Whenever we work with churches, we are always on the lookout for good stories to share. I recently got to talk with Brad Jenkins of Anthem Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. After 10 years of operating as The Gathering Church, Brad and his team merged with Liberty Church to further their reach—which meant Brad went from leading a church of 200 with five staff and one Sunday service time to leading a church of 500 with 12 staff and two services. Six months into the merger, Anthem contacted The Unstuck Group to help them sort out staffing, structure and ministry priorities through our strategic planning process.
Read on to hear about about what Brad and the team learned about leadership through the merger process.
Caroline: What led you to decide to merge?
Brad: I founded The Gathering Church in 2006. We had been mobile for almost 10 years before the merger and looking for a permanent location. Liberty Church had a pastor nearing retirement age and was in need of a fresh wave of Millennials and young families. We decided to merge and create a new beginning as Anthem Church because we saw God’s provision for our independent prayers in one another and had a strong belief that we would be better together.
Caroline: What was the most challenging aspect of merging?
Brad: While our merger has been incredibly successful and we feel great joy about what God has done, we have learned that bringing two churches together is incredibly challenging. I would say that the most challenging aspect is merging two different cultures, two different ways of doing ministry, and two different relational circles. All three of those challenges have caused us to carefully journey through our opening 18 months together.
Caroline: What has been the most impactful lesson you have learned through this process?
Brad: Leadership is all about trust. I have worked very hard to earn the trust of the great people of Liberty Church so they can follow me into the future. Earning trust has required getting a few wins under our belts in ministry and listening closely to the needs and concerns of the people during the transition. When people believe in the vision and trust its leaders they find it much easier to walk boldly into the future together.
Caroline: What should other pastors know about this journey if they are considering a merger?
Brad: It is critically important that both churches have a very similar DNA and they seek the advice of others who have led mergers in the past. We read extensively and sought the counsel of Jim Tomberlin (author of Better Together) very early in the process. Fortunately, both Liberty Church and The Gathering Church had very similar DNA (theologically and ministry philosophy), but we still had our own differences to work through. If our DNA had been more different, I don’t believe we would have had such a successful merger.
Caroline: How did engaging our team fit in?
Caroline: What are some of the results your church is now celebrating?
Brad: We are now almost eighteen months into our merger and we’ve seen 142 people make decisions to give their life to Jesus for the first time or rededicate their life to him! That is what we are celebrating the most!
Check out our 4-phase process to learn more how The Unstuck Group helps churches focus vision, strategy, structure and action.