Multi-site criticisms: #1 Multi-site churches don’t value teaching gifts

I thought it might be of interest to address some frequent criticisms of multi-site churches.  Questions are good…they force us to examine what we do in light of scripture and culture.  Over the next few posts I’ll try to address them with what we’re learning from our six years in this crazy way of doing church.

Criticism #1:  Multi-site churches don’t produce preachers and teachers.

The concern stems from the concept that many multi-site churches leverage the teaching gift of one gifted teacher across various geographic locations…thereby not providing opportunities for young or new emerging teachers and preachers to develop their gifts.

Here’s how we handle that at Seacoast Church:

  • We have a primary teaching team
    Several years ago I decided that the only way for me to keep my sanity (the small portion that remains), stay healthy, and keep the church from relying too heavily on one voice, was to create a weekend teaching team.  We currently have 5 active members of the team.  The way it works for us is this; one person does the teaching at all the services on any given weekend at our Long Point location.  That in turn is videoed and viewed at our off-site locations the next weekend.  For us, this is one of the primary things that ties us together as a church – we are all hearing the same message…discussing it in groups, responding to what God is saying to us as a church.  I do between 55-60% of the weekends.
  • We have secondary teaching teams
    In addition to the weekends, we have secondary teaching opportunities that include: student ministries, young adult ministries, retreats, and special events.  Each of these have teaching teams that function similar to our weekend experience.  A newer teacher can cut their teach in an environment smaller than a weekend gathering.
  • We do initial message planning together
    For our weekend experience we do initial message planning together every Monday at 10:00am.  Some pastors are scheduled by nature and plan their messages out months in advance (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, etc).  Others are normal like me and have little of the organizational gift, work better on a tight deadline (a procrastinators motivator), and can only see what is coming in the current week…so I show up Monday morning with a clean sheet of paper, a preachers hangover, and a hope that the Holy Spirit will breath on the assigned scriptures that week…and with a faint (actually a very real) fear that I have exhausted all ability to say anything helpful the previous weekend.  We invite our primary teaching team, some of our secondary teams, and selected others to the meeting to help whoever is on that weekend think through the passage.  Occasionally visiting pastors or interested church goers ask if they can be a part of the process…which ratchets up the pressure to produce…but we almost always open the meeting to people who ask…with the requirement that they contribute, not just watch.  Actually its a lot of fun and God usually gives us insite that we couldn’t get on our own.  Just the process helps speakers in training get the hang of how you put a message together.
  • We have our primary teachers do a practice run through on Thursday afternoon
    After the message planning session, who ever is up to bat that week locks away to prepare the message.  Our deadline is Thursday noon (so notes can be printed, bulletins stuffed, and there has to be a deadline…so it might as well be Thursday so we can at least a couple of days of sanity before the weekend).  On Thursday afternoon, the teacher of the week does a practice run through for the teaching team.  This is not fun…but does make the message better.  It’s a tough crowd.  "What am I supposed to do as a result of that?"…"That wasn’t funny"…"I don’t have a clue what you were talking about"…"Does the Bible really say that?"  Definitely makes you sharpen your delivery before the weekend.
  • We have Starbucks coaching sessions throughout the week
    Several times I have received calls on Saturday morning…"You got time for a coffee?  I need help with an idea or two."  I love it…I just wish we would have had this type of environment when I was learning to preach.  My first attempts to speak were in youth services and nursing homes.  The youth services didn’t work out too well (I was fired from my first three youth pastor jobs).  Nursing homes were great because most of the people couldn’t hear, but they were happy I was there.
  • We have feedback sessions after our Saturday night service
    Sometimes the Saturday night message is really, really good.  Most of the time…not so much…so, we gather in the "bull pen" immediately after the service and see what we can salvage.  Usually it’s just a touch up…sometimes a major overhaul…but it’s great to know that the team is fully invested in making the message successful.
  • We intentionally teach prospective teachers weekly
    Every week, Mac Lake, one of our guys that loves developing leaders, gathers some of the newer teachers and others that we think may have the gift in embryo form.  They listen too and learn from some of the better preachers in the world.  Recently they have listened too and watched Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll and others…then Mac leads them through a discussion on techniques, structure, delivery, and what made it work.  I walked in recently and they grilled me on one of my recent messages.  They’ll learn over time not to question the supreme leader so harshly…
  • We give new, emerging teachers an occasional swing at the plate
    We have very few outside speakers at Seacoast.  I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it does allow more opportunities for upcoming, in house speakers to learn their craft.  Our campus pastors have quarterly turns at the plate as well.

I’m not sure multi-site has anything to do with whether you do a good job of training teachers and preachers.  It all depends on the vision of the house. 

What do you think?

Greg is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

15 comments
The Multi-site Churc
The Multi-site Churc

series responding to multi-site criticisms Greg Surratt is the senior pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the better known multi-site churches around, partly because they've been doing it a little longer than others, going on six years now. Greg started a series of blog posts

Tracy Brown
Tracy Brown

Greg (et al!): First, thanks for allowing us "behind the scenes". That takes guts...no Wizard-of-Oz tomfoolery in this kind of leadership! The study and effort you put into all you do in your walk with God is a true gift to all of us who are blessed to be part of the Seacoast family. You manage to stay on the cutting edge of technology and have assembled a talented ministry team that each week delivers messages that rarely miss their mark on being germane to everyday life. No complaints from this pew on the ability of the multi-site church to nurture teaching gifts. Of course, I would agree with Beth H. of James Island in my preference for a "live" message versus something on a TV screen. I'm among the fortunate who can drive to the Long Point campus for that special experience, but am grateful that you make other resources available if that's not possible. May God continue to bless all of your endeavors!

Beth H.
Beth H.

Greg: The only comment I have is that I far prefer to watch you and all the other pastors LIVE. I am from James Island but I attend the Long Point campus for this reason. Seeing it all LIVE, especially the semon, makes a VAST difference for me. It is like the difference between watching a sports game on TV and watching it live, or actually being a player on the field. There is no comparison. I simply HAVE to be there in person. It makes the worship come to life and makes it real and relevant for me. Have you had any other worhipers say this? I respect, appreciate and admire all you do. I think your pastor- training system is a great one. Keep up the excellent work! I will be seeing you soon, live and in person, of course!! Love and Blessings in Christ. Beth H.

Dennis Wilson
Dennis Wilson

I just recently attended Seacoast Summerville and I was a little concerned about the video sermons. Immediately I forgot that it was a video and was totally engrossed in the excellent teaching. Our previous church had a very dynamic teaching team as Seacoast does and my family personally loves that style of preaching. I greatly appreciate the desire of Greg and the teaching team to make the teaching as good as it can be and train up those who truly have the teaching gift. Not everyone does and even those who God has blessed can still use tips from the veterans who excel at it and in the ability to listen to the Holy Spirit. I want to say thanks to all of the Seacoast teaching staff!!!

layne
layne

I am challenged, encouraged, and planning. the ability to equip, and motivate that you describe is a beautiful thing I hope that one day I am on a team like that, thanks for the ideas

Bill Dawson
Bill Dawson

Thanks Greg, not only for the wonderful explanation, but for the commitment to the concept of II Tim 2:2. From my little window, it sometimes appears that the church has lost its way as far as mentoring. What a push-back to that arguement! How can we (1)transfer this to the off-site campuses and (2) expand it to other giftings? Is this concept part of the attack on the lack of hunger and vision we see far too prevelent in the pew? We love watching HS flow through Seacoast!

charlie lybrand
charlie lybrand

Greg, This post answeres many questions like; how does he (they) knock a home run every Sunday? or wow, you know that sermon was just for me. As a small group leader, I see that the small group concept starts with the teaching team all the way down to the home groups. No wonder God continues to Bless this wonderful group of Believers. I really appreciate each and everyone of you and your hard work for the Kindom of God. Charlie

Janet Bender
Janet Bender

Greg, I was w-a-a-y impressed to read about the process of preparing messages at Seacoast. What a committment to excellence!!In my opinion, the support of a teaching team insures that we all get relevant, effective Biblical messages every week as well as mentoring new and veteran pastors alike. Great system! As a veteran of S'vlle campus, I'm sure my spiritual growth over the last 4 years has been on the fast track because of the Seacoast team approach.

Randy Ehle
Randy Ehle

Greg, thanks for this good explanation. You have clearly addressed one of my big concerns, and I am interested to hear how you address others. I greatly appreciate the apparent passion for developing leaders/teachers.

Noel
Noel

We are actually launching our first venue this fall and I resisted the idea for quite awhile for this reason alone. Now, we have created a system where we will be able to develop many more teachers through shared teaching (which we already do) at both campuses. This will actually accelerate our development of young teachers, not hinder them.

Jim Tomberlin
Jim Tomberlin

Greg, Right on, long overdue, and very helpful. I love bragging on the fact that Seacoast has launched numerous church plants simultaneously while launching multiple campuses. Jim Tomberlin, ThirdQuarterConsulting.com

Shawn
Shawn

Great Post Greg. To all of the senior Pastors out there I want to say - watch and learn from Greg Surratt. Because of his desire and determination to build a teaching team I count it a blessing to get to be a Teaching Pastor Seacoast. I have also had an hour long, "help me fix the message please!!" meeting with Greg over the phone on a recent Saturday night. That is leadership and that is building teachers...and I thank Greg for being willing to hand over 50% of the weekends under his leadership.

Rich Barrett
Rich Barrett

Greg, that was really well said. It's a ridiculous argument in the first place, but you handled it very thoroughly. Great job!

Josh
Josh

Glad to be one of those that have called on a Saturday morning! I don't think that criticism holds any water...at least not at Seacoast. I'm looking forward to this series of posts!