Testimonies

Dirk Elliott has given us a tried and true model for church mergers. Any church considering merging with another church must read this book.
Bill Easum
21st Century Strategies Inc.

Church mergers have a bad name and often for good reason. Despite noble intentions, the pain almost always exceeds the promise, leaving disappointment over lost opportunities. Dirk Elliott combines the goals of traditional mergers with the methodology of new church starts to create an innovative third alternative filled with promise for hundreds of churches. For those who can embrace the dream, this book provides a blueprint to follow.
Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.
Distinguished Professor of Church Leadership and Director, Lewis Center for Church Leadership Wesley Theological Seminary Washington, DC

As denominations work to create more vital congregations, Dirk Elliott shares a new way to bring growth and health to existing congregations through Vital Mergers. This book offers a step-by-step approach to a successful vital merger, giving helpful examples of what to do – and what not to do.
I especially appreciate the combination of practical suggestions coupled with the spiritual practices of prayer and discernment that undergirds the entire process.
I encourage the use of the book for any congregation that is considering doing something new.
Bishop Deborah L. Kiesey
Resident Bishop of the Michigan Area, United Methodist Church

Rev. Dirk Elliott has put the “Method” back into Methodism as he succinctly show us how to create new and vibrant ministries in communities where the flame has flickered or been snuffed out! As a student of his for nearly a decade and a Vital Merger pastor who is putting Dirk’s method to the test, let me assure you—THIS WORKS! We began a Vital Merger combining members of four congregations using Dirk’s approach… and have met or exceeded every one of his “Measures of Success” (pg. 174) as we approach year five. This book is a gift to Methodism and the Church of Jesus Christ!
Rev. Scott T. Walsh
Lead Pastor, New Leaf United Methodist Church
Conneaut, OH

Churches especially mainline Protestant congregations today are all seeking new ways to build vital ministries and faith communities. This book provides a road map to do just that. Grounded in years of experience working with many types of churches , Rev. Dirk Elliott offers a visionary guide into how to successfully create a vital merger and a new church. If you are interested in building vital churches, this will be one of your go to resources. With stories, examples and sample documents this book should become required reading for lay leadership, and clergy alike and I highly recommend it to all district superintendents , bishops and others serving in church leadership structures. A must read!
Rev. Melanie Carey
District Superintendent, Detroit Renaissance District
Detroit Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

Written from a wealth of practical experience, Dirk Elliott’s Vital Merger offers a desperately needed road map for church mergers. Starting from an acknowledged reality that most traditional mergers “seldom result in growth or heath,” Vital Merger offers the dynamic of the marriage and blending of families into a wholly new framework as a faithful and fruitful metaphor for church mergers. With practical creativity he moves the focus from institutional survival to missional engagement in the name of Christ through the creation of a new church. The author provides the reader a handbook outlining the key components of a vital mission strategy that results in a new church not just the prolongation of death for declining congregations. This map for navigating vital mergers creating new churches is one that should be a required tool for guidance by all judicatory leaders, pastors and lay leaders engaging in church merger. This is the book on mergers that we have been longing for!
Bishop Mike Lowry
Resident Bishop of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church

Rev Dirk Elliott offers the wisdom of several congregations in Vital Merger: A New Church Start Approach that Joins Church Families Together. As he notes, a merger is like a marriage, with the same consideration of how to create one family out of two, where to live and work, what name to call our new family, and how we’ll raise our children. Our congregation “stumbled” upon the concept of a vital merger before learning of Rev Elliott’s work and strategy for a Vital Merger. We instinctively followed several of the items on the checklist of a successful Vital Merger. At other times we found ourselves floundering without such a checklist. This will be a great resource for our congregation as we move forward–a vital resource for both our congregational and District leadership.
Pastor Kim E. Kie
New Hope United Methodist Church
Williamstown, MA

Dirk Elliott validates another option to add to the church merger possibilities—the Vital Merger. This is a merger where two or more congregations join together in a new location under a new name with a new pastor and a new vision. It is church planting through mergers. This is “new wine in a new wineskin” and I like it! Vital Merger is another great resource to assist the growing church merger trend.”
Jim Tomberlin
Co-author of Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work

Dirk Elliott has gifted the church with an essential guide to move congregations considering change from survival to mission-compelled vitality. Vital Merger offers local churches a chance for a clear pathway to move out of “horse and buggy” historical location-focused churches into a new partnership commitment focused on the real demographics of their communities. Using over a decade of experience in congregational growth and new church starts, Elliott is able to pinpoint stepping stones and name the pitfalls, creating a very practical process for local church leadership, congregational developers and judicatory leaders. This is a much needed tool in the congregational vitality toolbox!
Rev. Dr. Jerome R. DeVine,
Director of Connectional Ministries
Detroit Conference of The United Methodist Church

Many established congregations are declining in terms of membership, finances and other resources needed for effective mission and ministry.
One potential solution to this problem is merging with one or more other congregations. But can it work? Perhaps even more importantly, will it last? According to Rev. Dirk Elliott, the answer is “Yes” if the merger process is done well.
Elliott is one of the true experts in the emerging field of church mergers.
He has personally guided many successful mergers in rural, suburban, urban and inner-city contexts utilizing what he calls his “Vital Merger” process. Elliott’s book describes the step-by-step process he has created and refined for over a decade. The Vital Merger approach rejects traditional models and focuses instead on creating a merged congregation based on a new-church-start paradigm. Elliott’s approach represents a “new wine in a new wine skin” approach that has a proven track record of creating healthy, growing congregations.
The book is highly readable and is replete with numerous examples from real church mergers. Those planning to lead a merger will appreciate the appendices which include a vital merger checklist and examples of key documents needed for the process. A final section describing the characteristics of vital merger planting pastors can help clergy discern whether they are suited for such an undertaking.
Rev. Christopher R. Gambill, Ph.D.
Center for Congregational Health,
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Dirk Elliott gets it right. For the merger of two or more congregations to be successful it must be the creation of a new Christ-centered, faith-based community. It really is a new congregation. It must involve the creation of all things new. It cannot be putting new wine into old wine skins. It should involve endings and beginnings. That is a tough, but essential approach in the merger of congregations. Considering merger? Read this book!

George Bullard
President, The Columbia Partnership

Vital Merger is a must-read for any pastor, congregation, or denominational staff considering the possibility of merging congregations. Dirk Elliott builds on the lessons learned from countless broken and disappointing mergers in the past, to show us strategy that creates a growing, fresh new faith community. Dirk’s hand’s on experience in this ministry has given us a practical handbook that offers a tried and true path toward vital, fruitful and healthy mergers.
Rev. Dr. Bob Crossman
Minister of New Church Starts and Path 1 Strategist
Author Committed to Christ: Six Steps to a Generous Life

Dirk’s long awaited work on Vital Mergers is both his premarital counseling
guide and wedding gift to congregations that have a sense of vision and
purpose beyond themselves and for the communities God has called them to
serve. This innovative and instructional manual comes right out of Dirk’s
own leadership, experience and passion for the church that could be if
congregations can get serious again about missional movement rather than
maintenance.
Gary Shockley has planted two new churches, served at the Executive Director
of Path 1 New Church Starts.
Rev. Gary Shockley
Senior Pastor, St Andrew UMC, Denver, CO

Closing the doors is not the only option! In Vital Merger Dirk Elliott spells out a workable and tested process for merging churches into one new and healthy congregation. With time and space to discern, to build relationships, and to claim God’s new vision, churches can find new life and purpose to meet the future’s Kingdom mission.
Rev. Joan Friesen
Executive Minister,
American Baptist Churches of Greater Indianapolis

Vital Merger is a significant guide, offering sound wisdom in every aspect of a good merger. It helps the merged church create an outreach-focused new identify. It’s also practical and clear, and is especially tailored to United Methodist Churches.
Rev. Dr. Warren Bird
Co-author of Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work