What's Next?

1 + 1 sometimes = 3

On July 10th, Canvas Church and Grace Community Church announced to their congregations that their leadership teams are recommending a church merger where the two congregations would become one. This decision did not happen quickly or flippantly.

Pastor Ryan and Pastor Matt have been praying about this possibility since January and the leadership boards have been in hours and hours of meetings for months all with the goal of answering this simple question, "Can our churches build the Kingdom of God better TOGETHER or SEPARATE?" After months of prayers, meetings, and surveys, we believe the answer to this question is a resounding YES!

Below is an orientation video from Pastor Matt and Pastor Ryan along with a merger timeline and a list of FAQs about why we are recommending the merger and what it will look like. Please take some time to look at  this list of questions, begin praying for our churches, and engage our leadership team with any questions or concerns you may have.

We also are putting together a list of our regular attenders who would like to stay informed with the process as well as contribute to the poll at the end of the process on September 4th. If you want to be apart of that list and participate in the poll, make sure you sign up with the button below.

Merger Orientation Video:

Merger Timeline:

Merger FAQs

How did this merger idea come about?

Grace and Canvas have historically had very similar communities. Due to the division that occurred after the pastoral changes at Grace, several previous Grace members/attendees became a part of the Canvas community. A few key individuals from both congregations acknowledged the fact that Grace and Canvas may do better together both as a church community as well as have a larger Kingdom impact in the City of Winchester.

Why are we considering a merger?

The main question that is driving the consideration of this merger is “Can we build the Kingdom of God in our City better together then separate?” Overall, we believe the answer to the question is a resounding yes!

Through several discussions and organizational research, it appears that Grace Community Church and Canvas Church have large areas of overlap when it comes to their ministry strategy and philosophy. And the church's individual resources are extremely complimentary.

Grace Community Church has a history of administration, policies, and procedures for effective execution of church ministries as well as a facility in the middle of a community with many ministry opportunities. Canvas Church has a staff structure, church culture, and momentum that we believe would complement these assets.

What are the benefits of this proposed merger?

In the same way people marry individuals with differing strengths, we believe our churches have a similar mission, vision, and culture while having complementary functional strengths. Grace brings the organizational administration and the facility of a maturing church while Canvas brings the culture and staff of a growing church. We believe that these two complementing strengths along with the combined budgets and a new shared mission, vision, and culture will allow us to have a much greater kingdom impact together than separate.

Who will be our pastor?

Pastor Ryan and pastor Matt will co-lead the merged church through April of 2023. In May of 2023, Pastor Matt will have completed his interim pastor commitment. Pastor Ryan will continue to lead the congregation. The board of the merged congregation will navigate this change. It is anticipated that the merged church at that point will need to add staff.

Will our church have a new name and what will it be?

The merged church will adopt the name Canvas Community Church.

What will happen to the pastor and staff?

Pastor Ryan and Pastor Matt will assume roles of co-pastor and both be retained. Children’s Pastor Michelle and Worship Leader Donavan will retain their current roles. The newly formed board of Canvas Community Church will regularly evaluate staff positions moving forward.

What will happen to the children’s ministry?

Canvas will take the lead in this area relying on Children’s Pastor Michelle for leadership. Jared will continue as Youth Leader and will coordinate his work with Children’s Pastor Michelle. Volunteers from both congregations will continue to serve under the leadership of Pastor Michelle.

What will happen to the church board and committees?

Some current Governance Board members from each church will step down. Some will move to a transition team tasked with managing transition issues over the next year. The Governance Board will be formed with equal members from both Canvas and Grace board and be assigned staggering terms from one to three years. Grace’s board chair will remain the chair of the merged board. The combined board will be governed by the by-laws of Grace. Both Pastor Ryan and Pastor Matt will serve on the Governance Board ex officio.

Within six months, the newly formed Transition Team will review and potentially make recommendations for changes to the by-laws, reviewed by the governance board and adopted by the members of the newly formed congregation.

The organizational structure of Grace will remain, however, leads of each areas will be assigned based on the skills and gifts that each church brings. An organization chart illustrating Grace’s structure is attached to the bottom of this webpage.

What will happen to the church’s facilities?

Canvas Church does not currently have a permanent facility. Canvas will donate its assets to the newly formed church.

How will the budget and finances be managed?

The finances will be managed by the newly formed Governance Board that will consist of an equal number of members from both churches' current leadership teams. The decisions made by the board will be visible and accountable to the members of the congregation.

It also might be helpful to note that just as in the marriage of two single adults, this merger would be combining the assets and income of two growing organizations and would make the newly formed church financially stronger. This would allow the newly formed congregation to do far more ministry in our city together than we could separate.

What will the worship services be like?

Awesome! Grace and Canvas have similar orders of worship. Canvas will take the lead in our praise experience relying on Worship Leader Donavan for leadership. Instrumentalists and vocalists from Grace will be utilized as deemed appropriate by Donavan.

Who will be the main preacher(s) and how will the sermons be delivered?

For the remainder of Pastor Matt’s contracted tenure (April 2023), Pastor Ryan and Pastor Matt will share the bulk of the preaching responsibilities. Matt and Ryan will work together to blend their preaching styles to fit a seeker-sensitive, exegetically sound, and gospel-centered mode of preaching. Others will be utilized as appropriate.

What happens when Pastor Matt leaves?

Following Pastor Matt’s tenure, the newly formed board and congregation will evaluate the need for an additional pastor to share preaching responsibilities and other ministry duties.

How will current membership be transferred?

Grace Community’s current active membership will retain membership in the newly formed congregation. Canvas Church will invite an equitable number of members from Canvas. During the first year, the leadership team will design a new membership orientation and covenant that members and potential new members of the congregation will need to attend and affirm.

Why will we have membership?

There are two reasons, one spiritual and the other practical.

Spiritual: While the bible does not discuss organizational membership, it talks a lot about commitment and covenanting with one another. In fact, the words “one another’” describing the commitment we bear to those in the local church show up 100 times and in 21 books in the New Testament. Just like members of a human body are committed to the whole, so to the body of Christ in a local church (Rom 12:3-8).

Practical: Membership is a practical and legal means for an organization, including a church, to make decisions, designate leadership, maintain integrity to its purpose, and steward property.

Will our denomination and affiliations change?

Grace is part of the Brethren Church Denomination. Canvas Church is currently not affiliated with any denomination. Before the idea of a merger came about, the Canvas leadership team began discussing the possibility of affiliating with a network or denomination of some kind.

With that in mind, Canvas church oversight board and Grace Community Governance board recommend a merger which includes affiliation with the Brethren Denomination. We understand that many of you will have questions about what this means and we will work hard to define that as clearly and transparently as possible as we progress in this process. In the meantime, you can investigate the Brethren Church here: www.brethrenchurch.org.

What value does a denomination bring?

Canvas’s leadership recognized that partnering with the right organization can provide significant strengths and resources for the health of our church.

After beginning this conversation with Grace Community, Canvas leadership began to carefully investigate Grace’s affiliation with the Brethren Denomination. It seems like it would be an excellent fit for Canvas. The Brethren Denomination is a Jesus-Centered organization that emphasizes unity with the individual local churches over secondary theology. This mindset is one of the key components of what makes the merger seem so desirable. Both congregations focus on Jesus and one another which provides a tremendous foundation for unity. You can investigate the Brethren Church here:

What will happen to our supported missionaries and organizations?

Our current missionaries and organizations will continue to be supported through the end of the calendar year. When preparing the 2023 budget, the newly formed Governance Board will put together a suggested budget with input and approval from the newly formed membership of the church.

How will the merger impact us financially?

Both leadership boards have estimated the costs and believe that the merger is affordable. The combined finances will also allow us to have a larger Kingdom Impact in our city.

Who will decide if this merger happens?

Pastoral staff and oversight boards of both churches have taken months to research, talk, pray and discern together if this merger makes sense and is God’s will. We used a resource, Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work. by Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird. We sought outside counsel; we tried to ask the hard questions while investigating potential synergy. We now jointly make a recommendation to our respective congregations that we proceed with the merger.

Grace will hold a series of Town Hall meetings to answer questions and discern God’s directing. We will work for consensus among all committed adults at Grace. If we are unable to reach consensus after an approximately two-month process, Grace will require a 3/4 affirmative vote from members in good standing.

Canvas Staff and Leadership Team will meet with individuals, small groups, and host additional meetings to answer questions about the proposed merger. We will also host 3 joint services at Grace Community Church. This process will be approximately two months long. At the end of the process, a survey of the congregation will be taken to see if the majority of the group approves of the decision. Our hope and prayer is that at least 80% of the congregation would approve of the decision. At that point, the oversight board will make the final decision.

If this merger happens what will change?

The best way to illustrate the answer to this question is to think of each congregation as a future spouse entering the covenant of marriage. When we merge, we become one congregation. We will be creating a new family with some new traditions, practices, and rhythms that best serve the new family without losing what made us who we were before the marriage.

Just like a marriage, if this merger succeeds it will be because the individuals of both congregations enter this process with a tremendous amount of humility. We will both have to make sacrifices and subtle shifts to make space for the unity of the merged congregation. Some things that “used to be” will inevitably change for both congregations but they will change for the sake of a greater kingdom impact of the merged congregation moving forward.

What is the timeline for this proposed merger?

Throughout this process, we have used a book called “Better Together” which is written by experts in this field and based on a survey of hundreds of successful church mergers. They suggest that the vetting process be thorough but once the decision to merge is made that the actual merger happens as fast as is wise.

Several competing factors impact how we define “as fast as is wise” but based on those factors we envision that both congregations will be worshiping together as one new congregation by the 18th of September and all of the administrative details will be finalized by the end of this year.

In the meantime, both leadership teams will work hard to collect feedback and answer the questions of our congregations as well as a few pulpit exchanges, and a joint worship service before making the final decision.

What will happen if the merger doesn’t go through?

If the merger doesn't go through, Canvas Church will continue to worship together at the Alamo as our oversight board discusses several possible changes to our venue and our staff structure based on our current income and organizational needs.

Grace will also continue to serve God as we currently are and will need to execute a complete pastoral search before Matt’s departure in April, 2023.

We suspect that Grace and Canvas will continue to find ways to partner for Kingdom purposes with one another as like-minded congregations.

What are my next steps?

Pray earnestly and communicate openly and honestly. We ask you to earnestly pray that God’s will would be clear for both organizations throughout this process. We don’t want to do something that makes sense on paper without seeking and knowing what God’s will is for both of our churches during this season of ministry.

If you have any questions, hesitations, encouragements, or concerns, please let us know. We need to dialogue with you about this process.

We also encourage you to participate in the joint ministry activities scheduled this summer for God to build bonds of love that will serve us whether we merge or not.

Grace Community Organizational Chart.

Click the button below to see a larger .pdf version of Grace Community's Organizational Structure that our merged congregation will be adopting.