Merged and Networked Congregations

Part of Congregational Cycles

Merged and Networked Multisite Models

You might be ready to merge or network if:

  • You look over at your neighboring Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation and wonder, “Why aren’t we combining forces?”
  • You see you and your neighboring congregation duplicating a lot of administrative work at the expense of ministry.
  • You and your neighbor UU congregation are both struggling to maintain full-time staff, or wish you could give your minister a team-mate.
  • The idea of combining boards and committees seems like a good way to free people for more meaningful ministry.
  • Control issues do not seem to trouble your church culture like they do in some other congregations?
  • The idea of being “one church in multiple locations” excites you.

If these ring true, you might be ready for a Merger Multisite!

The term “merger” can be misleading. Often it is used when one church shuts down and merges with another. In the context of multisite, “merger” applies to everything but their buildings. Led by a desire to share mission, two or more congregations combine their staff, budgets, boards and programming. The only thing that is not combined is the buildings. This is where the slogan “one church in multiple locations” comes from. 
Here's the skinny:

A Merger/Networked Multisite Model Is

  • made up of two or more congregations
  • bound by a common identity and mission, as well as a single staff team, budget, board and set of programs
  • motivated by “a spirit of shared mission.”
  • hoping to achieve greater impact in their area than any of them could achieve on their own

Put simply, merger congregations look at each other and say, “Let’s do this together!”

Sometimes theses merged or “networked” congregations come together out of a need for survival, but more often it is a matter of increasing vitality and impact. The great benefit of merger models is that they eliminate redundancy and take advantage of economies of scale. Why have two preachers both writing four sermons a month, when each one could write two sermons and deliver them twice at each congregation, freeing up more time for other vital ministries?!

Unlike the yoked models, merger congregations value common aspiration more than control. This allows them to more easily “give up” their independent boards and budgets. Unlike the one-way support of a branch or campus model, a merger relationship tends to be more equal and mutually beneficial. Indeed, this piece of sharing a common journey drives everything.