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.
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?