Church Mergers: 13 Things to Consider
It’s difficult as a pastor to watch your membership decline and feel that all your hard work may have been in vain. My husband and I entertained the idea of combining our church with another a few times, but in the end decided it wasn’t right for us. That said, drawing on the strength of another church may be the perfect solution for your ministry.
Is a church merger right for your congregation?
In companion gardening certain vegetables and herbs are planted near others to help keep the soil healthy, keep insects away, and produce more vibrant plants. Likewise, a properly planned and executed merger will strengthen not only the individual churches, but the entire community. Mergers can bring life to a dying church, but they can also be very time consuming, costly and frustrating.
Considering all aspects of the process will help you decide if a church merger is right for you. For example, the more you know about the other congregation (history, former pastors, splits, reputation, etc.) the greater your chances of success. Taking the time to work through potential problems first will help you avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.
As pastors, we want to believe every action we take is for the good of our members, which is true most of the time. But, we are human. Our emotions, pride and ego are always lurking in the background waiting to make their opinion known. In the case of combining a church with another, your decisions and actions could impact many people in the community.
Below are a few things you must be willing to do to make a church merger successful. The way you and your spouse tend to deal with adversity and conflict is very important. If any of these suggestions make you feel overly defensive or insecure, you are probably not a good candidate for a church merger.
- Be honest about your current situation.
- Don’t hold on to past success.
- Let go of pride and the desire to control everything.
- Admit that you’ve made mistakes.
- Be willing to humble yourself and ask for help.
- Be ready to step outside your comfort zone.
- Be open to changing old habits and rituals.
- Take a realistic inventory of what your church has to offer, both good and bad.
- Have an honest, empathetic view of how the merger will affect the other congregation.
- Study successful church mergers and learn what worked for them.
- Target churches in your area that are vibrant and growing.
- Find the right fit. If one church isn’t interested, keep looking.
- Be willing to grow, but don’t compromise your beliefs and convictions.
Obviously each situation will be different depending on the people involved, the community, and the spiritual climate. Remember, a church merger is like a marriage. It could be really good, or really bad.