Multisite churches have many unique challenges. Trying to establish one church in multiple locations is no small feat. At The Unstuck Group, one of the most common challenges we notice in multisite churches is this:
If you’re a church leader, you probably aren’t surprised to hear this. If you’re a leader of a multisite church, you definitely aren’t surprised to hear this. With Sunday always around the corner, it is something that can be easily overlooked.
I recently had the chance to connect with Suzanne Swift of NewSpring Church, a multisite church located across the state of South Carolina, regarding their communication methods and the importance of a strategy for multisite communication.
Caroline: What is the key to effective multisite communication?
Suzanne: There are many variables that go into being effective in communication but two of the most important keys are unity and a strategy for communication. If there is not unity around what you’re communicating and you don’t have a plan for how and when you’re communicating, it’s impossible to be effective. Unity is important whether you have one campus or twenty campuses. It brings clarity and consistent information to your communication platforms increasing the likelihood you’ll be effective in what you’re communicating.
A communication strategy is essentially a plan that outlines the goals you want to accomplish through your communication platforms. Having a strategy around what you’re communicating will unify your campuses and help people see your church as a great source of valuable, personal and timely information that will help them in their everyday lives.
Caroline: What are some common issues that cause poor communication among multisite churches?
Suzanne: Every church has difficulty in communication, but multisite churches have added complexity for communicating well. I believe the two most common issues that can lead to poor communication among multisite churches are when:
- incorrect or incomplete information is shared and/or
- information is communicated too soon or too late
Any time that incorrect or incomplete information is shared, the people you’re communicating with become confused and most likely frustrated. Information that is shared too late can cause your church to miss out on momentum, particularly with series or exciting events you have going on. Information that is shared too soon can generate questions you’re not prepared to answer. All of these issues, individually or combined, can lead to disunity across your campuses.
Caroline: Is it necessary to have a communications staff for each campus?
Suzanne: Our church is structured with a Central Team who supports our campus staff. Our communications staff is a part of our Central Team. Because of how we’re structured, we don’t feel it’s necessary to have dedicated communications staff at each of our campuses, although all of our staff are in the communications business. In our structure, it is important for our Communications Team to have good relationships and regular communication with our central ministry staff and campus staff so that we’re able to serve and support our church in the best ways possible.
Caroline: How can you develop a similar voice at each site while letting each campus have their own personality?
Suzanne: Our campuses are all led by different Campus Pastors. Each of which are great guys, but unique in their personalities and leadership styles. Our campuses are spread out across our state in different communities so it is natural that our campuses would feel slightly different from one another. While that’s okay, we are one church in multiple locations so there are some things we want to remain unified around. To help us stay unified, all of our ministries have Vision, Values and Standards (VVS) that are considered closed-handed and should be the same at every campus. Our VVS documents answer three questions:
Vision – Why does this exist at NewSpring?
Values – How do we accomplish this vision?
Standards – What must happen for each value to be successful?
Having the VVS for each ministry allows our campuses to have unique personalities and try different things while maintaining our unity and desire to be one church meeting in multiple locations.
Caroline: Speak specifically to web and social media strategy. What are some best practices when it comes to being one church in multiple locations?
Suzanne: For web and social, I think the strategy should mirror the organization. For us, we’re one church with many locations. So, we have one organizational Facebook page, and one website for NewSpring Church. Our locations are attached to our central Facebook page using their parent/child relationship, and are easily discovered on the homepage of our site. This structure allows us to communicate centrally, serve and connect people to others, and provide easy next steps and resources online with one voice.
We allow campuses to create Facebook groups for communicating to specific collections of people at their campus. These are optional, and may be as broad as a campus group, or as specific as a “Greenville Campus Production Volunteers” group.
For web, we aim to produce articles, stories, and devotionals that help lead our church in a specific direction that is related to Sunday teachings. Depending on how far out we know what we’re teaching each Sunday, we are able to craft content to teach people throughout the week. We also have a news page on our site that has the ability to send campus-specific information to our app to help people know what’s going on at their campus without having to filter through the announcements from all 15 campuses.
Interested in learning more about developing or improving your multisite strategy? Click here to learn how The Unstuck Group helps multisite churches with strategic planning and strategy development.