Church mergers have become an important part of the church revitalization conversation. Stories of new life and community impact are beginning to emerge as more struggling churches consider partnering with another church.
As one might imagine, mergers can be delicate situations, too. Ample times of joint prayer, question-and-answer sessions, conversation and learning have resulted in greater success in the journey, as well as right decisions for a course of action. Remember this is a spiritual decision first and foremost, not a pragmatic one. Therefore, seeking the heart of God through prayer and study of the Bible cannot be overemphasized!
Be aware that if both churches are currently struggling, the odds of a successful merger are very low. Generally, the best mergers occur when one church is prevailing and the other church is absorbed into that church’s identity. There are many theological, cultural, procedural and polity questions that must be addressed over the course of time.
Here are five kinds of questions to ask for initial conversations around mergers:
Are we merging merely for survival or for true Great Commission impact on our community and beyond? This question is the most important. Churches that merge just to survive rarely do, much less thrive. The Lord’s Church stays on mission. Both churches must honestly answer this question.
What is the new church’s identity? Will it be one new church, or will it retain the name, location, etc., of one of the current churches? Are the core beliefs of the two churches compatible? The merger may result in very little theological or polity change, but it may be significant.
Who will be the leadership? Will both staffs merge? Will the lay leadership merge? Do the leadership structures align? Does one church have deacons and the other have elders? If both churches currently have pastors, one must be willing to yield to the other or leave altogether.
Is one location going to be used or both? Which location is most strategic for reaching the lost and making disciples?
Set as long a timeline as possible. The merger may be driven by desperate circumstances on the part of one church — such as running out of finances to keep the lights on — but this desperation should not lead to haste. (See question one above.)
Of course, there is one big question that varies based on the answers to the above questions — how? It is tempting to start with how, but that needs to wait until the why question is clearly answered and all of the others are at least considered.
Better Together is the gold-standard in research and stories of church mergers. It is long, but worth it.
There is a shorter e-book from the North American Mission Board called Mergers that may also be helpful. It is more focused on a church plant merging with an existing church.