Launching a multi-site church campus is a lot like preparing to take a flight in an airplane — if you ask Wayne Risher, Campus Pastor at Faithbridge Church (Woodlands). You can either invest your time in designing and building the plane or you can work on getting people ready to take the flight with you.
When Faithbridge, a congregation near Houston, Texas, decided to go multi-site, they didn’t need just any size plane. They needed a 747 that was ready for takeoff right from the start.
As Risher describes it, the up-scale suburban environment they serve expected a fully functioning church from day one:
We didn’t want to just build something that was me in the back seat of my pickup truck with my guitar and a couple of lawn chairs around me. We wanted to build something that would be the church from the get-go.
We decided to partner with Portable Church Industries (PCI) to have the plane built while we were making more and stronger disciples for Jesus Christ.
Portable Church Industries built the plane while we were getting the people ready for takeoff.
Faithbridge had some unique technological barriers to overcome. They were already conducting two services — at the same time — at their permanent campus using simulcast video technology.
While a group gathered in the original sanctuary on one side of the main stage, another gathering of up to 1,000 joined in worship on the other side of the stage.
Both services were live with the exception of the pastor, who preached the Word live in one of them and appeared on the IMAG screen in the other as the “virtual pastor.”
As they prepared to go multi-site, Faithbridge enlisted PCI to help them employ the same approach in the new location — an elementary school.
Their aim was to transform the familiar secular space of a neighborhood school into a sacred space that would make the most of the latest technology while preserving their family-friendly Faithbridge culture.
Watch below as Pastor Risher tells how they produced an environment that felt “legit.”
Portable Command Center Required
One high-tech item in particular was critical for launch. With input from the Faithbridge technical team, PCI designed and built a custom control center on wheels that mimics the control center used at the permanent campus.
The lid comes off to reveal a full command center complete with monitors and computers that fully integrate with the main campus.
The similarities in design made it easy for the production team to go back and forth between facilities without missing a beat.
For Production Director Zach Bacon and his team of audio and video specialists, adding another simulcast venue at a separate campus meant an even greater challenge:
The priority was keeping both the virtual pastor and the IMAG signal in sync because if you start to get a few frames off between your giant 22-foot projection and the IMAG feed, people are going to start to notice.
To make the situation even more difficult, reliable Internet access, a requirement for their dual-video approach, proved to be quite a challenge.
The Faithbridge team got creative with the PCI consultants to find a solution that gave them reliable Internet access and Wi-Fi throughout the facility. Risher loves talking about the technology solutions they developed:
On our pipe and drape — I get excited about these things, sorry! — we actually have Wi-Fi hotspots broadcasting down the hallway to children’s ministry, down to our students, and our truss has electronic hot spots so I can access my electronic bible on-line.
I can download the Faithbridge app and engage with Faithbridge through my electronic check-in right there while in the service.
Via the app, Faithbridge attendees can even ask questions about the sermon. The pastor at the main campus will record a post-script immediately following the service so the questions can be answered by the time they get home from lunch.
Zach describes the experience as a highly collaborative, team effort that kept his Production Team in the driver’s seat.
If I did not know something, PCI had the answer. They were more than willing to integrate what I wanted.
Is This a School or Is This a Church?
Risher says the whole-picture approach and the collaborative effort transformed the school from secular to sacred space in way that leaves people asking, Is this a school or is this a church?
“The reason why it feels legit to visitors is because it’s a well-designed system that feels good in a place where people already feel safe. It helps people feel more open to receiving spiritual care.”
The church employs portable check-in units where parents print name and security tags for their children. Once again, these custom units are integrated with the central database so parents have confidence their children are safe and well-cared for during the service.
The Faithbridge system optimized everything for easy set-up, take-down, and efficient storage. Step-by-step instructions make it easy for helpers to step in and help without any advance training, keeping volunteers fresh.
Six trailers – one for technology items alone – house and transport all the equipment each week. But total set-up time generally takes less than two hours.
According to Pastor Risher, “By 8:15 in the morning, our volunteers all take off and go to What-a-Burger, which is like the McDonald’s of Texas. If you go in there at 8:30 on a Sunday morning, you’ll see a sea of green shirts having breakfast because that has become to us a community-building moment.”
Takedown of the complex system takes only a little more than an hour, which means volunteers are back with their families for a day of rest before heading back to work on Monday.
The Best Approach for Wise Stewardship
Pastor Risher sees their partnership with PCI as wise stewardship of the resources God has given them, stressing they could not have done it themselves:
I couldn’t have gone a la carte off the menu and hired a consultant to give me the solutions I needed in all the ministry areas and then gone out and pieced them together.
I think there is an efficiency there that nobody usually thinks about at the front end. There is a high cost if you don’t plan properly. You are going to lose efficiency, burn out your volunteers, and waste tons of money.
One Question from a Portable Church Pastor
Pastor Risher has one question for the campus or executive pastors and church technology leaders thinking about launching a new worship venue with high-tech demands:
Why wouldn’t you consult with PCI? If you do it yourself, you are going to land in the back of your pickup truck with a guitar and people around you in lawn chairs, because there is only so much you can do. And at the end of the day, the ministry is what matters. You’re walking uphill trying to put something together by yourself.
You will be much more satisfied partnering with PCI where you have a voice in the design, and they can come back with a solution.
While they’re working at PCI, guess what you’re doing? You’re meeting people, you’re having coffees, you’re building relationships, and meeting in small groups at somebody’s house. You are doing the work.
You’re able to get the ministry accomplished—to get people to the gate so when the plane arrives, you’re ready for takeoff.
Lives are being changed at the Woodlands campus of Faithbridge Church. Souls are being saved, marriages healed, and kids are learning more about the gospel each and every week.
And the best part is that they have the equipment and systems in place to soar to even greater heights in the years to come.
START THE CONVERSATION WITH PORTABLE CHURCH
Portable Church has partnered with churches of all sizes over the last 23 years. Whatever facility challenges you may be facing, rest assured that the PCI team has probably already encountered it — and found solutions.
Connect with PCI today to schedule a free 20-minute consultation and find out what Wayne Risher, Zach Bacon, FaithBridge, and more than 2,000 other churches have already discovered.