Guidelines for Church Mergers
When it comes to church mergers, it's important to know what kind of merger you are doing to follow best practices for that type of merger.
This is when two or more churches merge as one church to sustain and further the life of the church. The best resource we have on vital mergers is the book Vital Merger: A New Church Start Approach that Joins Church Families Together by Dirk Elliot.
New Cooperative Parish Model
Kay Kotan, a church developer in Arkansas, shares that this strategy is used when there is an area that is under-served (low attendance in the UMC churches or low churched numbers overall), but over-built (with facilities). All existing clergy are re-appointed elsewhere. Note: There is most likely a higher FTE of existing clergy than the FTE of the new appointments. Three new (likely, but not required full-time) clergy/lay will be appointed. The first appointment will be the lead who is a great communicator, can preach well, cast vision, and lead people into a new faithful future. The second person will need to be highly relational to love on the people through pastoral care and help disciple them through an intentional faith development. The third person will be an evangelist/planter to reach new people in the community.
To prepare for such a model, it is best to pour into the leaders of all the existing churches so they can begin to build an appetite to do something different and reach new people all while consolidating resources to be better stewards of the gifts God has provided. This is likely done through a small group study with the leaders of all churches together in the year preceding switching to this model. In other words, this study and working together as leaders in the same area builds the case for "the why" when this model is presented. This model also frees up pastoral compensation, duplicate church staff, and facility sales to be used for new ministries and possibly facility renovations if needed.
This model is used when a thriving church plant is looking for a more permanent home and approaches a United Methodist Church in decline to propose a merger. The church plant will be "adopted" by the established church in terms of being constituted or chartered and coming under their GCFA and EIN number. The established church will be "adopted" by the DNA of the church plant as the majority of leaders on every committee will be comprised by those who came from the church plant. Prior to merging, there will be at least one town hall meeting for each entity to discuss what changes and renovations will be made, who will be on each committee/leadership team, who the pastor(s) will be, and what the timeline will be so that, prior to a church conference vote on whether or not to merge, there are clear expectations moving forward. Contact Rachel Gilmore for more information on this model
If there's another model for mergers that you would like to share with us, please let us know. Look on our resource page for more tools related to mergers.