"I think you’re dead on by suggesting that church mergers will be the next ‘big thing.’”
Jim Tomberlin · October 29, 2012
The North Carolina pastor who said these words had not been part of a merger—yet. He suspects his church might be a good candidate for a merger but he wants to know more about how exactly a merger could help his church go forward, how the merger process might unfold, where to find another church that his congregation could join with, and what pitfalls he and his congregation should avoid. He represents a new wave of Protestant church leaders, denominational and nondenominational, who are watching the merger landscape and are curious as to whether God might be leading in that direction for their church and are therefore asking, “Could there be a merger in the future of our church?”
Church mergers are occurring with increasing frequency among churches of all sizes and types, and they are happening in urban centers, suburban neighborhoods, and rural communities. Such mergers reflect a growing trend where two local churches at different life stages leverage their common DNA and complementary differences to generate greater synergy for a stronger regional impact.
These new kinds of merger are not what have been typical of the past, when two struggling churches made a last-gasp effort to survive. Church-merger conversations may begin because of financial difficulties, surface through local partnerships or denominational affiliations, or become initiated by a multisite church but mergers today succeed largely because of a united, compelling vision that lifts a church that’s stuck or on a downward slope into a new pattern of life and growth.
Church mergers today are showing up in a wide variety of contexts, each situation for different reasons and benefits. Here are a few of the reasons I have observed to consider merging with another church:
To Increase Church Outreach & Impact
• Multisite churches report that one out of three of their campuses are the result of a church merger.
• Among megachurches almost one out of two have experienced a merger, most through a smaller church joining them, but sometimes even two large churches joining.
• Some multisite megachurches are developing national networks mostly composed of church mergers. These megachurches have an intentional strategy that encourages and facilitates church mergers.
• New churches that are growing and in need of facilities are finding them through a merger with a congregation that has facilities in need of a vibrant, relevant ministry.
• There is a growing desire among church leaders to become more racially and ethnically diverse. Some are seeing mergers as a way of diversifying their church and becoming more multiethnic.
To Revitalize Your Church
• Stable, but stuck churches re-energize their base by leveraging their established reputation and resources to enter a new growth cycle marked by fresh vitality, new spiritual energy, and expanded community engagement.
• Struggling or declining churches build on their heritage to begin a new chapter by merging with a healthy growing church.
• Struggling church plants are salvaged by merging back into the parent church, whether into its original campus or re-launched as a new multisite campus.
• Mainline and denominational churches are increasingly seeing mergers as a way to revitalize or rebirth the struggling congregations in their faith family, nurturing them back to health and vitality.
• Churches that had formerly separated are reconciling and reuniting through mergers.
To Find a Pastor
• Churches in search of a pastor are increasingly discovering that a local pastor of a thriving church may be an ideal candidate for them through a merger.
• An increasing number of churches of all sizes are seeing mergers as a way of ensuring a smooth succession transition as their pastor retires.