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hope for churches in stress

Church Meld

Can a struggling church “reboot” for a fresh start? The multisite movement, normally associated with larger churches, also creates an option for small churches—a church meld.

Four years ago, New Life Community in Carlisle (Pa.) initiated conversation with a sister church six miles away, Wesley BIC in Mt. Holly Springs. New Life was a vibrant church of 150. Wesley was languishing, with around 20 worshippers.

Exploratory conversations led to formal approvals, and the blending began. The aim was to share everything, above all a DNA of gospel proclamation and community engagement. At the same time care was taken to retain the style and heritage of both sites.

At Mt. Holly contemporary songs were introduced into worship without displacing hymns. An annual Christmas tree lighting was enhanced by blanketing a 100-foot pine tree in front of the church with lights. A cherished stained glass window, front and center in the sanctuary, was kept visible by projecting worship songs on TV screens, left and right.

Finances were stretched. There was some pushback. Community perceptions needed to be addressed. With a lot of proactive conversations, a goal of loving everyone (with no exceptions) was met. Attendance increased at both sites. And by active engagement in local service initiatives, the community is now strongly positive.

For a struggling church, one path to revitalization is a church meld. For a stronger church that is willing to sacrifice, nurture relationships, and practice sensitivity, a meld can enhance and expand ministry.

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