During my role at the Southern Baptists of Texas convention, I have been asked multiple times what makes up a new membership class.
For Baptists, the normal new membership class outline goes something along the lines of:
- Beliefs (BFM2000 or abbreviated version).
- Requirements for membership (Salvation, Believer Baptism by immersion).
- Next step for membership (profession of faith, baptism, transfer of letter).
Because these seem to be a given, I don’t want to dive into those today.
Today, I want to address two things we miss in our new membership classes and their effect on our churches.
Have you ever been told to do something without being told the why?
When I was a little kid, and my parents would tell me to do something, my first question was always, “why?”. I remember the question would drive me nuts. I knew I needed to do what they told me, but I didn’t want to because I didn’t understand why it was necessary. In some cases, I would be disobedient because I didn’t see the purpose of the task.
If that was the case for you, how many new members feel the same way in our new membership classes? The people attending your new membership class know they should get involved, give, evangelize, and make disciples. But the “why?” of it all keeps them from doing it. They don’t understand their purpose at your church.
In your next new membership class, give the people the purpose. – Tell the people why you exist as a church, why you exist in your community, and how you are fulfilling your purpose in your community.
Churches have to realize that people no longer join a church for fellowship. Today, social connections are available everywhere, even online. There has to be more than fellowship at your church. So give the people a meaningful reason to join your church beyond the good people you have. Give them the purpose for which your church exists.
Many great things are going on in the world right now. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is offering full scholarships to IMB missionaries (link here). Disaster relief efforts are seeing many turns to Christ after clean up in Kentucky (link here). North Point Church in Burleson baptized fifteen people in a single day (link here). All this is excellent news. Still, it probably didn’t get you excited.
My point is that having a solid vision is excellent. But unless you invite others to become a part, it’s irrelevant to their lives.
In your next new membership class, share the purpose of your church and call the people to get involved in the purpose. When you do this, their involvement in your church becomes more than attending the game. You’re calling them to get on the field and start playing as a part of the team. So call them to use their God-given gifts for the Kingdom.
When people understand the purpose of your church and their calling to get involved, the expectation of church membership is clear. They are joining a team with a mission and purpose for the Kingdom.
Reading this, I know some may balk at changing their new membership class materials. But let me encourage you to reconsider. There is much at stake for your church and the community you serve.
What happens if we don’t?
The church will continue to linger on in a struggle with its purpose.
Parishioners will continue to believe that they’re effective church members if they show up and give. Pastors will continue to lament over not having enough volunteers or struggle with people not getting involved. The church will continue growing at a fraction of what it could be because only half the body is working. The church will continue, but without an expectation of purpose and calling, it will never be as effective as it could be.
The world will continue to believe that the purpose of the church is to get some things from them (mainly time and money). The worldly people who attend new membership classes will continue to believe there is no point in joining a church. Ultimately the world will not be impacted by the church’s witness as it should.
What a tragedy it would be if all of this could be avoided?
Let’s build healthier churches by giving the people the purpose of our church and calling the people to get involved from the start.