DNA & Autonomy

When I first came to NCC in 2010, I had little experience with the multi-site model, especially with the way that worship teams flow and function. I basically thought it was a bunch of bands, at a bunch of campuses, doing their own thing, and just leading worship as best they can. Over the past 4 years, I’ve learned that it’s so much more than that, first working under Steph Modder (our previous Worship Coordinator), and then stepping into the Worship Director role at the end of 2012. Our 714 team thought it may be helpful to provide some thoughts about multi-site worship by not only lending our voice, but also connecting with some influential multi-site churches around the country, to hear how they roll. Multi-site is quickly becoming a “norm” rather than a “weird”, and as churches are expanding their vision to reach more people for the Gospel, we’re seeing many pastors GO BIG, by going small. Instead of people coming to US, we’re going to THEM, and the Church is beautifully reflecting the early Acts church! It’s an exciting time of ministry, and a great time to think outside the box.

(I’m strictly speaking to the worship side of how we do multi-site at NCC, so let that be the framework of this blog.)

The first topic I wanted to tackle, is the DNA and Autonomy of different locations within a Multi-site church model. Notice I didn’t say DNA “verses” Autonomy, since I don’t think these two thoughts need to work against each other, rather they can work with each other, and build a healthy sound of worship across different locations.

At National Community Church, we currently have 7 campuses, located throughout the DC and Northern Virginia area. In each unique community that our locations are planted, there are different demographics, different pulses, different landscapes, and different ways of life. If we had a “one size fits all” approach, we would quickly realize that we’re celebrating conformity, and not diversity. With every campus we launch, we look at the community we are coming to, and ask the question “how do we need to lead worship, so that this campus can fully encounter the presence of God?” We also know that the DNA of our worship at NCC is rooted in a God-centered vision that we hope to bring into each campus we launch. DNA is the makeup of who we are, as a worship team, and as a church. With DNA, we have certain “non-negotiables” that we believe need to be apart of every worship team, and every worship service. We’re still figuring out what all of those are, but here are a few:

  • 1)Facilitating an atmosphere where the presence of God is fully welcome, fully present
  • 2)Leading worship with a “simplicity meets excellence” mindset
  • 3)Creating a worship experience where the Holy Spirit can move, and our congregations can respond

Those are just a few intentional things we reach for as a 714 team. We don’t have them all mapped out, but we are working on writing out these vision points. When you have vision, write it out, and allow God to be the editor.

The other side of the coin here is autonomy. This refers to the independence or freedom that each campus has, while still yielding to the core values of NCC. In our 714 language, we call this “freedom within framework”. We want each campus to lead worship in a way that will engage their community. This means leading songs that connect to the unique congregations we have. Our more suburban campuses probably aren’t singing the same exact setlist that our Lincoln Theatre and Barracks Row campuses are. Each worship leader has the opportunity to choose the songs that God’s placed on their heart, for their community. We do have the same closing response song at the end of every service, which is the one song that ties all of our campuses together. That response song is usually tied in with the message theme, giving our church a melody to meditate on when they physically leave our service. There are other great multi-site churches that all sing the same worship set of songs, however that’s not our particular leaning. DC is such a unique area, and we want to allow the beautiful diversity to shine through. We’ll have bilingual worship, we’ll have some campuses rocking Tomlin and Hillsong, while others rock Israel Houghton and Ricardo Sanchez. We’ll infuse our own originals, and we’ll do different versions and arrangements of hymns from time to time.

I think the beautiful thing about the church is that we don’t all look the same, and yet we’re lifting up the same great name. Let Philippians 2:10 be your encouragement and guide whenever you think about worship in a multi-site context. It says “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. That’s one of our ultimate goals in worship, to see EVERY knee bow, in humble adoration of Jesus Christ. I’ll close with our 714 Vision, which is painted in our rehearsal room to remind all of our teams why we do what we do:

“We are one church, multiple locations, glorifying God through excellence in sound, spirit, and service."

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