Church membership should not consist of rules designed to keep people out, but ramps to help people grow. Membership in a local church may seem outdated or unnecessary, but if led well, it can add great strength to your church.
Since finishing seminary, I have served in two churches that are part of the Wesleyan Church, a great denomination. In both churches I’ve spent years teaching all or part of the membership class. It’s been my practice to stick around after the class and field questions from anyone who wants to talk. I’ve listened to thousands of questions over a span of 30 years. There are four questions that are asked far more often than any others.
- What if I can’t give a full tithe?
- What if I’m not sure about being baptized?
- What if my spouse is not a believer?
- What if I’m not sure I have the time to serve?
These questions and others like them are packed with wonderings of whether or not they can measure up with all we ask of them. In each case I talk about a grace-filled path for growth, rather than a “you are in or out” kind of membership accompanied by a list of dos and don’ts. Don’t misunderstand me—we are passionate, highly committed and always inspiring people to higher ground. But we emphasize teamwork, vision and life change, not rules and requirements.
The main reason people don’t become church members is they are afraid you want more from them than you want for them.
A membership class is a great opportunity to inspire, encourage and breathe life into people who have already indicated a high level of interest in your church. Let them know you love and appreciate them! Emphasize what you have to offer that helps them mature in their faith and live life to the fullest (John 10:10).
Here’s a practical list of the kinds of things you can focus on:
- Your culture and values—who you are.
- Your vision for the future—where you are going.
- Stories of life change—the meaning and purpose of your church.
- The value of serving—the beauty of giving yourself away.
- The benefit of participating—the joy of sharing life with others.
- The power of prayer and Scripture—the nature of an intimate walk with God.
- The significance of reaching the lost—the primary focus of ministry energy.
Make the class fun, serve those who attend well and keep the energy up. Consider the class a gift to the people rather than an ask of the people.