What do you know about church mergers?

The Bible talks many times about the importance of passing the faith from one generation to the next. Sure it can happen in the family context, from parents and grandparents to their sons and daughters.

And, it also needs to happen intentionally in the communal context of extended families, like a worshipping community and churches and fellowships, especially in today’s world with single parenting, mixed families, adopted orphans (though they existed in biblical times, too), and other ways children grow up into adulting.

What does that actually look like, for a faith community to have a legacy?

Here’s what it doesn’t look like. Some older congregations with a church building have cashed out those real estate assets and adaptive reuse have made them into condos, lofts, restaurants, night clubs, coworking space, recording studios, art installations, etc.

ex-church buildings adaptive reuse

Other older congregations and smaller congregations have been more Kingdom-minded and strategic by joining forces and doing church mergers. In my humble opinion, a much better way to go for those up for the challenge.

Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird would love to hear your experiences with church mergers. (scroll down past the video)

5 Trends in Church Mergers Today

Are you a pastor with experience in a church merger?

(This is a survey invitation from Jim Tomberlin)

I stumbled into my first church merger experience accidentally in 2003 (and if you have a merger experience, I’ll end this short article asking you to share it).

Looking for a place to plant a regional campus for a Chicago suburban church, I came across a school in a great location. But another church was already meeting there. I left my card, and told them that if that church ever leaves, call me.

I got a call, but it wasn’t from the school. The church phoned and said, “We don’t have a pastor. Can we join you?’”

I responded, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

I tried to dissuade them, but they insisted.

Eventually, I gave in. With 150 church members from my church combined with the 150 people already in the school we relaunched as a new church. Fifteen years later it has grown to 2,000 regular attendees.

When I went back for the 10th anniversary, of the original 150, about 125 were still there. They told me it was the greatest thing that ever could have happened to them.

In 2011 I co-authored a book with Warren Bird, Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work, about the emerging church merger trend that I had experienced firsthand (and maybe you have too!).

We described how these new kinds of mission-driven mergers were different than the survival-based mergers of the past. We also observed that many of these mergers were an unintended but positive consequence of the multisite church movement.

Since then we have seen an explosion of all kinds of church mergers beyond multisite outcomes. More church leaders are seeing mergers as a church-plant strategy, pastor-search strategy, succession strategy, community transformation strategy and denominationally driven revitalization and replant strategy.

A decade later, with a seismic culture shift in church attendance and changing attitudes towards local churches, it’s time to do another nation-wide, comprehensive survey on church mergers to capture the trends in these new developments.


If your church has experienced a merger–or unsuccessfully attempted a merger in the past–would you give us your take on our church merger survey?

In partnership with The Unstuck Group, Leadership Network, ECFA, Fortress Press, and others, we are offering several incentives for church leaders to take our survey–and to forward it to others who have a church merger experience. Plus we’re planning a free webinar to survey participants to reveal and discuss the initial findings from the survey.

Just go to this link and tell us your thoughts about mergers. As one of the many ways we’ll say thanks, we’ll also email you a summary of what everyone else said.

Thank you.

Jim Tomberlin, lead author of Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work

Questions? Contact [email protected]