The thought of a church merging with another church had never crossed my mind 20 years ago when I started full time ministry. Mergers were something companies did, not churches. But if you’re paying attention to what’s happening in church-world, mergers are becoming more and more common. And I don’t think it’s a trend that’s going away anytime soon.
There are a lot of good reasons that two churches might choose to merge together. After being a part of two separate church mergers and both coaching other churches through the process and observing other mergers happen around the country I thought I’d take the time to share four common church merger mistakes that I see happening.
1. Trying to Blend the Culture of the Two Churches
Trying to blend the culture of two different churches is like trying to do a blended worship style on Sunday morning services. By trying to make everybody happy you end up making nobody happy. In the most successful church mergers one church culture leads the way and washes over the other church culture.
2. Not having a Plan for One of the Two Sr. Pastors
Many times in a church merger there are two Sr. Pastors involved, one from each church. When there’s not a clear plan for one of those to Sr. Pastors to exit it can lead to a conflict of loyalty and confusion of the vision. There needs to be a clear plan of what the Sr. Pastor who won’t be leading this newly merger church is going to do. Which one stays and which one goes, and why?
3. Keeping Staff that you Shouldn’t
Often times in a church merger the joining church has been stuck or in decline for a significant period of time and the lead church has momentum and has been growing for some time. The staff culture of those two kids of churches is significantly different. The kind of staff that can serve at a church that is stuck or in decline for a long period of time are not wired to serve in a fast growing church. Don’t keep them on staff longer than you should or you’ll unnecessarily slow the cultural transition of the merger and create disunity and conflict.
4. Taking a Ministry Menu Approach
Again, in an attempt to keep everybody happy I’ve seen some churches that merge refuse to stop doing the ministries that they were doing before the merger took place. Instead of taking the best of both merging church ministries and maximizing those ministries, they simply add to the ministry menu by offering everything that each individual church was previously doing. I know that shutting down a ministry can be difficult to lead through, but leading a church that is overextended and trying to be all things to all people is even more difficult to lead. Strategically choose which ministries will continue after the merger happens, before the merger happens.
Posted in Leadership, Staffing