Merging Churches

April 17, 2006 — 1 Comment

Last week, the Christian Standard enewsletter contained a blurb that caught my eye:

Northland Christian Church and Old Union Church of Christ (both in Danville, IL) also dreamed of working together in ministry. “Old Union bought a hardware store and planned to renovate it for use as a new building,” says Miles Clark, who served as Old Union’s senior minister. “This move would have placed us just a mile from Northland, so we began looking more closely at a partnership.”
The elders of both churches met to discuss the possibilities and agreed to move forward as one united church in Danville. The newly christened Crossroads Christian Church held its first combined services as a new congregation last week. Clark serves as preaching minister of the new church, and Doug Hargrave (formerly senior minister with Northland) leads as the executive minister.
I know of 2 churches in Florida that are the result of churches merging together and they both seem to be experiencing healthy growth.
I’m fascinated by this strategy.

There are several things that excite me about churches merging together:
1. It seems that too many of our churches have been started through division (splits, hurt feelings, power-plays, etc.), but this method starts churches through radical unity. For church mergers to work each congregation and leadership must sacrifice power, agendas, vision, titles, and resources to pull together as one.
2. It can create one healthy church where two struggling congregations existed before.
3. It appears to be wise stewardship of God’s resources. A church of 300 has financial opportunities that 2 churches of 150 do not. This is even more true when one of the merging congregations runs 50 people, or below.
4. It’s a great witness to the community.
5. In the New Testament we read that Paul set up one church per city. I’d argue that that strategy is not practical, realistic, or even wise now, but I’d also argue that Carter County, Tennessee doesn’t need over 30 Christian churches, either.
6. This may seem counter-intuitive to you, but I think this might be a great way for a multi-site work to begin. If two churches come together as one, with one vision, one team, one clear purpose, and twice the financial resources, they would immediately have the staff and resources necessary to target multiple areas of population growth.

Some of my questions:
1. Can one church in one location really get more work done than two churches in two different locations?
2. What steps need to be taken to facilitate two Elderships and two staffs becoming one without power struggles emerging and one Eldership (or Preacher/Staff) dominating the other?
3. What about the members of each individual church? What steps need to be taken to ensure that the members of each church are involved in a process that will have a significant impact on them?
4. Is this a last option to be taken only in a time of crisis, or should it be considered as a wise option, even if both congregations are healthy, but happen to be located in close proximity to each other?
5. What can be done to honor the legacy of each individual church before the new church is birthed?
6. It seems like it would be unwise–and a hindrance to growth–to have a merger lead by two Preachers. Can this work if one of the Preachers doesn’t agree to step into an Associate, or Executive Minister position and let the other one be the point person?

Churches merging together? Who would have thought that would have ever worked?

Next thing you know we’ll be hearing rumors about a lion laying down with a lamb.


One response to Merging Churches


    1. Yes, it can because the additional costs of the building payments, electricity, etc could be used in other ways such as beginning an after school program, holding conferences, etc. also, members would still be spread across two communities, so small groups in homes would be very effective as well.
    2. put ministers into their natural positions. one will have a passion for preaching every sunday and the other more a behind the scenes associate sort of arrangement. one youth minister would become a family or children’s minister based on their gifts. instead of the ministers, eldership, and deacons having to perform tasks they are not equipped or gifted for, they would be able to focus on what they are really passionate about.
    3. they must remember to interact also with people they do not know, but ideally that would be something they do anyway. i dont think that you can make anyone get involved, but i think that a sermon/lesson series before the merger, continuing afterwards would be helpful
    4. i think it should be one of the first options, especially if the gifts and talents of the ministry staffs would be better used by dividing them up among four people rather than two, or some multiple of that.
    5. that’s a tough one. i’m not sure of a good answer.
    6. only if, as it happened at my home church, one minister was planning on retiring and stepped down completely soon after the merger.

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