How Our Multi-Congregational Church Model Works

I am a Lead Pastor and part of the Leadership Team of Redemption Church, a growing multi-congregational church in Arizona. Our model of doing church is quite different from what most people have experienced. Especially among church leaders, we get a lot of questions about how and why we do what we do. This post will answer some of the common questions we get about our model.

multi-congregational church

How is Multi-Congregational Church different from Multi-Site Church?

Though we are technically “multi-site” (one church/multiple locations), this phrase often brings to mind video multi-site and is, thus, unhelpful in describing what we do. We also avoid the phrase “multi-campus” as it carries many of the same connotations. We will occasionally refer to a Redemption “campus” if we’re talking about the physical location. Otherwise we use the term “congregation.”

This is because we think the term “multi-congregational” most accurately describes what we’re doing. We are one church with multiple congregations.

We are one organization, with one employee ID number, one tax ID number, and one bank account. While united around theology, vision and values, each congregation has a very real opportunity to customize ministry to its particular context with its particular leadership.

How Does the Leadership Structure Work?

Each local congregation has a team of elders (staff and non-staff) that shepherd the congregation, oversee its ministry, set its budget, carry out discipline, hire its staff and lead the mission in its community. While these elders care deeply about the overall vision of Redemption Church, their authority and oversight extends only to the congregation they are leading.

There is also a Redemption-wide Leadership Team that oversees the church as a whole and make decisions that impact all congregations. This team consists of the Lead Pastors from each congregation as well as other strategic leaders including the CFO and Communications Pastor.

The Leadership Team is not focused on congregation specific issues (what music to play, how to get more small groups in Tempe, etc.), but is focused on Redemption-wide issues. These include policy, vision, acquiring property, and planting new churches or congregations.

Is There a Leader of Leaders?

Yes. Tyler Johnson is currently the Lead Pastor of Redemption Church. What makes this unique is that Tyler does not lead one of the congregations. Rather, he is a pastor to the pastors, often visiting different congregations, leading the Leadership Team, and forging relationships and partnerships between Redemption and outside organizations. This is only possible because Tyler is humble, trustworthy, and highly relational. He has apostolic gifting that allows other gifted leaders to follow and trust him.

How Do Finances Work?

Each congregation is expected to be self-supporting (obviously, this takes time for new plants).

At this point, each congregation gives roughly 10% to a centralized Outward Focused fund that supports church-planting and community ministry.

Each congregation also pays roughly 10% to Central Operations for accounting, payroll, communication, website, graphics, and facility maintenance services. This percentage could change in the future if the Leadership Team decides that more resources need to be devoted to Central Operations.

The remaining 80% is available for the local congregation to budget and spend as needed. These funds pay for facilities, staff salaries, and ministry expenses. In a very real way, this allows those giving at a local congregation to know that every dollar they give is supporting the mission of their local congregation, as even the Outward Focused and Central Ops monies are used to extend and support the ministry of the local congregation.

How Does Preaching Work?

Each congregation has regular live preaching, overseen by the congregation’s Lead Pastor. Most of the time (~45 weeks) each congregation is preaching on the same biblical text or topic. This allows the preachers to study in advance together (we have a weekly Preaching Collective for all preachers) and share resources. It also builds unity across our congregations as everybody is tethered to the same text. When necessary, the Lead Pastor has the freedom to set the scheduled sermon aside and address an issue he deems important.

How Much Unity is There? How Much Freedom?

These questions have been and continue to be the most challenging part of multi-congregational ministry. There is no set-it and forget-it approach. Based on personality and gifting, some leaders push for more unity and uniformity, while others push for more freedom and individuality. It’s a constant tension to manage and having this diversity of leaders forces us to a healthier place.

Additionally, one of the most confusing aspects early on was for pastors, staff, and volunteers to have clarity on chain-of-command, who had jurisdiction over what, and what ministry efforts were or should have been centralized or decentralized. To address this challenge, we introduced the following categories: Centralized, Unified, and Decentralized.

1. Centralized = Things done the same way, overseen by a centralized department. Right now, this category includes finance, accounting, HR, facility maintenance, media and communications, pastoral residencies and Outward Focused Ministries.

2. Unified = Things done the same way, overseen by the local leadership. Right now, this category includes communities (small groups), preaching, membership, classes, elder processes, church discipline, biblical counseling, and benevolence.

3. Decentralized = Things done in different ways, overseen by local leadership. Right now, many things are decentralized, including guest services, kids, students, worship, assimilation, internships and ministries for men and women.

How Does it Actually Make Everyone Better?

We don’t have a comprehensive list, but…

  • Lead Pastors are better because they have a team of other men in the same role who are supporting and encouraging them.
  • Staff are better because they have associates at other congregations who are doing similar work.
  • Volunteer leaders and new staff are especially helped by the experience surrounding them in other congregations.
  • Preachers are better because they sharpen each other and share ideas weekly.
  • Members are better because they have more places to invite friends and co-workers who live in other parts of town to attend.
  • Each congregation is strengthened by the overall reputation of Redemption.
  • Church planters are better because they don’t have to reinvent the wheel (especially with admin) and they have the support and strength of a movement behind them.
  • Newer congregations are better because financing is available that wouldn’t be available if they were on their own.
What other questions do you have about multi-congregational ministry?

 

 

Published by

Luke Simmons

I was born and raised in Denver, CO and lived there through high school. Then I moved to Champaign, IL where I attended the University of Illinois and played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. I was married in December, 2001 to Molly, who I met at the U of I. In June of 2002, we moved to Phoenix and have been here ever since. In July of 2006, we welcomed a baby girl, Abby, into our family.

10 thoughts on “How Our Multi-Congregational Church Model Works”

  1. Thank you, Luke. There are lots of people I want to share this with, who have had questions about these very issues. This spells it out so well.

  2. Love the content Luke. There is a lot here to think about in our context. Really appreciate your leadership insights. I have anonymously gleaned for a while now.

  3. Luke – thanks for the great insights into how things are being worked out for you guys…one question I have is – what does the preaching collective look like & how does it work?

    1. Good question, Robert. The preaching collective is weekly on Wednesdays (looking at the passage two Sundays in advance — about ten days) . All the preaching pastors and many of the developing young pastors, interns and Residents come. Guys are expected to study the passage in advance. We talk it through verse-by-verse and try to come up with a big idea (main point), the gospel threads, and some application. Notes and ideas are shared, but each guy leaves responsible for creating his own sermon afterward. I would say that this process saves me a few hours a week of sermon prep and also helps me process a lot of ideas out loud. Plus, as an auditory learner, hearing other people talk is really helpful. Let me know if you have more specific questions or want to talk more about how it works.

  4. Luke, this structure as described here sounds very much like some aspects of Presbyterianism – pastors of local churches supporting and submitting to each other in a central structure vs. every pastor the “king of his castle” at times disconnected from the larger Body of churches. Labels aren’t always useful/helpful, but you and the other Redemption pastors ever think of yourselves through the lens of a presbytery?

    1. Matthew, good insight. My PCA buddies remind me of this all the time. We often tell people who won’t get hung up on the baggage that we are like a very tight local denomination. Now, being one organization makes that different, but in terms of function I think it’s pretty accurate.

  5. Luke! I really like this post! In our church (Gosen, Iglesia de la Familia, Caguas, Puerto Rico) are looking for options to grow and we are seriously considering a “multi-congregational” approach.

    I do have some questions: How do you determine where to open a campus, (besides God himself instructing you to do so)? And, what kind of team is needed for a new campus launch?

    I’ll appreciate all the help we can get! Thanks and God bless you, Luis

    1. Hi Luis, thanks for dropping by and good question. We view the launch of a new congregation like a church plant, where a qualified, assessed church planter needs to be called to a particular area and build a team that will help the church get started.

      So our determination has more to do with the calling of the planter/ lead guy. Typically, these have ended up being at least 20 minutes or so from one another as well. We probably wouldn’t plant something on top of an existing congregation unless it was so different (like when we planted a bi-lingual congregation).

      Also, we typically have a planter recruit a team and then work to launch small group communities in that area prior to a “grand opening.” The advantage for our model for a planter is that he gets to focus on leading and building the ministry, while our central operations take care of many of the administrative details that tend to distract and overwhelm planters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s