Church Collaboration

 How Churches Can Work Together for Mission

Option 3:  Conventional Merger

Definations of Merger or Consolidation

A merger or consolidation occurs when two or more congregations legally join together as one. This site uses the term Conventional Merger or Continuation Merger when the combined congregation continues most of the traditions, programs, and approach of the predecessor churches. Some call this a survival merger.

In a Rebirth or Restart Merger two or more churches join together with a new name, a fresh vision and identity and, when possible, a new or remodeled facility. A Rebirth merger or consolidation builds the assets and strengths of the former churches while shedding the habits and practices that keep newcomers away.  

An Absorption Merger is when a smaller church joins with a larger thriving church, sometime informally. A Multisite or Multi-campus merger or consolidation happens when a church that finds itself stuck and no longer attracting new people joins with a strong growing church to become a campus of the lead church.

The words “merger” and “consolidation” are basically synonyms—you can use the one that you prefer. Consolidation is more accurately reflects the laws in many states and often conforms better with denominational language and it may feel less threatening to members who know stories of failed mergers.


Inspiring Case Study:  St. Paul-Reformation, St. Paul, MNSt. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church

St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church is the product of three continuation mergers involving four predecessor churches. It started in 1883 as Memorial Lutheran Church, which merged three times and eventually became St. Paul-Reformation in 1977. During the first decade of the 21st century it attendance almost doubled in a community with no population growth, although the church has faced declines since then. More information about these mergers is at:

Track Record of Church Mergers

There is a common saying that the result of a church merger is "1 + 1 = 1". The reality is more  complex. Some merged churches end up closing, or 1 + 1 = 0.  Many find themselves in slow decline, just like many  unmerged churches. Others thrive and end up greater than the sum of their initial parts.

The success rate of blended congregations has to be evaluated  in the context of all congregations. Since a majority of mainline churches are now declining it should not be surprising when blended congregations decline as well. The evaluation also has to keep in mind the status of the churches before merger or consolidation. The vast majority of the churches that decide to blend were struggling at the time of the decision. One has to ask, what would be the status of the processor churches if they hadn't combined?

A Continuation Merger usually puts congregations in a stronger position and it often forestalls closing, but it doesn't necessarily change the pattern of decline. See "The Life Cycle of Congregations" on the Rebirth Merger page.

The charts below show that Rebirth Mergers have a stronger track record than Continuation Mergers and that Absorption Mergers have the strongest record of the three. The charts are based on an informal 66-church sample of the almost 250 mergers and consolidations in the ELCA between 1988 and 2008.

During the study period there apparently were no Multisite/Multi-campus mergers or consolidations in mainline churches. Since then there have been several, including two that involved Dave Raymond from ChurchFuture. In evangelical churches there have been hundreds. Early data in both mainline and evangelical situations is encouraging. More information is at

Track record

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