ministry need arose? For sure. There is a special bond that forms as you prepare and serve alongside someone during launch season. Don’t squander the relational equity built throughout the journey. Find ways to empower your teams to buy-in and take ownership. Assign projects and trust them to complete each and every one. Ask for opinions and take suggestions. Don’t get caught up in personal preference. Everything feels important. It’s not. Your relationships with those you launch are of upmost priority. (Tip: Don’t open packages, make copies, or organize drawers. Let your teams do it. Allowing them to play a part creates ownership and builds momentum.)
Thinking and planning is the precedent for success in a multisite strategy. I hope these questions have provided you with a good starting point.
Over the next few months I’m going to be focusing on two things on FamilyMinistry.Church, Kidmin Multisite and Becoming a Wednesday Woman. The former should provide insight on how to develop an effective children’s ministry within a multisite strategy. The latter is a passion of mine. Women are called to lead in great capacities. We bring a unique perspective and in many ways, can accomplish what our male counterparts often struggle with. The key is perspective, approach, and discipline. I hope you’ll make it a priority to join me here on familyministry.church as we dig a little deeper into these two topics.
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