What do you think about church mergers?
It was less than twenty years ago that mergers were relatively uncommon, and today, they are gaining momentum with productive outcomes.
Mergers are not the right thing for all churches to do, but the idea is worthy of consideration.
It’s true that mergers require a great deal of diligent homework, honest conversations, and careful planning, but they work.
What is bringing new success to church mergers?
- A growing awareness of the opportunity
- The reality of rising costs of new buildings
- A growing attitude of open-mindedness to new things
- A pattern of more successful mergers
These positive aspects of the church merger movement are overcoming the potential challenges of mergers.
We (12Stone Church) have recently launched our first merger in Athens, GA and the first service is on March 3. We’re also in process with our second merger. We are highly enthusiastic while we continue to pray and seek God’s favor and direction for further mergers.
Our vision is to further the reach of the gospel in communities where it is currently limited, by wise use of Kingdom resources.
The essence of the value in a church merger is that two churches become stronger and better together than when they were on their own.
6 Reasons Why Church Mergers Are a Good Idea
1) Church mergers extend and advance the Kingdom of God
The driving passion and primary reason church mergers are a good idea is because they extend and advance God’s Kingdom and His purposes. Simply put, more people hear and are personally touched by the gospel.
For the longest time, church planting was the primary way to multiply the reach of the church and it remains critical to the future of the Church. The multi-site campus model arrived more than twenty years ago and was added to the mix of ways to reach more people for Jesus. Now church mergers are in full swing as a method to further God’s redemptive work.
Church mergers may or may not be a long-term movement of God, but without question, He is using it now to further His purposes.
2) Church mergers are a wise approach to stewardship
The rising costs of lease build-outs, expansions and new buildings is making it prohibitive for many congregations to build. When the increased costs of land and elevated levels of red tape to gain the needed zoning are added to the mix, church mergers quickly become a wise choice of financial stewardship.
Church mergers allow a congregation with a building but few people and limited resources to join with a congregation in need of a building who has leadership, growth and resources. It’s a beautiful partnership.
Church mergers make a way for two churches to come together and reach further, faster. They serve as a way to multiply Kingdom resources.
Church mergers allow a congregation with a building but few people and limited resources to join with a congregation in need of a building who has leadership, growth and resources. It’s a beautiful partnership.Click & Tweet!
3) Church mergers communicate Christian unity to the community
In a macro sense, evangelical churches are not always viewed as aligned in the same overall mission.
In fact, while individual uniqueness is understood, they may actually be more unified than not in the big picture, but the differences are magnified over the unifying factors. This not-so-subtle message that churches do their own thing and even compete doesn’t help the message of the gospel.
It is true that merging two churches in this culture is not easy. There are matters of leadership, theology, finances, ministry preferences, and let’s be candid, who’s in charge, to deal with.
Therefore, humility, maturity, and common purpose are the necessary and key elements most helpful to a successful and thriving church merger.
It’s not the responsibility of every church in a city to partner with other churches in some way. That’s not practical. But when we can, it sends a strong message of unity to the whole community. And that is a positive and powerful message in today’s culture.
4) Church mergers create value in the community
Churches that are healthy and productive bring hope and help in the community. Church mergers increase this value to the community.
It’s far more than the proposition of renovating an older building that is in need of maintenance. The value is a deeper sense of progress and that something good is happening. One pastor leading a revitalization of a older, small and declining church recently told me that the community thought his church was closed.
Closed?! Yup… as in permanently closed.
But they have church every Sunday!
How does a community think even a small church could be closed? But it happens.
A merger with a church such as the one I just mentioned can signal hope where there was decline.
5) Church mergers bring new life to struggling churches
Pastors of smaller congregations that continue to decline get discouraged. It’s understandable. They are good pastors, but when you experience years of decline, its tough to stay wholeheartedly in the game. Even with the faithful few showing up, it’s hard to imagine a thriving church again.
In short, there is no vision.
Mergers bring vision and new life to a struggling church where it was otherwise no longer dreamed possible.
Some of these smaller congregations don’t have a pastor and are floundering. They’re not sure what to do and contemplate closing the doors.
It never crosses the minds of many churches to seek a merger.
Perhaps some thriving churches need to invite a merger conversation. That could be awkward, but if the intent of the inviting church is the good of the struggling church, both can be better together.
6) Church mergers increase momentum in strong churches
Whether a church is small, medium or large our common desire is momentum in alignment with the vision – through prayer and good leadership.
Regardless of the size, churches that have strength and momentum increase their potential for evangelistic reach and discipleship growth through merger.
Strong churches are typically characterized as growing churches with capable leadership, devotion to prayer, consistent in discipleship, and always passionate to reach people for Jesus.
It is a good idea to transfer the DNA of these churches into declining churches so they may also become strong and vibrant in their ministries. This “infusion” of life and leadership into a struggling church from a stronger church creates a huge Kingdom win.
If you are considering a church merger, I recommend seeking the advice of a church consultant with merger experience or at least talking with a church you know that has successfully completed one.
Also, an excellent resource is the (expanded and updated) version of the book Better Together – Making Church Mergers Work, by Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird.