What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1-15-21
This part two of a two-part series on “What’s Next?” at First Congregational Church of Granby. Part one focused on three different models for downsizing. This week we will focus on four different models for church consolidation.
Assimilation (along with the “ICU” model below) is one of the more common models of consolidation. Assimilation happens when a “lead” church incorporates another church’s people and assets. Key for successful assimilation is assessment of mission compatibility of the assimilated church with the lead church. Also important is a clear understanding of any liabilities the assimilated church might bring to the table. The point of assimilation is to strengthen the position of the lead church and to provide an opportunity of the assimilated church to pass on the legacy of their assests. Because of the principle of homeostasis (that is, without conscious and sustained effort, churches tend to revert to status quo) assimilations usually don’t result in significant increases for the “lead” church. A nearby example of assimilation is Wilson Congregational Church (Windsor), which in 2010 assimilated to First Church in Windsor.
Satellite is a consolidation model in which a lead church “adopts” another church. The adoptee turns over control of its assets to a lead church, which then takes responsibility for developing the adopted church as a satellite of the lead church usually providing the adoptee access to the lead church’s staff, membership, and programs. This was a model explored by First Congregational Church of Stamford as an option that would have potentially allowed them to stay in their building. Unfortunately they were not able to find a nearby UCC with the capacity to take on the congregation as a satellite. Lead churches generally need to be on a growth trajectory in order to adopt a satellite and none of the nearby UCCs were growing.
Consolidation/Restart is a model that involves two (or more!) congregations merging their assets and membership on an equal basis to create a new congregation with a new identity and mission. Though researchers are still gathering data, we can say anecdotally that this is the most promising model for consolidation. Consolidation/restart may involve a new location, new building, new name, new worship style, and/or new staffing. The governing questions are “What is our Why?” and “What of our combined resources will best support us in living out that Why?” The consolidation/restart model disrupts the status quo enough so that the consolidating congregations can move from a decline trajectory to a growth trajectory while pooling resources to more effectively live out a common mission.
ICU model. We have also talked about this as the “Titanic model.” The ICU model is another version of hospice where two declining congregations combine resources in order to keep their current members as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Unless there is conscious effort to change the congregations’ cultures, many consolidations follow the ICU model by default. Consideration of these different models was, for example, a part of the conversations around the consolidation that formed the new Southern New England Conference of the UCC.
What other models for consolidation are you aware of?