LEADING A MULTI-SITE CHURCH - BY SUSAN CRAWFORD
Women of Reverence welcomes guest blogger Susan Crawford.
Susan has been married to Grant Crawford for 28 years, they have been leading
Onelife church in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for the last 20 years. They have 4 children (3 biological &1 through marriage), Kimberly who is 24 who's married to Stefan, Caitlin is 22 and Keegan is 17.
Susan trained as a nursing sister in midwifery, community, psychiatric and general nursing.
Though she does not work as a nurse at the moment, Her passion is people and she still loves to do hospital visits, to encourage the sick and visit with the elderly... and she is longing to see more miracles in her day. In her spare time, Susan loves to read and watch movies and jog, she has run 5 marathons & 3 ultra marathons, but most of all she loves spending time at home with her family.
If you had told me, when I was a teenager, that I would marry a pastor and lead a church of 1000's of people - I would have run for the hills.
Being a leader, in the lime light and speaking in public, was not my idea of fun. I had dreamt of living a quiet life in the country, in a little house with a white picket fence, with lots of children running around. The furthest place I would have to travel to would be to the shops. I never dreamt of overseas travel... then I met Grant...
He was already on the eldership team of the church we now lead. Looking back over 28 years of
marriage, I can say life has never been slow or boring. I can't even remember all the cities and
countries we have traveled to for ministry. I am not boasting by saying this, but just to show you
the amazing change that God has brought about in me for His purposes. I wouldn't trade my
life for the white picket fence ideal, God knows what's best for us and changes us to fit His perfect
plan for our lives.
We have been leading Onelife church for 20 years. It has grown in leaps and bounds… by Gods grace. It still amazes me how so many people come back to church every week. Despite us Jesus is building His church, we are mere tools in His hand.
Matthew 11:30 says "My yoke is easy and My burden is light", when things get hectic and hard, I am reminded by this scripture, that Jesus intended His work to be "easy and light". When it
doesn't feel easy and light ever, then I know I am doing something wrong. Sure we will have hard
times, but with Him helping us the ministry should be easy and light, with fun and adventure along
Over the years I have learnt that every leader is unique and we all lead in different ways, so be
free, you don't have to fit into any mould.
Having said that, leading a multi site church, sure makes for an interesting life.... here are 9
lessons that we have learnt along the way.
1.) The first thing I have learnt in leading a big church is that “I NEED TO LEAD MYSELF“. What
I mean by this, is that to be a good leader , I need to be a good example to those I lead. To be a
good example, I need to be in a good place myself. If I remember to do these simple things, then
I will be fit to lead.
SLEEP: I am a person who needs a lot of sleep, unlike my husband who can manage well on 5-6
hours sleep a night, I need 7- 8 hours, then I won't be grumpy and will be a better person to be
EXERCISE & HEALTHY EATING: I love to jog and when I do, I am a happier person, it helps me
de-stress and when I eat healthy, I feel good and cope well.
TIME WITH JESUS: I need daily time with the Lord, where He can shape me and sort out my
attitude and give me wisdom to lead.
Find out what it is that makes you a better person to live with, that'll make you want to be a better
example & a better leader too.
2.) As the church grows you need to tighten your relationships and loosen your hold on the
functions. Make time to have meals with your leaders, encourage them, check up on them, don't
just be "goal" orientated. Let them see they are vital. As you discharge more responsibility and
authority you need to work harder on the relationships.
3.) Whatever you celebrate in your church, sets the culture. We need to audit what we talk
most about, what we get excited about and what we applaud. These are the things that set the
mood on the team and reinforce our values.
4.) As the church grows, small groups are of utmost importance. It is impossible for Grant and I
to care for & know every person by name, it is in the small groups where people get connected and find belonging. So make sure the small group leaders are encouraged and helped in whatever way possible, to make it easy and a joy for them to lead. Always show them that they are valued and important and necessary on the journey.
5.) Big capacity people will be drawn to a big church, we need to be secure in our leading and
enable them to dream and reach their dreams. We need to have the conviction that when our
strong people thrive, we all win.
6.) Everything we do should have the mission of seeing people saved in mind, (youth, ladies
groups or at events). The single reason we have used to make most of our big decisions has
been “seeing people saved”. When people embrace the mission of Jesus it simplifies leadership
7.) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate... verbal, written and videos are all important so
that the people hear and understand the mission and heart behind what we doing. Remember to
communicate why as well as what. People need to know why they are being called to run a certain way.
8.) Press forward, no matter the obstacle. See adversity as an opportunity to grow, not to shrink
back. We have seen our greatest leaps forward in times of hardship. God specializes in building
his church when the going gets tough.
9.) Always keep the poor in focus, encourage people to give to the poor, Proverbs 19: 17
"whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, He will repay him". I am convinced that
Gods heart is for the weak and poor.
Remember "My YOKE IS EASY & MY BURDEN IS LIGHT", so have fun on the journey!