• Steve Huffman

Immediately Recognizable vs. Replicated: Keeping the Culture Alive at Multi-Sites

When your church decides to go “multi-site” the first step is to develop a great set of overall guidelines that will provide guard rails for your off site locations. There are many great examples of these guidelines that are a good Google search away. What I’ve found is needed beyond the overall guidelines is a way to help multi-site locations extend the core culture to those sites.

When you develop your multi-site strategy, instead of replicating the central locations culture and feel you should shoot for a culture that is immediately recognizable instead of duplicated. I’ve been to a multi-site location that attempted to replicate the feel of the central location and it felt….wrong. The sound system, lights and volume were way overdone. They attempted to replicate the experience and it felt disconnected and off.

We developed what we referred to as Campus Culture Guidelines. These guidelines were developed by the champions or owners of ministry areas and they documented a short list of 10 or fewer items that fostered the culture we wanted at any of our locations. Along with the culture items they explained why those were important to the culture we wanted. They didn’t dictate a specific thing to purchase, rather it outlines practices that have become fairly standard in our culture.

Ministry areas that helped form this include home groups, outreach, technology, worship, weekend celebrations, first impressions, hospitality, spiritual development and business operations.

As an example here are a few culture items that we want to be immediately recognizable at any of our sites: volunteers parking at the furthest spaces from the door, a name tag table, free “good” coffee for all, creating an atmosphere that is newcomer aware (with 5 items that should be done at every campus to ensure that), leaving no question unanswered at the welcome desk, etc.

With this packet of information the campus leaders can help develop a culture and feel that is immediately recognizable and not replicated. While the distinction sounds trivial, in practice it is critically important to allow your multi-site locations the autonomy to implement the desired culture in their own context which will be much more successful than trying to replicate copies of one site out of context in other locations.