Merging Churches to
by B.B. Robinson
A New Visions Commentary
paper published July 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy
Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110,
Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail Project21@nationalcenter.org,
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
There is strength and power in numbers.
Businesses all over the world fully comprehend
this notion. That's why they engage in mergers and acquisitions
to grow and gain market share. In the absence of antitrust measures,
this can lead to a very strong market position. Firms can then
use this position of power to control markets and optimize profits.
Although churches have - at their center
- a mission somewhat different from optimizing profits, they
too must pay attention to their bottom lines. Fortunately, churches
and other non-profit organizations are not subject to the same
antitrust restrictions that cover for-profit companies. Therefore,
they are free to take action to expand their sphere of influence
and optimize whatever operational goal they choose: saving souls,
redistributing income, expanding health coverage, increasing
educational attainment, reducing drug addiction, restoring community
vitality and so on.
If firms use mergers and acquisitions
to broaden their influence and ensure success in achieving their
operational goals, why don't churches use a similar tactic?
It is not uncommon to see one denomination
build a new church within the same community that competes with
a similar denomination. In other words, the Southern Baptist
and Methodist or Pentecostal and Evangelical denominations will
build new churches as a competitive tactic. Often, this type
of competitive behavior between similar denominations leads to
churches that can barely maintain their existence due to the
splintering of communities.
An alternative would be for churches
to merge with, or to be acquired by, the stronger denomination.
So why don't we see more mergers and
acquisitions among churches?
The first-blush answer is that church
doctrines and liturgies differ. I view doctrines and liturgies
much the way for-profit firms view corporate philosophies and
operational methodologies. For-profit firms, when they merge
or are acquired, can blend separate philosophies and operational
methodologies into a new and often better philosophy and operational
methodology. Could it be that different denominations could find
a middle-road doctrine and liturgy to accommodate their newly-merged
memberships? It might be worth trying.
In an effort to build African-American
communities and not splinter them, church mergers and acquisitions
may be an excellent tool. Church mergers and acquisitions may
supercede the benefits gained from constructing new church edifices
that often stand idle. The construction of churches also often
sends valuable resources outside of the African-American community
because the construction contractors are external.
Mergers and acquisitions could serve
as unifying forces that would increase market share, expand already
organized memberships and give the church more power to optimize
its operational goals - whatever they might be.
Divide-and-conquer schemes are appropriate
when the objective is to control a growing and unorganized populace.
When the goal is building and unifying communities, however,
the better approach is one that involves consolidation.
Consequently, church mergers and acquisitions
may constitute an appropriate approach to making African-American
churches stronger and more capable of accomplishing their generally
recognized goal: To make the African-American community itself
(B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a
member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American
leadership network Project 21 and an economist. Comments may
be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author,
and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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