May 15, 2008

Merging Two Small Churches

I get a lot of hits from search engines about merging two churches into one. Take the blog title The Merge and add a bit of discussion about church, theology, and Bible, and get placed on the search engine for people wanting to merge two churches together.

I don't know a lot about how to do it, but I do know one piece of information for those who are looking. I once worked for a denominational headquarters with a great research department. One of things that I noticed was that two churches of 50 people (or whatever number) became one church of 50 people after a merge. Not immediately, but over time. Very rarely did you get a church of 100.

I think that a pastor, leadership team, church style, whatever that fit the church of 50 does not automatically jump to being able to handle the 100 people. Therefore, it goes right back to being 50. Also the people who were at one church because they liked the pastor no longer like the new guy, and so they leave.

There are probably a million other reasons for the two churches not being able to combine into one, bigger church, but I saw the actuality of it happen over, and over, and over again for multiple sizes of church.

Addition: In an attempt to help you find what you are looking to merge two churches...I am providing links to's series on Merging Churches. I hope this helps you in your pursuit of furthering God's Kingdom in your area.

Should our Church Merge?
Merging Tips
What to do during merger talks
The Public Merger Meeting
Why I Believe Partnerships are Important

Let me know if any of these help. Please feel free to leave a comment here to help others who are trying to merge their church with another.


  1. The Rev. Dr. Richard LaribeeAugust 19, 2008 2:03 PM

    hi Eric,

    Your observation certainly parallels my own observations and research. More than 20 years members of our congregation were very interested in a merger with another nearby congregation. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I went looking for information.

    At the time there wasn't much out there. The internet didn't exist yet, so my research involved a lot of letters, a lot of phone calls, and a lot of visits.

    In the end, I learned why so few mergers succeed: successful merger are the right solution to a one very specific problem. Unfortunately, most merger attempts face a completely different set of problems. Most merger attempts should either be turn-arounds or closures.

    In our situtation, we weren't facing closure, nor the need to turn around. We did put together a merger, but very differently than we originally expected. Today, two decades later, that merger is a mega-church in the Dallas area. But generally speaking, your obvservation is dead on: when two congregatons merge, you can expect that 5 years later, the post-merger congregation will have shrunk to be be smaller than the larger of the two pre-merger congregations.

    The Great Commission is better served by closing congregations that are stuck in a cycle of permanent decline, and using the proceeds from the sale to help launch brand new starts: church planting!

    Grace and peace,

  2. Rick,

    Thanks for your comment. I didn't have research or hard facts only what I have seen happen over and over again.

    I don't know if "glad" is the right word, but I "glad" that my observations have someone who has done more research supporting them.

    I guess there are just no easy decisions when it comes to a church that is dying. They want to exist. I don't know that they want to exist for the right reasons; expanding the Kingdom of God. But they want to exist. It isn't easy.

    Thanks again for your comment.