Stage I - Discernment of common interest
Participating churches engage in study of surrounding community, scriptures, and traditions to discern a shared or common call to ministry and mission.

Stage II – Permissions
Congregations and denominations potentially involved give permission to explore possibilities of working together in order to address their commonly held understanding of their call to ministry and mission.

Stage III – Intentional courtship
Churches explore possibilities of working together. What resources can each bring to bear on the shared understanding of mission/purpose? Why might the merged churches be better equipped for this mission than each could be separately? Conversations about these possibilities become the “gossip” among the members of participating churches – conversations take place in the parking lot and coffee shop as well as in organized venues within the church programs.

Stage IV – Plan
What are the nuts and bolts of a plan for the churches to live and work together? How will the new church be staffed? What facilities will be utilized? What facilities will be disposed of? How might leadership be integrated? How will new leadership be developed and supported? How will the new church be governed? What face will it present to the community? What programs will be implemented to support outreach and growth?

Stage V – Grief work
How will the merged church support the grief work with the people and organizations within the merging churches? How will traditions be honored? How will memories be preserved? How will the new church move forward?

Stage VI – Implementation
Get legal materials in place (incorporation, closing former churches, clear titles to property, review contracts with staff). Get final approvals from congregations and denominational bodies. Recruit and train staff. Design program. Begin working together.

Stage VII – Learning to live together
Review progress early and often. Are we seeing the kind of results we expected? Tweak programs and leadership skills to improve effectiveness. Celebrate.