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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Multi-Site Student Ministry Strategy

Interesting reading from Shawn Williams, the Student Community Director at Community Christian Church, over at NewThing.org.  Shawn writes...

Has your church already ventured into the world of multi-site ministry? Are you left wondering how this might impact your junior high and high school students? We sure were. A few years after CCC had moved to its second site, we were still a centralized ministry at a multi-site church. Though the centralized strategy had its perks, we also realized that we could not remain centralized as our church continued to add more locations. Even if core students and their parents were willing to make the drive to the central location, we would never be able to effectively reach out to all the students currently outside our community.

Though the multi-site journey has been difficult at times, it has paved the way for many students (and their families) to find their way back to God. We now live with the understanding that it is not only possible for student ministry to survive at a multi-site church, but it can really thrive through an intentional strategy of multiple locations. Here are a couple lessons we learned along the way:

Develop an Initial and Long-term Strategy 
Unlike many of the other ministries of the church, we quickly realized that we were not going to be able to reproduce every element of our ministry at each location. We did not have the staffing, resources, or even critical mass of students to make this possible. At the same time we wanted to ensure that we were successful at whatever we decided to reproduce at every location. Currently, our student ministry is designed around three core experiences for students: celebrate (our large groups worship experience), connect (our small group relational experience), and contribute (our service opportunities for students to make a difference in the church and in the world).

Though we desire every campus to have each of these core experiences for students, we needed to start with the most critical experience, reproducing small groups. The relational aspect of the student ministry is the growth engine for each location. So each time we looked to start a new location, we established small groups as missional communities to reach out to the students of the area. Through small group reproduction, we then looked to build a critical mass to launch a large group celebration experience.

The model that we developed has endless possibilities for future growth. It has also enabled us to reproduce quickly and effectively. In just three years, we have reproduced from one location to six giving us the ability to reach almost four times the number of students that we were caring for centrally. But regardless of the model you choose for your multi-site student ministry, it will be very important to think both short term (What must be reproduced with each new location?) and long term (Where are we going in the future?). We have found that this model allows our ministry to be both scaleable and reproducible. No matter the size or stage of development of each location, we can create content and material to serve each location well.

Create Synergy between Locations
Over the past year, we reorganized our student staff into two broad categories that we have called Catalyst and Campus. The Catalyst team is responsible for creating the content for our programming. Examples of Catalyst roles include those who write our small group curriculum and our large group messages, those who develop the creative content (music, videos, etc.) for our celebration services, those who plan our large events for students, and those who supply our graphic design needs. These catalyst products are used at all locations. This allows even the smallest of locations to benefit from the larger ministry system. On the other side, our Campus roles are designed to take the materials the Catalyst team creates and implement them effectively at a campus location.

Each member of our Student Community Staff wears both a campus and a catalyst hat. This allows us to direct each location while also allowing each staff to offer a specialty (in relation to their giftedness) that will impact the overall team. Each staff has the opportunity to invest more time in the areas that are their strength and in turn benefit from the specialty of others on our team. For example, we have one staff member who oversees a location while developing the small group material that every location uses. We have another staff member who oversees a location while writing the message that every location uses. We have another staff member who oversees a location while creating the graphics used in publicity for events and in our large group celebration services. Our full-time staff do take on a larger catalyst role than our part-time staff, but everyone contributes to the success of the overall ministry.

We have found that our dual roles have created a high level of teamwork and synergy between our campuses. Though there is always a healthy level of competition, any success we experience at a campus is a “win” for the whole team. We really sense that we are one team and one church that serve students at multiple locations.

Leverage Leadership Opportunities
Though multi-site ministry poses its challenges, the leadership advantages to this model are numerous. We have discovered that people respond to visionary and missional moves with their lives. The start of any new location instantly creates many new roles and leadership opportunities.

For student ministry, new locations have provided part-time staffing roles (10 hours a week). These roles are ideal for any current volunteer leader who is excelling in their current ministry role. They are able to explore vocational ministry in a safe environment while playing a critical role in a new launch. From a church staffing perspective, this also creates a low-risk opportunity to allow a current leader to prove their leadership and develop their potential. By developing and sending leaders, you will create a missional leadership culture within your ministry.

There are also many new adult leadership roles within the student ministry connected with a new campus launch. We have found that adult leaders in student ministry are more likely to contribute at a location closer to their home. Since many adults are commuting during the week to work, they are less likely to do so on the weekend to serve at church. Additionally, adults are more likely to serve at the campus they attend.

We have also found that multiple locations have given students a larger level of ownership of their location. Those students who faded into the background of a large location have come to the forefront of leadership in a smaller environment. With a higher level of ownership, students are much more excited about the community and much more excited to bring their friend. Multiple locations have allowed us to challenge students to make missional decisions with their lives raising their evangelistic temperature. Multi-site student ministry has been an incredible journey of helping students and their families find their way back to God.

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May 11, 2006 in Multi-Site Churches | Permalink

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