I was having lunch with a friend the other day whose living church ministries videos is contemplating merging with another church in their area. Their pastor was approached by the leadership of the other church and was offered the invitation. They have experienced significant church growth and have outgrown their current facility. The other church has a larger facility which makes the merger appealing to them.
She asked me what I thought and these are some things I told her that she and their board should consider before making such a significant move. In most mergers, one of the organizations takes lead and the 2nd organization gets absorbed by culture, policies, practices and leadership. Taking time to consider all aspects of a merge can help to ensure it is the right decision and translates into a smooth transition.
The body of Christ is great and even within the Christian faith there is a lot of diversity in beliefs, practices and cultural norms. Most of the differences don’t have anything to do with the deity of Jesus but there are doctrinal differences that sometimes creates conflict. For example, how does each church view controversial issues such as abortion, gay marriage, or gifts of the spirit? Being on the same page doctrinally is really important.
The culture of a church dictates social norms. Blending two different cultures can sometimes create conflict because social norms, even slightly different, can affect how a church community makes decisions, communicates and behaves. Questions to ask might be, will the church be contemporary or conservative? What will the worship experience like? Are there different demographic audiences? These kinds of differences could be a source of conflict making it important to define the culture before the merger.
Governance over the merged churches should be considered and rewriting bylaws and articles of incorporation should be specifically considered. Questions to ask might be, how will the two governing boards merge, how will leadership roles be determined, what will the new hierarchy look like? Figuring out the governing model will greatly influence the merger and set the leadership direction and decision making authority for the church.
Both churches should consider if there will be a total merger of all assets or if each maintains their own financial identify. There can be issues with either scenario but coming to terms on how assets will be handled is crucial. This step would require bringing in outside help to objectively assess and value assets.
People who are called into ministry are operating out of a vision and mission from God. This mission provides the specific direction for what the church is to do, who they are to reach and the approach to spreading the gospel. Just because visions are different doesn’t make one right and one wrong but it does create a tension for which mission will be followed when the two churches join together
It is important to determine who will assume leadership of the joined churches. Someone has to take lead responsibility and determining who that will be and what the role of others will be is an important discussion. Volunteer leadership should also be considered. If there are strong leaders in the volunteer realm, how will those positions be considered and how do you decide who takes lead? Basically what will the new decision making process look like and who will become the identified leader.