Mark S. Mitchell

Pastor, Writer, Follower of Jesus

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Raising up Preachers Through the Multi-Site Model

For the past five years, the church in which I serve as Lead Pastor on the San Francisco Peninsula has adopted a multi-site model. Being a church of almost 3,000 people with only 2 acres in Foster City, we outgrew our facilities and felt this was the best way to continue to grow and reach the Peninsula for Christ. Our original campus is still in Foster City, but we have started two additional campuses. About five years ago, we started our North Campus in Millbrae (now in San Bruno), and then this past September we started a campus in Redwood City. We continue to function as one church on three campuses, with one budget and one board of elders. Each of our campuses has its own Campus Pastor and its own “campus specific” staff, but several of our staff serve all three campuses.

One of the challenges of doing multi-site has to do with preaching. With three campuses meeting every Sunday, we now have 156 Sundays a year (52 on each campus) to cover on the preaching calendar. Many multi-site churches have chosen to leverage the speaking and leadership gifts of one preacher and so they have him preach “in person” in the original campus and show a video of the sermon on the other campuses. It is argued that this is also a wise use of resources, in that it takes most guys 15-20 hours a week to prepare a message. But that approach has been criticized for several reasons: it just furthers the “celebrity” status of one person; it doesn’t allow young, emerging pastors to grow and develop their own preaching gifts; and it is contrary to an “incarnational” model of ministry.

What our church has adopted is a hybrid approach. Trying to cover 156 Sundays is a lot, so we still use video some of the time, usually when I am preaching on the “hub” campus. But we have also found that the multi-site model is a great way to train young preachers. Each of our Campus Pastors preaches “in person” several times a year on his own campus. On those weeks, I have an opportunity to work with them on their messages and debrief the following week. They benefit from that in several ways. First, if we never chose to go multi-site, we would only have 52 Sundays to cover, and they would get much less opportunity to preach. Second, if we had started a church instead of a campus, they would be burned out by trying to preach 52 times a year! Third, hopefully they benefit from the coaching I give them as well as the interaction between themselves as they prepare their messages on the same text. The bottom line is that more young guys are being trained to preach under this multi-site model than otherwise possible.

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Cheap Grace

Eric Metaxas has written a timely and insightful essay on “cheap grace” in light of politicians “falling from grace” and then being restored to a measure of respectability. I couldn’t agree with him more. The same thing applies to those in ministry. I hope you will read it!


Shout Out to Coaches

Last weekend I had the opportunity to hang with and speak to about 55 coaches and their spouses. This was a weekend conference at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley put on by a group called Coaches Time-Out (CTO), which is part of Pro Football Outreach. My good friend, Steve Stenstrum, is the President of Pro Football Outreach and he invited me to be one of the speakers. I was joined by David and Kelli Pritchard, who spoke on marriage; Don Christiansen, who spoke on managing money; and Steve Kennelley, who spoke on leadership. Joe Broussard, the National Director for CTO, did an excellent job hosting the conference.

Part of the reason this was fun for me is that I have a heart for coaches and their spouses. As I think back to my own growing up, I can see how influential coaches were in my life. Men like Tom Burt, Bob Baird, Ron Moser at Los Altos High School and Jim Sanderson at Cal Poly had a huge impact on me. I was like wet cement and they made an imprint on me that has lasted to this day. Growing up, I never understood how much they sacrificed to invest in me and others. It makes me also appreciate the many coaches who are now part of the church I pastor and I am reminded of the important ministry they have in the lives of children.

Coaches were so important in shaping my life that I went to college as a P.E. major with the intent of being a coach. God re-routed me to pastoral ministry, but I have still done some coaching along the way. I coached varsity football for a year at Mountain View High School. I also coached wrestling for a year at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton while serving as a youth pastor at a nearby church. One of the joys of my life was coaching all three of my kids in soccer, football and baseball. I’m not sure I was all that good at it, but I wanted to coach because of what my coaches had meant to me. Even now as a pastor, much of what I do with our staff is more like coaching than pastoring.

Coaches continue to be an important part of my life. I have a son-in-law who is a football coach at Stanford University. I am very proud of him and my daughter, who see coaching as more of a calling than a job. My own son, Matt, has had a lifelong dream of being a Division One football coach. He is now approaching his senior year at Wheaton College where he plays football. I’m more than grateful for the coaches at Wheaton College, like Mike Swider and Rodney Sandberg, who have invested in my son and have provided a sterling example of what it means to be not just a football player but a man of God.

If you get a chance, find a way to say thanks to the coaches in your life. Better yet, pay a coach’s way to one of the conferences put on by CTO next summer.