Developing Leadership Structures In a Multisite Church

One of the key challenges faced in any multisite church is how leadership will operate. What will be the responsibility of site leaders? How will this interact with the 'centre' of the church and the senior pastor? How do elders fit into this? What about staff? Trustees? There is no one size fits all solution to these questions, but for the church to thrive as it grows to multiple sites these are key issues to think through, and we discuss them in this webinar.

Special Guest: Steve Tibbert (senior pastor of Kings Church in London)


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How Do You Determine Where Decisions Are Made In Your Multisite Church? - Central or Local

  • It is an ongoing learning process.
  • Church size is really important this - and that will change how you handle the 'constants' across the church.
  • Early on you need to decide on authority lines - at Kings there is a focus on being one church, but management lines need to run through site leaders. 
  • This is a tensions that needs constant care. 
  • Sometimes site leaders want to do things their own way, but in this case they need to do it somewhere else - a shared philosophy of ministry is very important. This is why developing site leaders from within is incredibly important. 
  • For different areas of church life there will be 'champions' on the central team - the bandwidth will be set by the eldership team. 
  • At Christ Church there has been more focus to devolve to the sites without stopping being one church.
  • There was more flexibility in the earlier sites when things were still getting shaped than in the later sites when a shape has already been established. 
  • A lot of the constants are worked through on a training and development rather than implementation level.

How Important Is Bandwidth For You

  • At Christ Church there is a theological bandwidth, there is also a bandwidth in what the worship looks like (based on the philosophy and both 'low bar' and 'high bar') and also a bandwidth with hospitality.
  • At Kings there is a bit less bandwidth - one church, one vision, one set of vision and values, one preaching team. 
  • More experimentation is allowed on the smaller sites than on the main site. 

What Place Is There For a Specialist In a Multisite Church?

  • Church size factors in again - with bigger sites there is lots of space for these kinds of gifts. 
  • It is more complicated with smaller sites. There is less financial scope for this kind of person.
  • As Christ Church has grown, there has been an increasing realisation of the need to shift resources to specialists.
  • The move from generalists to specialists is something that churches experience anyway as they grow from 200 to 500 people, but this can be a bit hidden by multisite. You are both growing bigger and growing smaller at the same time. 
  • You need to have a leadership team that can handle the complexities of multisite. Knowing yourself and having this before you go multisite is very important.

What Is Your Understanding of Eldership and How Has This Developed As You Have Gone Multisite? 

  • Eldership is 4 'Ds' - Display (Character), Direction, Doctrine and Discipline.
  • Fundamentally, eldership is about fathering. 
  • The application of this principle varies depending on the size of the church. 
  • In smaller churches, most people know and elder, but in larger churches (e.g. Acts 6) this isn't always so.

What Does Eldership Look Like In Your Church?

  • At Kings there are 5 elders (and soon to be 2 more) who meet monthly - it is very much non-agenda.
  • It is a big picture meeting based on sitting around chatting, around a couple of topics each year. 
  • There is a discussion around making the eldership team much larger, but then it would need sub-divisions. 
  • A lot of churches with elders have swapped a managing pastor to managing elders.
  • Eldership is overview, vision and theology - the ministry is done by the people.
  • Trustees keep us honest before the charities commission, elders keep us secure in direction and theology.
  • At Christ Church, there are 7 elders (with 2 more coming on board) who meet 3 times a year for a curry and an open ended chat with a theological/philosophical topic being discussed and some prayer. 
  • There is then a leadership team (elders and non-elders) that managed the church. 
  • It is important for people to have access to an elder. 
  • One of the limiting factors in smaller churches is when elders won't release the management of the church. 
  • 'Staff led, elder protected'.

What Is the Interplay Between the Roles of Elders and Site Leaders?

  • A site leader doesn't need to be an elder.
  • Because the communities are smaller at Christ Church, site leaders tend to grow into an eldership role as they pastor and shepherd a congregation. 
  • This is an ongoing conversation at Kings - at present site leaders are not elders. 
  • One model some suggest is a smaller group of 'governing elders' and then some pastoral elders as well. There are strengths and weaknesses to this approach. 
  • It is good to have elders on every site, but the site leaders don't always need to be elders.
  • Sometimes we put too much focus on elders to the detriment of other ministry areas. 
  • There is a lot of delegated authority in a large church and in a multisite church.

How Do You Ensure Buy-In to the Vision From Site Leaders?

  • The glue is the site leader - if they are not owning the vision, values and philosophy of the church you are leading then there will be problems in the end. 
  • You need an agreement in heart and a partnership in the Gospel with them. 
  • In a larger church you won't get knocked off course by a dominant person or family. 
  • In many site leaders you have an aspiration to be a senior pastor and things that they want to experiment with - so part of what you are doing is managing that.
  • Because as the senior leader you are not in the room, you need to work it all out outside the room, meaning you are articulating more strongly your parameters. 
  • It is important to have the conversation about whether people are there for the medium-term or it's a stepping stone to leading their own church - both are fine but it's important to be clear.
  • The relationship between the senior leader and site leader is crucial. 
  • Sometimes you are navigating people bringing in what they think will be good in an area - do it our way and understand it first, and then there may be a place to experiment later.

What Are the Areas That You Won't Delegate Responsibility For?

  • Vision, raising the money, signing off on the teaching, signing off the budget, setting the culture, the most complex pastoral decisions, change of practice/philosophy.
  • Vision, pace, finance, attendance numbers, culture, most of the leaders on the team learn the kind of situations you want to be brought into.