I have celebrated some successful merges in our area, but the truth is most church merges in the past have ended in disaster. I have walked with some pastor friends through some potential church merges that collapsed in the midnight hour.
Here is a list of things that I have observed must happen for a church merge to succeed:
1. One senior leader. Co-leadership will not work, their needs to be one senior pastor, and one “final authority.”
2. Speed. Once talks start, things need to move fast. This seems like unconventional advice, but the longer merge talks happen the more people get nervous about the change.
3. Strong financial positions. There will be fall out from the churches that merge, so the financial situation of the new entity should be strong. Whatever the financial situation that is stated, expect it to be worse than advertised.
4. Strong leadership in worship and music. The music has incredibly high emotional influence on the congregation. In addition, all singers and musicians will struggle emotionally with a reduced or eliminated role in music. Your worship leader must be a strong leader, because this is a tough hurdle. Also, the senior pastor must establish his vision for worship and music, and “stay the course.”