Six-Fourteen Church in Masury and Brookfield United Methodist Church had merger talks in February, but decided to stay separate entities, officials said.
Both churches are affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The Mahoning Valley District of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church asked the congregations to consider merging, said the Rev. Abby Auman, superintendent of the Mahoning Valley District.
Churches in general are losing members and are “just beginning to take a look at how they are going to do things differently in the future,” she said.
Although there have been social media posts that the conference was forcing the churches to merge, Auman said that was not the case, and the decision of the churches to remain separate will be honored.
“Nobody is forcing them to do so,” she said of merging.
Pastor Jared Woodward of Six-Fourteen Church said the churches were “exploring opportunities to better serve the community. It was just conversation that we had and we, at the end of the day, decided that our churches are both strong in different ways. We have different gifts to share. We’re just gonna continue to do ministry and find new ways to do it together.”
It might make “some sense” for the churches to merge, in that both have extensive community outreach activities and want to do more, said BUMC Pastor Dick Smith.
promoSix-Fourteen’s outreach activities include an Easter Egg hunt, A Six-Fourteen Christmas and a Back to School Bash, while BUMC sponsors Summer Fest, Santa’s Workshop and hands out school supplies at the Brookfield Local School District open house. Both churches have youth activities and food pantries.
“If you’re a bigger church, you can probably do more,” Smith said.
Six-Fourteen typically has 150 people come to worship, while BUMC has about 60, he said.
“When we got to talking, we realized that we’re good strong churches in our own rights,” Smith said. “We don’t think it’s a good fit, right now.”
BUMC is trying to find a way to expand its preschool, and has plans to improve its building by installing new doors and adding security.
“With all that we’ve got going on in our ministries, that (merging) would have been a distraction,” Smith said.
Smith called Woodward a friend and both said the talks could open doors to work together.
“I think that we’ve identified some places we’re both strong at, and we’ll definitely try to work together in some capacity,” Woodward said. “Most of our goals are the same: it’s to serve the community, it’s to love the community and we’re gonna keep doing that, for sure.”
“Both churches have a great heart for the community,” Auman said. “I think very highly of both churches and both pastors.”