As a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, I read about corporate mergers all the time. Google always seems to be buying some little company for millions. But more and more I am hearing about another type of organizational merger: church mergers.
It seems that a new trend is shaping American Evangelicalism, especially in smaller churches. We are starting to hear of many churches merging togethe into one. Two, three, sometimes four, smaller churches coming together to form one, but immediately larger, singular church. I’ve talked to folks in rural settings and others in metro locations, both considering how a possible merger might be the ticket to long-term survival for all parties involved.
The reality is many smaller churches are in serious trouble. The church culture is moving further and further away from the small family-run church with limited staff, services, and ministries. Churches under the 75 attendee benchmark are particularly at risk. At this attendance level, the church can barely support a pastor and the facility upkeep.
It seems one survival method is merging with another small church within the same basic location. This allows for multiple staff, more people, more finances, and more momentum to reach others. It breathes new life and vision into a church plateaued or declining.
I highly support church mergers, especially if closing shop is the other option. The Gospel calls us into the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, united in faith. When churches come together and become one, it reflects how the Gospel brings Christians together in love and unity.
But navigating a church merger is quite difficult. It is basically like to two middle-aged adults with long former lives getting married. Everything must be sorted through and compressed. There is a tremendous give and take. Leadership must be disassembled and rejoined. And there is a significant loss of autonomy on the part of both churches.
Despite the difficulty, I think church mergers will be on the rise in the next couple years. When desperate times call for desperate measures, churches merger might be the best option on the table.