10 Questions to Ask before Considering a Merge

Has your church considered a merger? There is a growing movement towards both church revitalization and church mergers. Some churches feel as if it would be beneficial to merge with another church to have a more substantial kingdom impact. Here are ten critical questions to help you process the decision before taking steps forward in a partnership.
1. Are there similarities in the teaching of doctrine?

Yes, this may seem like a “no brainer” question, but don’t underestimate how thoroughly you should consider this topic. It would be almost impossible for two churches to merge if they cannot agree on the fundamentals of the faith. There is so much to consider toward facilitating unity so that the church can move ahead with the correct mindset. Too many churches do not work this out on the front end, and it results in havoc and bad feelings on the back end. Address the issues of biblical alignment on both doctrine and social issues. It will always save you stress, time, energy, and money.
2. Is the church culture different?

When I’m speaking of culture, I’m referring to the inner framework of the two churches. All churches have an unspoken culture, an attitude, and a structure, and each church will want their culture to be adopted. However, a merge of values, beliefs, and behavior will be evaluated before it can be reproduced. The congregation must understand and be behind the merger so that it can be a success with full understanding and disclosure. It is possible to build on the strengths and adopt the best practices from both churches. However, one culture will eventually lead over the other if it’s genuinely going to become one church.
3. What will the staffing look like in the merge?

When two churches merge, one needs to ask what will happen to the senior pastor of the merging church? There can only be one leader with a great team behind him. The new staff structure of the post-merger church will look different. Some job descriptions may change, or people may be let go after assessments are made of who is the best of the best for each position. The pay and benefit structures should be comparable between the two churches as they merge. One church cannot overpower the other in any aspect, or it is really a takeover and not an actual merge. If people are let go from the staff, the lead pastor should assist them through the transition with severance packages or guidance in finding another position.
4. What will the new policy governance look like?

When two churches’ decide to form a church government policy, they should be similar in thought. If the two churches are drastically different in thinking, then it will not work or lead to a disaster. Most of the time, the result is that one church will willingly submit to the overriding governance of the stronger church. This means the former boards, teams, and or committees will have to start over for application and interviews to properly assimilate into the new policy. You know your church best to consider a merger. These questions could be helpful to you: Is the new church staff-led or board led? What will the congregations vote on? Will you align with denominational alignment? Do both parties understand the entire plan?
5. How will you handle the money?

You should conduct financial agreements and budget talks ahead of time. With two churches coming together, you must decide how the new budget will be forecasted and created. Who will hold the fiduciary responsibilities with banks and building campaign talks? The churches must decide ahead of time how they will approach budgeting and evaluate the assets, cash, money markets, and debt position of each party.
6. How will you move forward in ministry?

The churches should look at their ministries and decide how to align them. Evaluate what ministries are similar, which ministries are working strong, and which ones are ineffective. You will want to replicate some of the ministries as you merge and others you will want to release. What ministries are considered “hands-off” at each church, and why? What ministry strengths and best practices from each church need to be adopted and built on after the merge? What will happen to current missionaries and other projects supported by each church? Your goal will be to achieve maximum effectiveness without duplicating anything.
7. Who will be the primary communicator and lead preacher?

After a merger, the church will need to move forward as one, so you will need to decide who will be the primary communicator. Will the teaching style be the same or different? Will the two locations deliver live or video teachings in the weekend services? There are many options when moving ahead, but a clear communication plan laying out the process is extremely critical. It may be that one pastor wants to take the associate role and offer a team approach when needed or called upon, while the other takes the lead role. Also, consider who will take the lead toward bringing both congregations together? What key people need to know merger points, and from whom will this communication come from?
8. What does the process look like for kingdom harmony?

How will this decision to merge actually be made, and who ultimately has the authority to make the decision to dissolve one entity or create a new one? You will have to study the by-laws of each individual church to see what is required to move ahead as well as any regulations and requirements of the state or commonwealth? You will want to write out the full plan and vision clearly for the members of both churches to read and allow time for questions and answers. People will have questions, so you will need to put their hearts at ease and create excitement around the Kingdom win. If a church vote is required, it’s best to use a closed ballot so that no personalities are involved in influencing the room.
9. How will you launch forward in a healthy way?

After the two entities come together and the vote is passed, how will you launch the “grand opening” into the community? Marketing and story branding is crucial as you communicate a new launch into the community to gain momentum and attract new people and families. You will want to convey unity and excitement for the future. The two churches will need to either rebrand as one new entity or accept the established brand of one church body. If you choose to rebrand, the process is extensive. This will require new signage, logos, style guide, printed materials, website, and online social and community presence. There are pros and cons to each option that will need to be weighed.
10. Who will be honored in this process?

Honor God, always. Show honor to all the people involved in the process, and remember to enjoy this new adventure together. Mergers do not have to be complicated or hard; they just have to be God-honoring. Do not allow pride or sensitivity to bring the movement down.
A great resource and knowledgeable men in this area are Jim Toberline and Warren Bird with their new book: Better Together: Making Mergers Work.

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