“Do you preach?” That’s typically the question I’m asked after people hear that I’m a South Mountain Community Church (SMCC) multisite campus pastor. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the “multisite” model, so I get it.
Multisite churches come in lots of different shapes and sizes. There’s satellite campuses, video-venues and “families of churches” led by location pastors, site pastors and campus pastors. My role is so much different from traditional planting that the title “church planter” might not fit, but then again, my role is also different from most campus pastors I’ve met.
“Campus planter” might best describe my last two years here at SMCC Lehi. To clear up confusion regarding my role and to counter the negative impression some might have regarding multi-site, let me quickly give you two reasons why I love it and why I would not change the last two years for anything.
We’ve reached lots of people in a very short amount of time. Two years ago, we started a brand-new ministry in Lehi, Utah, a place that is less than .005 evangelical. And in two short years we have seen over 100 people join a group, 100 people join a team and we have baptized over 30 adults. We’ve hired new staff, started midweek ministries for all ages and launched a second service. I don’t care what you call our model or what you call me, but that’s why we’re all in on this kingdom-building approach. At SMCC, multisite is more about church planting than anything else. Simply put, we want to reach as many people as possible.
Multisite has been a gift to my family. My wife and I are nowhere near burnout, which cannot be said about many of my church planting friends. My wife, Carrisa, has dozens of other close friends on staff and so do I. These relationships strengthened us when we landed in brand-new city 1,000 miles from home. Did we parachute in? Yes. Did it feel like that? No. Why? The multisite model.
I work on a team of great leaders who are my best friends. Since we have a central support team that serves my campus administratively, I’m free to spend the best part of my hours leading people, leading teams and growing the Lehi campus.
Now, let’s change gears for a minute. Here’s something else you should know: It’s really hard. I wrestle with all the insecurities that any church planter might experience. We had a crowd on Day One but no community. We had to solve that. We had to build relationships, build trust, build teams and build out a building—and we did all that in five months. It was, and still is, hard.
I can’t take credit for SMCC Lehi, and that’s part of why I love it. I stand on the shoulders of years of vision casting, fund raising and healthy ministry. I can’t say I’m the lead pastor, and that’s fine with me. There are days I pinch myself because I’m living a church planter’s dream. This is not by accident; this is the strategic advantage of multisite.
So, the next time you meet a person who serves at a multisite church, ask what excites them. Don’t ask if they preach. By the way, I preach about 45 weeks a year.
Eric Nelson is executive pastor of teaching and ministry at South Mountain Community Church, a multi-site church meeting at four locations throughout Utah—Draper, Lehi, South Jordan and St. George. The church also has a Spanish language congregation. After a 10-year career in student ministry in the Pacific Northwest, Nelson and his wife, Carrisa, moved to Utah to plant SMCC Lehi. The Nelsons have two children.