01 Jul 2003 Merging Churches to Find Strength, by B.B. Robinson
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 stronger.