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Multi-site Youth Ministry Raises Multiple Questions

 —  September 12, 2013 — 4 Comments

It appears that the multi-campus strategy for church growth is here to stay…for a while, anyway. And regardless of how you might feel about it, if your church decides to launch a new campus or two or three, you will quickly find yourself trying to figure out what that looks like in your youth ministry setting.

Our church, thus our youth ministry, has been functioning as a multi-site campus for about seven years. Because we’ve been at it so long, you’d think we would have it completely or mostly or at least partially figured out by now. And we do! We have it partially figured out (we’re slow learners). As our youth ministry has struggled to get our arms around multi-site youth ministry, here are a few of the bigger questions we’ve asked ourselves as we continue to muddle our way through a multi-campus approach to youth ministry:

Does The Youth Ministry Approach To Multi-site Ministry Need To Mirror That Of The Larger Church? Because so many youth ministries have a fair amount of autonomy and often do things ways that don’t reflect the rest of the church, it makes sense that this question needs to be asked. Our decision was that we would mirror the larger church in the bigger, more crucial, pieces of the strategy while reserving the freedom to customize things that we needed to. As a result, our youth ministry multi-site strategy is a very similar looking hybrid of the overall strategy.

How Much Freedom Do We Want Each Youth Ministry To Have? This is a huge, and ongoing question. Right now our motto is, “We Are Many; We Are One!” which is an attempt to keep in the forefront of our minds the desire to be one youth group in several locations. In reality we are several youth groups that share leadership, resources, strategy, etc. We’ve created a red light, yellow light, green light system of checks and balances: Red Light things are things the various campuses have to do exactly like the rest of us. Yellow light things are things they can “proceed with caution” on; do it how they want but be mindful of bigger picture. Green light things are things they have complete freedom to do in any way that makes sense in their context. Determining the level of control your central or “main” campus will have over the others is a fundamental question that needs to be answered…and evaluated on a regular basis.

How Do We Solve The Curriculum Quandary? What do the various campuses teach, and when? Who writes curriculum and lessons? Are messages pre-produced on video to ensure quality control across the board? Should every campus be on the exact same scope and sequence? We’ve decided that each campus can have the freedom to teach anything they want…as long as it’s from our massive archive of lessons that have already been used in our original youth ministry. Not a perfect approach, but it’s working for us.

If you happen to be part of a multi-site youth ministry, please share some of the questions you’ve had to answer along the way!

Kurt Johnston

Kurt Johnston

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Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

4 responses to Multi-site Youth Ministry Raises Multiple Questions

  1. I’m wondering if you can give us some examples of red, yellow, and green light areas for you all? Great article!

    • Kurt Johnston

      Here are a few, Craig:

      RED LIGHT: Our purpose statement and ministry paradigm, the mandate to teach lessons that have already been used at original campus, background checks and interview steps for volunteers, attendance at summer camp, etc.

      YELLOW LIGHT: Determining when in the life of the new campus to start small groups, whether small groups are centralized or decentralized, how often and what the ‘feel’ of volunteer training meetings should be, parent ministry, etc.

      GREEN LIGHT: How budget is allocated, types of, and how many, special events and activities to do, weekly work schedule, etc.

      Hope that helps!

  2. I love the simplicity of your red, yellow and green light system. Your key questions are helpful. Here are some Q’s I recommend to anyone thinking about multi-site under the category of getting clarity. Without clarity early, we experienced a lot of vision drift and sideways movement. We learned the hard way. Some of these are just not adding much to the convo above, but that last question is huge for churches to determine.

    Clearly define cultural values of the church

    Clearly define the win (or whatever you call what you will celebrate as the goal for all youth ministries)

    Get clarity around what is essential and non-negotiable (names/branding, events, programs, ethos of ministry…etc.)

    Get clarity around what is open for contextualization (names/branding, events, programs, ethos of ministry…etc.)

    Clearly define who will be responsible for overseeing campus youth minister directly and who will be responsible for helping lead in a secondary role. How do the triangle of relationships involving the campus pastor, campus youth pastor and youth ministry department team lead work?

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