Communication in a Multisite Church

I have been married to my wife, Hillary, for 15 years and despite the fact that we talk every day, at times we easily have issues with communication.  Either I’m not listening or she’s not sharing or we’ve both made assumptions we think are true or we are on our phones too much or…the list could go on. One thing is obvious; communication is hard to do effectively.  What is true in a marriage is just as true with friends, family, and especially within a work environment.  Churches are no exception.

When you add the layer of multisite to a church, the matrix of leadership and different complexities make effective communication an even greater challenge. Campus pastors, specifically, must intentionally put measures in place to establish healthy, effective communication between themselves and their senior pastor and staff.

Roadblocks to Communication—Unfortunately, multisite campus pastors have a couple strikes against them in regard to effective communication with the senior pastor. Most notably is that some campus pastors don’t even know their senior pastor. I’ll suggest, up front, this is not ideal. For those who do have relationships with your senior pastor and staff, let me highlight some challenges that affect communication to a lesser degree than not knowing them. Identifying communication roadblocks ahead of time will help you navigate their pitfalls more soundly.

  • Lack of Interaction: Relationships between a campus pastor and their senior pastor and staff lack the consistent interaction enjoyed by staff members housed at a single location. This issue is exacerbated by the inability to interact with these people in a natural setting. (ie: passing in the hallway or running into each other over coffee in the break room)
  • Proximity: You don’t realize how convenient it is to be able to walk down the hall when an issue arises until you don’t have the option. Ministry is a fluid endeavor, and sometimes things need to be adjusted or tweaked on the fly. When you are 30+ miles away from the senior pastor and other decision makers in your organization, and a phone call won’t suffice, proximity is not your friend.
  • Out of Sight & Out of Mind: Maybe you’ve seen a directive or ministry initiative come down the pike and thought “did anyone think of our campus when they made this decision”? The answer is, possibly not. Let me say up front, this is likely not an intentional slight by your senior pastor or staff. When I began my ministry at our original location years ago, on a day-to-day basis entrenched in ministry and the challenges and opportunities that came along with that I never even thought about the North Campus—where I serve today. Multi-site campuses can often fall victim to the out-of-sight-out-of-mind phenomenon.

Pathways to Communication—Yes, there are roadblocks but they are not insurmountable. Pathways to successful communication are available. Here are a few I have found to be effective when dealing with the relationship between campus pastor and senior pastor/staff.

  • Consistency: Since the campus pastor is responsible for carrying out the vision of the senior pastor, there must be consistent communication and great attention to the importance of this relationship. If possible, consistent communication should be firmly established within the first 90 days.
  • Over-communicate: It is always best to over-communicate rather than not communicate enough. This allows the senior pastor the ability to be fully informed on the actions, decisions and relationships the campus pastor is building.
  • Spend Time Together: All relationships are strengthened by spending time together and the relationship between campus pastor and senior pastor is no different. But don’t just spend time meeting with your senior pastor. If my senior pastor asks me to do something I am going to say yes unless there is an unavoidable conflict that keeps me from doing so. This could be going to a baseball game or playing tennis or meeting for breakfast. I’ve learned the importance of connecting with him in a non-work setting.
  • Become a Student: Campus pastors must learn the tendencies and areas of main concern by observing how the senior pastor leads and by asking questions about what he is thinking as he leads and makes decisions. I will be able to communicate more effectively with my senior pastor and staff when I understand where they are coming from. Studying your senior pastor and staff is one of the most effective ways you listen to them, and will ultimately become another pathway to effective communication.

 

Chris Kouba
Lead Pastor – North Campus