Ten years ago, most people would have said multisite only works in large suburban centers. Chad Merrell, Paul Smith and Philip Thurman have proved the experts wrong and built thriving mutisite churches in villages as small as 2000 people.
In this honest interview, they share how they overcame the odds and isolate the principles to help other leaders do it too.
Welcome to Episode 150 of the podcast.
Chad on Twitter
Phillip on Twitter
Paul on Twitter
3 Insights from This Episode
1. Developing leaders in a rural context
Rural communities aren’t always leadership magnets. And even great leaders that rise up in rural communities don’t usually stay there. So where and how do you find and develop pastors or teams? How do you keep the leadership pipeline full?
For Paul, he’s found that shoulder tapping people who show leadership potential works well. He looks for a group of potential leaders and invites them into a small group setting where they read books together and work on development.
In Phillip’s church, their staff is predominately bi-vocational with full-time jobs outside of the church. People who choose to be on church staff even though they have a full-time job outside of the church have a drive, commitment and passion that usually makes them natural leaders. Phillip supports them by pouring into them constantly to keep their well from running dry. He’s there to walk with them through the ups and downs of life, ministry and mission.
Chad’s strategy is to hire people with forward thinking minds who have the potential to grow and move into new roles. Then, Chad emphasizes the vision again and again and again. This is because they’re potential leaders, and potential leaders are attracted to big vision. If Chad keeps hiring forward thinkers, and he keeps sharing vision, people will keep asking to be part of it.
2. More margin means focused mission
The average income is typically lower in a rural context. This means that for people to invest in the church, both in time, money and passion, you need to help them find margin. If they can get margin, they’ll live on mission.
All three pastors agreed that a big part of that was getting first the staff, and then the rest of the church, financially healthy. Financial health programs linked above. Money is something people worry about, get divorced over, and leave the church over. It’s a big deal. Getting the church financially healthy isn’t just about creating healthy tithers, but creating healthy families, which lead to healthy communities and thriving churches.
3. Essential tips for starting in a smaller context
- The campus pastor needs to be a person from the community. If they’re from the community, then they’ll inherently understand the needs of the community. And church members won’t be anxious about an outsider coming in to change things.
- Everything has to be more relational than suburban or urban settings. In a culture where everyone knows everyone, relationships are everything in rural context.
- Find the hub of the community. The hub isn’t as visible as it is in the suburbs or city. There isn’t a main street or large commerce area. We have to take time to find where people are doing life, what they care about, and then fit those passions within the vision of the church.
Quotes from This Episode
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Next Episode: Mark Clark
Mark Clark pastors one of Canada’s largest and fastest growing churches. Attracting thousands of young adults, Mark has a unique approach to apologetics and preaching that’s connecting with a post-Christian, post-modern generation.
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