Joe Park, CEO of Horizons Stewardship, interviewed Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird about the newly expanded edition of their book, Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work which uses data from 962 studied mergers. Whatever familiarity you have with church mergers, this strategy is becoming increasingly utilized for a number of reasons and can have a multiplying impact for the right congregations. If you’re curious about church mergers, why they are becoming more popular, and if your church might benefit from one, then this interview is for you.
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Church Mergers—A Pathway Forward
God’s plan for every church is more than just to hang on. Rather, God wants every church to thrive. It’s possible that a “better together” strategy is the best decision for many churches in America today.
What follows are questions to help you expand your familiarity with this specific church growth strategy and perhaps even determine whether or not this is something your church might benefit from considering.
What are the learning points since the book was first published?
There has been a dramatic increase in church mergers since 2012. At that time, the church multisite movement was really the catalyst for these types of church mergers. Now, not only are multisite churches continuing to benefit from mergers, new applications are emerging: church planters acquire a facility through a merger, denominational leaders are seeing it as a vehicle for revitalization work, and even a viable option for successful succession efforts.
How many churches are in a position to benefit from a church merger process?
All churches can consider a merger. The book talks about seven stages of a church lifecycle and how mergers might play a role in the strategy at each phase. Of the more than 300,000 churches in America, about 80 percent of them are stuck, struggling, or on life support. Those are all churches that could benefit from merging with stronger, healthier churches to infuse new ministry capacity into their Kingdom footprint.
What sense of urgency do you have around mergers in a COVID-19 world?
Church mergers are a path forward, not just a way to hold your own. This is a mindset shift to see mergers as a proactive move rather than a reactive inevitability. Based on where a church assesses itself—with the help of professional and denominational counsel—to be a candidate for a merger, COVID-19 has highlighted the need to at least reconsider this strategy as a positive next step.
What is the cost for not giving consideration to church mergers?
The goal for every church is to make disciples. It is the tip of the spear in multiplying disciples in the world. So, our singular focus should be on how every church can do this better than they are today. For many who are persistently struggling or are experiencing ministry opportunities beyond their current capabilities, a church merger could be the very decision that unlocks a future that is vibrant and effective.
Why is a church merger conversation an important one for church leaders?
It causes leadership to revisit purpose, mission, and effectiveness. It asks leaders to determine if their current structure, approach, and impact satisfies their purpose, desires, and dreams. If not, then it at least ensures the option of a church merger is on the table for consideration.
How do I know if this is right for my church?
There are four questions to help answer that question:
- Would it make my church better?
- Could we accomplish more together?
- Would our community be better served?
- Would the Kingdom of God be further extended?
What are the nine drivers to consider a merger outcome?
- Mission-Driven. A church that wants to multiply their impact.
- Economic-Driven. A church that needs new sources of ministry funding.
- Multisite-Church. A church that wants to launch a new location without building a new building.
- Facilities-Driven. A church whose facilities today are underutilized for ministry.
- Denomination-Driven. A church, with the help of denominational leadership, can strengthen its growing congregations and salvage its declining congregation.
- Succession Planning-Driven. A church that wants a leadership plan when anticipating a transition.
- Reconciliation-Driven. A church that wants to reconcile after a split that might have happened decades ago.
- Multi-Ethnic Driven. A church that wants to diversify its congregation.
- Pastor-Search Driven. A church that is looking for new leadership but can’t secure the leader they need alone.
Talk to a Trained Ministry Guide
Every church leader should pick up a copy of the expanded and updated version of Jim and Warren’s book. There are some key principles, insights, and ideas shared that are research-based, field-tested, and very encouraging for the future of the church. If you’d like to discuss if a church merger might be right for your church, please reach out and schedule a free learning session with one of our trained ministry strategists.