Creating Space to Bring Through Leaders In Multisite

In the first iteration of a multisite church, there may be ready-made leaders who can head up the new site whilst others remain in leadership in the sending site. This division of labour can only take you so far however, and in order to keep multiplying sites you need to bring through new leaders. For a senior leader in a multisite church this presents unique challenges and unique opportunities as many of those potential leaders are in sites that you don't have as much direct involvement in as others. In this conversation we explore some of these challenges and how multisite church offers new opportunities for bringing through new leaders.

Special Guest: Joel Virgo (senior pastor of Emmanuel Church in Brighton)


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When You Planted Your Second Site, Where Did You Get Leaders From?

  • Because of legacy, the church was leadership rich at this point.
  • An ecosystem had been developed for leaders to emerge. 
  • Historically sending people to plant in other cities and nations, gets something into the DAN where people come through expecting to plant or pastor one day.
  • Student work and youth work can be a good place to see emerging leaders come from. 
  • Another way to think about it is the offer of land - when you have places that people can go to start a site this can be attractive to draw people in. 
  • As you expand, you start to create more land and build the legacy.

What Are You Looking For In a Site Leader? 

  • Someone with entrepreneurial edge who can create.
  • Someone who is teachable.
  • These two things are not always compatible.
  • Often there an be a received wisdom that central provision that you want to be constant can be enough to carry the health, drive and vision for the whole church across the sites - which then makes you look for a co-ordinating and pastoring gift.
  • But there is a much bigger need to the leadership and innovation gift in seeing the sites thrive. 
  • Some models of multisite want to make every site consistent, which removes the space for innovation in the sites. 

How Do You Navigate Handing Over Leadership of Your Site Whilst Remaining Senior Leader of the Church?

  • The relationship between the senior leader and the new site leader is a key relationship for the health of the church - and is a priority relationship to keep working on. 
  • It is good if your strengths and gifts complement each other well. 
  • If you are leading the site that the senior pastor is in, you have a role with unique challenges. A humble and submissive attitude is key, and there may be things that you see other site leaders having space to do that you don't have space for. 
  • This roll is absolutely crucial for the life of the church though.
  • When there isn't a 'sending' or 'central' site then it means that the senior leader is not overly precious about any one site and is less likely to interfere in one site in particular. 

One You Have Deployed Your Already Established Leader, How Do You Bring Through the Next Wave of 'Rookies'?

  • Multiplying services within a site is a good space for people to step up to the next level - it also build plurality into each site and gives another channel for leadership development.
  • As well as planting services and sites, also plant new churches into new cities - leading services and sites is a good developing ground for those going into other cities. 
  • Pastoral rolls and small group leadership are also things than can be used in developing leaders. 
  • By running smaller sites (20-70) there is a lot more space for people to come through.
  • People with an entrepreneurial edge can start gathering people by building a midweek group and carving something out.
  • When a site leader moves on, it can be hard to replace them as the site has often been built around the leader - if there is nobody to step up from within then it can be very difficult. 

Q&A

1. How Do You Manage Bringing Through Site Leaders Who Have Ambition For More Responsibility?

  • You want people with ideas and vision - but they can sometimes feel frustrated in a multisite.
  • You need to help your other leaders with edgy people - as a senior leader you may be able to handle with this but other leaders looking on may find it difficult. 
  • You need to navigate it - don't clamp them down, but also don't let things fragment too much.
  • If it is somebody who has a call, don't hold on to them for too long. Recognise that it is a season. If you try to hold on to them too long then everyone will get frustrated.
  • Be as real as possible about the pros and cons of staying versus going. This will separate the categories helpfully. 
  • Some people feel a call to stay and build in the multisite. 
  • If a site leader is not feeling stretched there may be other responsibilities that they could start to carry across the whole church.

2. How Do You Deal With a Situation Where the Gifting of a Senior Leader and Site Leader Overlap?

  • It can sometimes make the sending site seem less exciting than the new ones that have been sent out. 
  • Make sure you are on the same mission and on the same page - have a macro-budget, etc.
  • In the early sites, there is a camaraderie where it feels like you are learning together.
  • For people who come in later, there is less potential to shape the whole because a lot of things have already become established.
  • Being the eighth site leader means you have so many more people to deal with than the second site. 
  • The Biblical model is body and we need to create space that allows people coming in later to have space to shape things.  

3. How Do You Help the Leaders That You Have Brought Through to Bring Through Others?

  • This is a challenge - not everybody is good at it. 
  • As the senior leader, if you have a gift for it, you can get involved and help them to identify people.
  • Site leaders can be blind to the fact that they were rookies at one point and somebody took a chance on them.
  • Leadership development can become a big part of the senior leader's role - particularly if they have an apostolic gift. 
  • There needs to be grace and humility from site leaders to allow senior leaders to speak into this area.
  • The best work on this is done together.