Seven Reasons Churches Should Merge

“I have been involved in 17 church closures where we sold the properties to a secular company.”

Those words grieved me in two ways. First, I grieved that the ministry and mission presence of those 17 churches were no longer realities in their respective communities. Second, I grieved that the properties were no longer being used for local church ministries.

This post is not about a pleasant topic. It’s about churches that have declined to the point where their near term future is in doubt. And it’s about churches seriously considering allowing another church to takeover their property. It’s about churches going down the difficult but noble path of being acquired by another church. Allow me to elaborate with seven reasons why churches should consider this option.

  1. So a church presence in the community will not go away. We need more churches, not fewer churches. If your church has declined to the point where it looks like it may close, allow another church to acquire your property and re-start as a new church.
  2. Because re-plants have many of the same advantages of typical church plants. Simply stated, a re-planted church is able to start anew. Past challenges are in the rearview mirror, and new opportunities abound.
  3. Because real estate is becoming scarce and more expensive. From a stewardship perspective, it makes much more sense to give away the property of a dying church to a relatively healthy church. In some areas, land is scarce. In all areas, new buildings are expensive.
  4. So the work and ministry of your present church may have a legacy of continuation. Imagine the untold hours of ministry that have gone into the work of an existing church. Imagine the potentially millions of dollars that have been given through the church. If your church is on the precipice of closing, don’t let that work and sacrifice end abruptly. Allow another church to honor and continue that legacy.
  5. Because the ministry presence in the community will move from unhealthy to healthy. If your church will possibly close soon, it’s obviously not very healthy. Allow a new church to acquire your facilities to bring a healthy ministry presence to the community.
  6. Because sometimes a new start is needed to overcome negative perceptions in the community. If your church is on the verge of death, its reputation in the community is either negative or unknown. A re-plant will allow the new ministry presence to have a fresh start in the eyes of those in the community.
  7. Because often the acquiring church increases its ministry impact multifold through an acquisition. Many acquiring churches report greater health and ministry impact as they gain new campuses. And it’s usually not the simple addition of ministry impact with each additional campus. All locations of the acquiring church often become stronger and more effective in their respective communities.

I recently went over my updated will with my three sons. The son with the greatest level of mercy told me he was uncomfortable talking about my death. I get that. But death is a part of God’s glorious plan. I would rather plan for it than to leave my family struggling to take care of everything after my eternal departure.

Churches also die. But it’s so much better to be prepared for that death than to close the doors without further consideration.

Churches that allow themselves to be acquired are churches looking to a new future, a new hope, and a willingness to sacrifice to get there.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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