There has been some confusion regarding the terms church planting and revitalization and even church merger. These terms are all different approaches to growing and strengthening a church community.
For the sake of clarity, here are the key differences between them:
Church planting is the process of establishing a new church in a community where there is not currently a life-giving church present or an area that has few churches and a large population, or there is a need for a certain “flavor” of church in an area.
This involves starting from scratch, finding a location, gathering a core group of members, and building up the church community over time. Church planting can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding as it allows for a fresh start and the opportunity to create a church community that is tailored to reach the community.
Church revitalization is the process of renewing and re-energizing an existing church that may be struggling or declining. This involves assessing the current state of the church, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing changes to help the church grow and thrive. Church revitalization can be a challenging process, as it may require difficult decisions and changes to longstanding traditions, but it can also be a rewarding way to help an established church community thrive.
Church mergers involve two or more churches coming together to form a single, larger church community. This can happen when one or more of the churches is struggling or declining, and merging with another church can provide resources and support to help the community grow. Church mergers can be complex, as they involve combining different church cultures and traditions, but they can also be a way to create a stronger, more unified church community.
The term merger is often used, but a more accurate definition would be church adoption. The reality is – it’s rare that two equally strong churches combine. Most church mergers involve a stronger/ healthier church that absorbs (adopts) a church that is declining or is going through difficulties.
In summary, church planting is about starting a new church community from scratch, church revitalization is about renewing and re-energizing an existing church community, and church mergers involve two or more churches coming together to form a single, larger church community.