Since we’ve been talking a lot about multisite strategy since the beginning of the year, we wanted to share a different take on adding campuses that we’d heard NewSpring Church in South Carolina was doing. We took a moment to connect with Howard Frist, NewSpring’s Executive Pastor of Campuses, to learn about their approach.
TIFFANY: Could you give me a quick overview of NewSpring‘s vision for any of our readers who aren’t familiar with your church?
HOWARD: Our vision is to reach people far from God and to teach them to follow Jesus step by step.
TIFFANY: And how many campuses do you currently have?
HOWARD: We currently have 17 campuses across the state, with six of them starting out as house campuses and having now moved into what we call the “community campus” phase.
TIFFANY: Could you tell me about your house campus approach and how you came to the decision to give it a try?
HOWARD: Since we are on a mission to reach 100,000 people across the state of South Carolina, we are always looking at ways to make that happen. We discussed different options to opening more campuses, while trying to address a couple challenges we faced at the same time.
The first challenge was how to build the core values of our church into the folks at a new campus. The second was how to launch more campuses while having limited resources. We felt that trying to launch in houses might allow us to address both.
TIFFANY: Could you describe a little about the house campus churches work?
HOWARD: We have our normal two morning service times at each house location starting from day one. Those times are 9:15 and 11:15. We have a group of volunteers come to the house around 7am to move all the furniture out of the living room and set up chairs in rows. Other volunteers begin arriving at 8-8:30am to pray and then greet and welcome guests. We set up KidSpring in either bonus rooms, or finished basements or places like that in the same house.
We do launch small groups separate from the Sunday meetings, which meet in various other homes throughout the week. When we have a baptism, we either use someone’s pool or something like the local YMCA.
The time on Sunday “feels like church,” even though it is taking place in a living room of a house.
TIFFANY: What have you learned about why this works?
HOWARD: We are still learning a lot. The most important aspect of the house campus phase for us is the focus it puts on building relationships.
Since the house campus phase is only a short phase, we find that it allows us to have personal and one-on-one conversations with everyone coming on WHY NewSpring Church exists and where we are planning to go as a church and campus.
It also allows us to teach people the core values and how they are carried out, including “Found People Find People.” We saw first time guests come each Sunday while in the house phase and many of those folks began a relationship with Jesus during that period of time as well.
TIFFANY: You mentioned all of the house campuses have transitioned to the “community campus” phase at this point. What does that look like?
HOWARD: They now meet in schools, YMCAs, community colleges etc. In this phase, the entire service, including the music, is still streamed live from our broadcast campus.
The KidSpring experience is closer to what you will find at a larger campus. More of the other environments, such as our VIP room, Care and Prayer, etc. are set up in this phase. And because of the venue sizes at each location we are able to have more people attend.
TIFFANY: How have you cast vision for this approach and resourced your leaders to manage the tension between “central,” “campus,” and “house campus”?
HOWARD: Since the vision to start in houses is a church wide initiative, we are all working together to make it a win and learn together what works and what doesn’t.
We learned things in the house campus phase that we can apply to the larger more established campuses. We also have ongoing conversations with all of our leaders both on campuses and centrally on how we need to resource for the current season we are in and the things needed to continue growing and learning. It’s a team effort to make it work.
TIFFANY: NewSpring has done a good job of continuing to innovate while remaining true to its culture and mission. How would you encourage other multisite churches who would like to build a similar culture?
HOWARD: We say often, “Listen to Jesus and do what He says.” When you build on that belief, and add to it a high level of trust with the people on the team, anything is possible!
I would say to any church looking at trying something new, you must first ask the question, “Are we doing this because it works somewhere else, or are we doing this because we feel God is directing us to it?” The answer to that question makes a big difference in the results.