By George Bullard
Recently a long-term ministry acquaintance contacted me for advice about his congregation. He had retired from his religious publishing position and moved to the other side of the country. During his life he had been a member of churches affiliated with various denominations. In retirement he had connected with a non-denominational church.
Now his church was considering affiliation with a denomination. It had interviewed leaders from various denominations present in its area, and was seeking to decide with whom it should affiliate.
Knowing my life-long work with dozens of denominations, he asked me to address the question as to why his church should consider affiliation with a denomination. Here is what I told him.
First, affiliate with a denomination for fellowship and relationship with ministers and congregations who have same or similar core values, and a complimentary passion around the mission of God through congregational expressions. Realize many of these relationships happen these days through networks, not denominations. A denominational relationship provides a built-in network, but you can also create your own.
Second, affiliate with a denomination to clarify the identity of your congregation with a certain denominational family. If the denomination with which you affiliate has a positive image in your area it may strengthen the attraction of your congregation to churched culture people looking for a church. At the same time it may also turn off some prospects for your church who have negative images of that denomination.
Third, affiliate with a denomination for the services and resources the denomination may offer. If you do this, also understand 80 percent of the services and resources congregations use come from outside their denomination. Perhaps your chosen denomination has exactly what you are looking for right now. It may not in a few years.
Fourth, affiliate with a denomination for the retirement program of the denomination. There may also be beneficial insurance and disability aspects to their retirement program. Currently, many ministry retirement programs work across denominational lines and with non-denominational churches. They no longer require affiliation with that denomination to participate in their retirement program.
Fifth, affiliate with a denomination for the global missions program of the denomination. In doing so, understand the work of parachurch missions organizations is well developed now, and the church-to-mission field partnerships are so prolific there may not be an advantage, except that the missional opportunities have been vetted for you.
Sixth, affiliate with a denomination for a source of clergy when you experience a vacancy. You should know that often ministers in the denominational placement processes are average people. Informal networking or the services of a professional ministry search firm may be a better choice.
Seventh, affiliate with a denomination for financial support through grants, loans and capital fundraising processes offered by the denomination for constructing new buildings. This assistance is typically more limited that it once was. Professional fundraising organizations or innovative generosity approaches may serve you better.
Eighth, affiliate with a denomination for networking with one or more seminaries or divinity schools connected with that denomination. In case you did not know, a significantly decreasing number of the ministers serving in non-connectional denominational churches attend a seminary of the denomination of their church affiliation. In some denominations it is less than one-half of the ordained clergy.
Ninth, affiliate with a denomination because this is the denomination of heritage for your pastor, and she or he wants the church to affiliate with it. Will the next pastor? By the way, this was a major issue that drove the desire of the pastor of the church which contacted me for this advice.
Tenth, affiliate with a denomination which understands all of these reasons and is seeking to build a strong missional movement where various services from multiple sources are brokered to their affiliated congregations. They vet the various resources available and share the knowledge gained so congregations can make the best decision for their situation.
If you are not now affiliated with a denomination, for what reasons would you choose to affiliate? If you are affiliated, do you wish you were not, but your congregation is co-dependent on its denomination? If you had it to do all over again would you affiliate with this denomination? If a new denomination forms out of your current denomination, what would be your criteria for affiliating with it?