Managing the Tension: Central vs. Campus

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Your church is probably going multisite because you’re doing a few things well. People are coming to your church, they’re being introduced to Jesus, and many are making decisions to follow Him. Faced with space issues and opportunities to bring your church closer to the people you’re reaching, you decide to put a location of your church in a new community – aka “multisite.”  Historically, your teams have been tight, they’ve been moving in the same direction: What could be difficult about going multisite?

If only it were that easy.

Being a Central leader for 10+ years in a growing multisite church, and being married to a Campus leader of that same church, I know firsthand the tensions that exist between Central and Campus leaders. But, if you have clarity in your multisite model in two key areas, frustrations can be minimized.

Key Area #1:

Decision Rights — Clarity around who gets to make what decisions.

Key Area #2:  

Communications Systems — Being proactive and inclusive to get the right voices in on key decisions.

Let’s unpack each of these key areas.

Decision Rights

The decision-making process prior to going multisite is usually pretty clear. Most churches know who gets to make what decisions – you have a clear history of this. Typically, everything funnels up to the leader of a specific ministry area.  

But once multisite enters the picture, churches enter “the Matrix.” Most leaders now have two bosses. They have their Campus leader, and they have the Central leader over their ministry area. For instance, a Children’s Pastor now reports to a Campus Pastor, but direction for the curriculum and how the ministry is executed comes from a Central Children’s Director. When there are questions or disagreements, who does the local Children’s Pastor truly answer to? The Campus Pastor or the Central Children’s Director?  

These are the type of scenarios that need to be thought through by the Central leadership team. The more clarity you can bring up front to who gets to make quick decisions, the more successful your church will be having “one church in multiple locations.”

I encourage churches to plot out the decision rights to think through for every decision that you can anticipate will need to be made:

  1. Central decides.
  2. Central decides with input from Campus leaders.
  3. Central & Campus need to reach consensus together.
  4. Campus decides, with input from Central leaders.
  5. Campus decides.

Having these decision rights set up in advance provides clarity and minimizes frustration for everybody involved.

Communications Systems

One of the most frustrating things that can happen to leaders in a multisite environment is getting surprised.

When Campuses dream and start to create new programs without Central’s involvement, they get perceived as going rogue. Likewise, when Central designs programs and launches them without the Campuses’ voice or input, they are viewed as dictators.

The missing ingredient in both of these scenarios is plain old, proactive communication. It serves both the Central and Campus teams well to raise questions and ideas, behind-the-scenes, before a decision is made.

Before Central makes a decision it is in their best interest to run those ideas by the people who are going to implement them. Campuses have frontline experience with what is working and what isn’t working. It would be foolish to not have their voice in the mix. In the same vein, Campuses that launch new initiatives without involving their Central specialists are thinking more about their campus, and less about the mission and effectiveness of the church overall.

It’s critical that Central leaders and Campus leaders have a venue and a process to discuss future strategies. One of the ways we did this at our church was through a regular monthly meeting with the Campus Pastors and the (Central) Executive Directors over Ministry, Operations and the Weekend Service. This was the place we met to have longer discussions around strategy ideas. We’d invite key ministry leaders in to share information regarding initiatives they were working on, as well as ask the Campus Pastors to give feedback on how existing strategies were working. Meetings like this helped us feel like we were a team; we were in it together. It also helped us from having to create multiple smaller meetings throughout the month. When issues came up, we just added it to our monthly agenda.

If multisite churches have these two areas covered, they will minimize frustration and the inevitable “pitting” of these two teams against one another. When Decision Rights are clear, and we have the Communication Systems in place to get people’s voices into the decision-making process, leaders can get behind decisions and your church will lead in greater unity.


Are you struggling to maintain clarity and communication between your Central and Campus leaders? Learn how we can help you unify your team to effectively lead a growing multisite church.

Learn More


Photo credit: Lars Plougmann via compfight.com cc

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About Author

Amy Anderson

Amy is a ministry consultant at The Unstuck Group. Amy served as the Executive Director of Weekend Services for over 12 years at Eagle Brook Church in the Twin Cities, helping the church grow from 3,000 to over 20,000. Today she works with churches of all sizes, providing a fresh perspective and concrete strategies to strengthen their processes, staff health and weekend experience.

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