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Multisite Church Challenges | Identity
July 15, 2015

Through our work with multisite churches, we have learned that new campuses often experience an identity crisis launching—before, during and after. There is no cookie-cutter method to starting a new campus; each church has a different culture and each multisite campus might have different needs according to location and congregation. We’ve found that the best way to avoid an identity crisis is to build a community within each campus, while also keeping that campus involved in the overall vision of the church as a whole.

Church Structure

There are many different ways to structure and operate a multisite church, and structure is a big deciding factor in the way identity will develop. Will you define yourself as a multisite church or a church with multiple sites? How much of the main campus gets taken to the satellite campus? Does each location change their identity to reach the community they are in?

You may chose to have everything run through your central campus and simply have satellite venues that stream the service from the main campus. Or, you may choose to have a different pastor at each campus that will deliver a different message each week. Once you have decided on the structure of the new campus, communicate that plan to your entire team so that everyone can properly understand and prepare for their roles. It is also wise to communicate that plan to your church members before launch, so that they know what to expect from the new campus.

Identifiable Experience

People that attend your new campus might expect it to include the same experience that your original campus offered. Obviously, your new campus can’t look exactly the same. But, if you offered free coffee at your original campus, had your volunteers wear bright yellow t-shirts, and waved people into a parking space with air traffic light sticks, you might want to consider doing the same at your new campus. The same principle may need to be applied to worship, children’s ministry, signage, aesthetics, etc.

That being said, your new campus should be allowed to develop its own special culture. Perhaps you are launching in a more ‘casual’ city or district and your current style won’t be received well. For example, your new location might not require the high-tech lights and stage environments that you have at your original campus. Maybe you are launching a campus catered to college students who don’t really have a need for a children’s ministry. Or, maybe you are going into a more professional/business part of town and need to ‘step-up’ a few areas.

The point is that every church is different and every church campus will ultimately be different. What we want you to understand is that your multisite church does not have to offer an identical experience, but it should offer an identifiable experience. Members should be able to identify your church’s brand and vision no matter which campus they attend. Also keep in mind that those attending a ‘new launch’ may be more entrepreneurial, and are therefore willing to start with something ‘less’ of an experience.

Build Culture and Community

While your brand and vision should be visible at your new multisite, the campus should also be able to offer a unique culture and community. How do you foster culture? And how do you build community?

These are never easy questions to answer, because every situation is different. We believe that the culture should be established by the campus leaders. Their personalities should be driving the aesthetics, volunteer structure, and experience decisions of the new campus to build community.

While each campus needs its own community and identity, you don’t want those members to feel isolated from the original church community. If possible, try to keep the entire church community connected. Perhaps hold a city-wide event that members of every campus can attend. In doing so, you can bring your different church communities together and remind them that they are a part of something bigger.

Have you launched a new multisite location recently? How did you combat identity crisis in the culture of your new campus? Please…let us know in the comments below!