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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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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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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