12Stone Church started about 25 years ago, and a few years ago, was one of the fastest growing churches in the nation, if not THE fastest growing church. Last year, 12Stone launched 5 new campuses IN ONE DAY, bringing the total to 9 campuses. So not only is it a mega-church, but is a multi-site church with a strong focus on outreach, church-planting, and meeting and loving people as they are and giving people the opportunity to meet God and experience life change. The more I get to learn about the church, the more I love it and thank God for such a powerful Kingdom-building church.
I've spent the last four months learning, asking questions and observing and soaking in the culture and values of my church, and here are some of the things I've noticed.
Here are a few thoughts/observations about working at a megachurch:
- Everyone has a specific, specialized role. In a smaller (regular-sized) church, as the children's pastor, I would be in charge of the nursery, the preschool, the children's ministry admin work, the hospitality/first impressions/guest relations, the preteen ministry, the kids music ministry, the special event ministry, the Sunday morning elementary ministry, the production/tech/worship, the special events/VBS/outreach events, the kids portion of the website and promo, and I would maybe also sometimes be the janitor and need to set up or clean up my space, as well as anything else in the church that needed to be done. In a megachurch, there's a staff person for every one of those roles. Instead of having to run all of those aspects of the children's ministry, each leader can focus specifically on a certain area of ministry, and specialize in that area. My main focus at 12Stone is the elementary ministry at our Central Campus- so I get to pour my heart into the elementary volunteers and small group leaders and pour myself into making the Sunday ministry experience amazing for elementary kids. And I absolutely love it. It's challenging, but the Lord is stretching me and teaching me as I allow Him to guide me.
- Relationships must be Intentional. In a smaller church, especially when you're in a ministry position, it's easy for everyone in the church to know who you are, and it's easier to make friendships and relationships in the church. This also actually makes recruiting volunteers easier, because you can easily know everyone (or almost everyone) in the entire church. Even in a church of 700 to 1000, you can know a lot of the people who attend regularly. You can find friends with whom you have a lot in common, and get to know people because you see them a lot and have chances to talk to the same people each week. In a church of 20,000, with 9 different campuses, this is not the case! Even if I know someone who attends the church, I could easily go to church every Sunday for a year, and maybe not run into them! It's harder to get to know people, and in order to make friendships and build relationships, you have to be intentional. Plus, with 4 Sunday services, people go to different services all the time, and it's harder to get to know and see and talk to the same people every week. It's not impossible- I've made some great friends- but it takes more intentionality! This is one reason small groups are so huge in megachurches. Small groups make a megachurch seem like a small, local church and make building connections easier.
- The myth: with so many people, you always have PLENTY of volunteers. You might think that just because you have 17,000+ people at your church, that you ALWAYS have more than enough volunteers lined up out the door ready to serve for anything needed. This is not the case. The faster the church grows, and the faster the church plants other campuses, the more volunteers you constantly need, and recruiting volunteers is a constant and intentional process. If anything, I've found it's actually easier at smaller churches, because you can easily know everyone in the church. That being said, there are a ton of amazing leaders and strong teams, and I am thankful for each of them, and it is cool to see pray for God to send the right people for the right roles, and see Him empower people to serve using their gifts.
- Emphasis on the big picture and the church culture. This church has a big vision for reaching the lost (One Matters), and keeps us focused on the big picture in everything we do. We don't do a ton of programming and little events like at smaller churches, and we can't make big programming changes or one day, decide to start a midweek kids ministry just because. Your vision and your heart must become sold out to the bigger picture and vision for the church as a whole, and not just your ministry. In a smaller church, there's a little more freedom to do your own thing or change up your own ministry as you want, but in a bigger church, especially a multi-site church, there has to be consistency and loyalty and submission to the vision and big picture of the church as a whole, and you have to buy-in and submit to the church's culture in everything you do in your ministry. Which leads into my next observation...
- Focus on thinking large-scale ministry and thinking multi-site. Like my last point, decisions can't just be made for your ministry on your own, and apart from the rest of the church, and changes may sometimes happen that you aren't a part of or don't have a say in, and you don't always have freedom to make every change you want to make, but it takes a commitment to trusting the leadership and the vision God is giving the church as a whole, and not just focusing on your piece of the whole. When making elementary ministry decisions or curriculum choices, I have to now think of the 8 other campuses and how they will implement each aspect, and I also have to make sure the ministry is aligned with the church as a whole and the direction we are going together. One other thing is thinking more large-scale in terms of who the target is for the church, and how we relate to guests or non-Christians. In a smaller church, your target may be more narrow, and at any given Sunday, even with several visitor families, you can easily know the majority of the people at your service, and where they are spiritually, and you can target your ministry for where they are. But thinking larger scale and bigger target, with a lot more non-Christians and visitors means your ministry has to be shaped to reach those people. You can't assume everyone at church is spiritually mature, and in fact, we assume at 12Stone that people AREN'T spiritually resolved, and we aim to be a place where people who may have messy situations or aren't close with God at all can come as they are and meet Him. It's a different way of doing ministry, and I love hearing all the stories of life change each week!
- As a staff member, focus on teams, embracing the culture, and leadership development. In the 4 months I've been here, I've been to staff meetings to help me learn the culture and values and vision of the church, I've had meetings with a culture coach and read books written by the church leadership, and have attended a training just on learning the history, values, vision and culture of the church. There is a huge value in staff learning to ask questions and learn and grow in the church's culture, you couldn't work here and not have buy-in and not know what the church values and what it exists for. The vision is laser-focused, and it has to be. A church this size can't try to do and be everything for every ministry need. They wouldn't grow and wouldn't last long if it did! They also put value on helping the staff grow in leadership development through coaching, mentoring and growing strong leaders and strong teams. There is a very healthy staff team atmosphere, and I believe the heart for growing leaders and strong teams comes from the top down. I have deep respect for every leader above me, and trust their heart, and they trust and invest in their staff. It's a very healthy staff atmosphere, and I'm thankful to be on this great team, doing big things for the Kingdom!
These are just a few of my current thoughts and observations. I'm absolutely loving my time here, and thankful for 12Stone and the children's ministry. *These are not necessarily the views of 12Stone Church.