Recently, my wife and I were driving back home, and decided to check out the country club on the way back. We pulled up to the guard station, and were greeted with the sign, “members only,” as well as instructions from the guard of how to take a U-turn off the property. Driving away, it made me wonder if our church membership was as exclusive as this club? Maybe the bad experiences have led people to wonder, “Do I really need to be a member?” People are not going to just sign up. They need to know why membership matters and have a clear and welcoming pathway. I’ve jotted down a few reasons.
- Membership reflects belonging to a family – Unfortunately, many view church as a club to attend rather than a family to belong. A church member is part of a Body (I Corinthians 12) that is interdependent on each other. One part of the body needs another part. Membership allows people to be invited to this local, global and eternal family.
- Membership encourages accountability – There are many responsibilities listed in scripture regarding member responsibilities. Mark Dever states in, Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church, “Church membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service.” There are over 50, “one-another” passages listed in scripture, and most of these commands cannot be lived out during a worship service. They are practiced throughout the week as members express Christs’ life and love (Hebrews 10:24).
- Membership focuses on a unique mission – An attender interested in joining needs to understand your mission and what you believe; especially if they have been a member at another church. At our most recent church plant, Aspire Church, our mission statement is, “we exist to connect people to live the life of a Jesus follower.” We will spend an entire night explaining this one mission. Interested attenders need to know this is all we do as a church.
- Membership strategically deploys missionaries – A church member is more than a Sunday attender—he is a missionary throughout the week! The great commission was given to the entire church and that commission was not just for attendance on Sunday. A church member is called to live on mission where he lives, works or plays. At Aspire, we not only gather the gifts of each member during our membership class, but also the domain of each member. All cities are made up of domains which include education, government, medical, etc. Each member has a job, skill and passion that can be used in a domain. Knowing the domains of each church member informs pastoral leadership how to strategically engage in mission both locally and globally. Some churches like Aspire and Hope Church in Las Vegas have begun giving domain surveys to see what members do throughout the week, and not just where they want to serve on Sunday. This has a huge impact in how your local church reaches your city and mobilizes members as missionaries. The new shift in mission has everything to do with equipping and mobilizing members to take the cities of the world.
- Membership helps pastors “shepherd the flock” – I Peter 5:2 says pastors are call to, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” Membership allows pastors to know who they are responsible for as they care for the sheep. Members not only need the care and love of the senior pastor, but also the elders, deacons, small group leaders, counselors and other members.
As you explain what membership is, get off the “guard stations.” Make sure attenders clearly know how to become a member. Here are a few ideas.
- Host an information dinner every eight weeks to let attenders come and hear your mission. If interested, they can go to the next step of a membership meeting. Always give an opportunity for attenders to respond to the gospel and follow in baptism if they have not done so.
- During the membership meeting, explain the church mission, giving opportunities, and gather information where they live and work. These are your missionaries!
- Make sure they know what the next step is after membership. For us, it’s small groups and leadership training.
- Enroll them to help serve in the process as soon as possible.
Published May 16, 2017