Insights From a Campus Pastor (a.k.a. Multisite Quarterback)

Campus pastors are the quarterbacks of a multisite church.

Why? They implement their church’s vision and strategy. They are the face of the team, striving to  lead them to victory on the field. Quarterbacks don’t call the plays. they get their plays from the offensive coordinator (via headset in the helmet). The playbook and the calls are designed primarily by the coaching staff before the game to be implemented by the players on the field during the game. Quarterbacks are authorized to make audibles or adjustments on the field as necessary, but they are not creating the plays, they are executing the plays they’ve been given.

The multisite church playbook is all about reproducing and multiplying proven best ministry practices across multiple locations. Multisite at its best is a centrally governed, centrally supported delivery of standardized and aligned best practices across all locations that is implemented consistently by local site staff. Campus pastors must be team players who lead from the second chair and implement the ministry playbook given them.

Among campus pastors, some are invited to lead the broadcast campus of a multisite church that delivers the sermons by video streaming. That usually happens when a multisite church gets to four or more locations and only about 5% of multisite churches reproduce beyond three locations. It takes unusual skill, experience and grit to be a broadcast campus pastor of a multisite church.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview one of those campus pastors leading a broadcast campus. Tucker Stipe serves at Christ Fellowship in Miami. Christ Fellowship is a multisite church of 6,000+ attendees in Miami and 1,000+ in their international locations with five locations in Miami-Dade and nine across the Caribbean, Central and South America.

How long have you been serving at Christ Fellowship and in what roles?

Nine years. Initially I began volunteering in the small group ministry at the downtown Miami campus (600+ people) and became the associate campus director within six months. A year later I became the campus pastor for our Coral Gables campus (a portable congregation meeting in a theater with 400+ people) and did that for two years. Three months into COVID I took over the broadcast location (3,500+ people) while we were exclusively online.

What is the role of campus pastors at Christ Fellowship Miami?

The role of campus pastors at Christ Fellowship is to implement the CFM vision of helping people and their families to follow Jesus by connecting them to God in weekend services, others in small groups, ministry on a serving team, the mission of sharing Jesus, and serving our local communities. Functionally, the CP co-supervises the campus staff in leading and shepherding their congregation.

You were a campus pastor at another Christ Fellowship campus before becoming the broadcast campus pastor. How is your campus pastor role at the broadcast campus different from the other multisite campuses?

Not having to set-up and tear-down in a 24-7 location is a big difference. Though I am responsible for the same things, the scope and scale are different. I oversee more paid staff now compared to mostly volunteer staff. Also, the fact that the services at my campus stream to all the other campuses and online requires extra coordination with the lead pastor, executive pastor and experience pastor.

What are the unique advantages of being at the broadcast campus?

Having paid staff that focus on their specific ministries (small groups, students, kids, etc.) frees me up to focus more on higher-level leadership and problem-solving that comes with managing the complexity of a larger campus. Being at the broadcast campus also gives me more influence in the organization. Having been a volunteer, staff member and pastor at a multisite campus, I understand the tensions of central vs. campus and can be a problem-solver for integration and alignment across the campuses.

What are the unique tensions of being a broadcast campus pastor?

Being at the broadcast campus often brings more responsibility but less freedom to lead because the central leadership team and central ministry directors primarily base out of the broadcast campus. This creates a greater demand to keep in sync with the central team decisions than an off-site campus pastor. One other key tension for me is being wired to preach and not being part of the teaching team.

How do you manage the tensions at the broadcast campus?

Being a team player, not the team leader in many areas, means remembering that my leadership is more about influence than authority. In addition to our weekly campus pastor meetings with the pastor of campuses, I work very hard at overcommunicating with the central team leaders. Humility with a positive attitude goes a long way. I do get to preach occasionally from the broadcast campus, but I am learning to develop my teaching gift through other outlets like our young adult ministry. Additionally as the host of the weekend service I work hard on making my words effective and concise in the welcoming, giving and shepherding moments on stage.

What advice do you have for those who aspire to be a broadcast campus pastor?

If you are going to lead a campus at the scale of most broadcast locations you need to develop both your spiritual maturity and your strategic leadership chops. Lead and grow a multisite campus with integrity at another location before serving the broadcast campus. Implement the mission-vision and bleed the DNA of your church. Be a team player and demonstrate you can be trusted. And love your people.

Any other question I should be asking you?

“What advice do you have for the person who oversees the broadcast campus pastor?”

Give the broadcast campus pastor clarity on the boundaries and then allow them to run within those boundaries. I like the picture of a box. The foundation is the mission, vision and values of the church. The right wall is the stated goals for the year. The left wall is the church-wide calendar of events. And the top of the box is their budget. As long as they stay inside those four walls give them room to run, at least 80% of the time.

Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, had this great little quote in his memoir, “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what you want and let them surprise you with the results.” I think that’s great advice. Give them the target, provide the guardrails, then set them loose.

Go team!

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This article originally appeared on Campus Pastor and is reposted here by permission.

Jim Tomberlin
Jim Tomberlin

Jim Tomberlin (@MultisiteGuy) is a multisite strategist and church merger specialist at The Unstuck Group and the author of several books, including Better Together: Making Churches Mergers Work-Expanded and Updated (with Warren Bird) and 125 Tips for Multisite Churches.