The Church Leadership Group serves as the primary consulting platform for Wade Burnett, who first began serving in this role alongside Jim Tomberlin at MultiSite Solutions. For the past five years, Wade has dedicated his vocational life to helping pastors and leaders answer a single question: “How can churches today honor the past while preparing for even more significant days in the new season ahead?” To that end, Wade has relentlessly researched how the church has arrived at where we are today, and with that knowledge he continues to help churches work toward continued gospel influence in today’s complex world. Specifically, Wade has refined his work to the following strategic areas:
The megachurch model in America is roughly forty years old, which means that many of the original leaders of our largest churches are now facing the challenge of succession. In addition, normal pastoral turnover continues to accelerate at an alarming rate, due in part to the increasing challenges and complexity of the role. In light of this alarming reality, healthy pastoral succession stands as perhaps the single biggest issue facing American churches over the coming decade. If you are a leader in a church that has experienced significant gospel impact, then one of the questions you must answer is how that work will be extended to future generations. Our succession process is designed to help you prayerfully answer that question.
CASE STUDY: Lon Solomon served as pastor of McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. for almost forty years. In that time, the church grew to more than 20,000 people across five different locations. Beginning with a strategic planning process with Lon, the elders and the pastoral staff of the church, Wade helped McLean prepare for and implemented a healthy succession transition. The entire process was designed from scratch given the size of the church, and it culminated with a near-unanimous congregational vote naming David Platt as the new senior pastor for McLean Bible Church.
Growing churches need space, but today there is a healthy and well-justified reluctance to ongoing building campaigns. At the same time, many churches find themselves with significant ministry space but unable to reach the changing communities around them. One way the Lord is providing for both groups is through strategic church mergers. As a pastor, Wade was privileged to lead a reconciliation merger of two churches who experienced a painful split from one another, then came back together through a lengthy and redemptive process. The story was featured in Better Together: Making Church Mergers work, and today serves as the basis for Wade’s prayerful approach to helping churches of all sizes navigate the complex merger process. Wade’s facilitated merger process allows pastors, leadership teams and churches to prayerfully discern whether a merger is the right next step for their congregations.
The original multisite model was based in large part on corporate franchising, but most churches do not have the large “corporate headquarters” that franchise models use to resource all of their different locations. As a result, many churches have had to create their organizational and support structures on the fly, a process that creates significant tension both in the moment and in the years that follow. Wade’s work over the past several years has included synthesizing the common challenges and opportunities of all the different structures created and implemented by churches over the past twenty years. Today, Wade’s organizational assessment work will help you name and understand your specific model, then help you improve and intentionally align those structures for new seasons of ministry.
In recent years, a growing number of churches have begun to express dissatisfaction with the predictable limitations of the conventional multisite model. Wade has worked with a number of these churches to help transition from conventional multisite (video-driven, franchise-based, large-budget approaches), to multisite as a long-term church planting and multiplication strategy (live preaching, contextualized ministry, cheaper and faster steps to reproduction). Wade is also working with several congregations to develop a true Family of Churches model that allows for churches to remain connected around something much deeper than identical weekend services.
Missional Launch Process
Wade’s personal background in rural, bi-vocational church planting ignited his passion to help the church continue mobilizing leaders to reach out to expensive, difficult and/or hard to reach places. Our launch process was adapted from the “launch strong” principles utilized by large churches in the conventional multisite model, and Wade has helped numerous churches from 400-1,500 people implement those principles to launch their first site or church plant. In the past year alone, Wade has helped congregations successfully launch their first plants in rural New England, rural Oregon, rural West Virginia and rural Ohio, as well as additional launches in urban Chicago and Nashville. Several of these launches have included bi-vocational or co-vocational pastoral transitions, and all of these launches have included the development of large numbers of volunteer ministry leaders. Most recently, Wade personally served as launch leader for a multicultural congregation in Nashville focused on incarnation gospel work among the city's growing immigrant and refugee populations.