Recently, I observed what appears to be a successful merger of three United Methodist Congregations into a one congregation. Three congregations sold their facilities, combined their resources, purchased a different facility, and united their hearts and minds to establish a new and improve witness for Christ in their community. This new ministry is called the Faith United Methodist Church, located in Orland Park, a southwest suburb of Chicago.
Seems like there has been a rise in congregational mergers. Some may view the merger of two or more congregations into one entity as a radical decision motivated by survival. Others may view it as the application of common sense; seems duplicitous to Christians and confusing to non-Christians when a two or more congregations, with identical missions and doctrines, to exist in the same community. Still others may view it as a strategy that responds to the prayer of Jesus for unity (John 17:21) and one that allows us to better impact the community for Christ.
Whatever the motive, congregational mergers represent, as Alice Mann notes,”a strategy for dramatic change.” She has observed that “mergers are universally stressful situations.” For that reason, Mann suggests that a congregation determine whether or not it is ready to consider a merger; “readiness” involves four things.
- Do the people involved really believe there’s an urgency to do something differently?
- Has the congregation completed a self-assessment?
- Has the leadership considered all options?
- Is both the congregation and leadership focused on God’s mission in their community (rather than on its building or tradition)? For more from Alice Mann, go here.
Congregational mergers can be a great strategy for two or more congregations who long to impact the community with the Gospel of Christ. But they are not easy to navigate! Congregations desiring to explore a merger would be served well by a consultant with experience in the field, such as ChapterNext.