Multisite Playcalling: The Coach-Quarterback Conundrum


Are you struggling to balance centralized planning with local autonomy in your multisite church? Discover how the coach-quarterback metaphor can clarity your decision-making process and foster effective leadership.

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Has anyone really figured out how to best define multisite decision rights?

It feels like THE issue faced by every multisite church. And the direction of this decision is critical to everything in and around the multisite church.

How you answer this question can determine:

  1. The type of leaders you’ll need, attract, and retain at the campus.
  2. The kind of leaders you’ll need, draw, and have at central.
  3. The potential contextualization of campuses.
  4. The flexibility in ministry environments.

A Multisite Church Decision Rights Metaphor (or Illustration)

I’m returning from a church visit with a tremendous multisite church in Florida. They have three locations and a handful of network church relationships.

They’re growing and killing it in many ways. They are also making relatively significant adjustments to their ministry model heading into 2024. I’m helping them build a model more driven to movement than moments. Basically, we want to construct a discipleship pathway that inspires people along their faith journey through easy, obvious, and logical steps.

Adjusting to a new model in a single-site church is challenging. Changing the approach for three locations of varying sizes and staff presence is much more difficult.

While the pastor and I discussed possible solutions, I stumbled upon a metaphor/illustration. Perhaps because it’s football season, and I’m once again losing my mind with the Falcons, the coach/quarterback relationship came to mind.

At this church, campus teams are relatively small. The central team creates most systems, processes, and products, but each campus location executes the systems, processes, and products.

As we discussed possible solutions to implement this new method at each campus, I suggested, “This sounds like a football game plan.” The coach and quarterback work together in planning, but when the game begins, the coach calls the plays while the quarterback executes the play. Of course, in a healthy coach/quarterback relationship, they constantly communicate and work to improve the offense series to series. But the coach is ultimately responsible for the play calling, while the quarterback is responsible for on-the-field execution.

From Football to Multisite Decision-Making

I really love this comparison. Most multisite churches have a larger central team than campus teams. This approach allows for economies of scale, but it’s more than just that.

At the campus, the work of ministry and pastoral touch requires people. People work with people. If a campus team attempted to create every system, process, and product and execute it independently, the team would either need to triple in size or implode after a week.

The campus team can do something the central team cannot: Know the community and congregation. They can inspire people to take steps and support them along the way.

Conversely, the central team is better positioned to support the campus teams as they support the people. They create the systems and processes that free up the campus staff to run the play and lead the people.

Central teams are coaches, and campus teams are quarterbacks. They work together to win but have separate roles and responsibilities. One calls the plays, while the other organizes the people to execute the plays.

In Your Context…

If you’re a multisite church, how do you determine decision rights? How much flexibility do you give campuses to “call their own plays?”

It’s a balance, of course. The most efficient approach is to centralize everything and not involve the quarterback in any decisions. If you want to employ “game-managers,” this is your path. If you wish to engage leaders of people, you’ll need to allow the quarterbacks into the coach’s office to gameplan along the way. And, you’ll need to remain in constant communication to ensure the plays work on the field.

If you’re struggling to define decision rights, consider this football analogy. Clarity is kindness. And by the way, the quarterback usually gets all the praise! And the criticism.

A Few Other Multisite Thoughts: