I have taken over 1000+ people through membership classes in my ministry career. There are amazing blessings and some interesting opportunities that are part of this process.
Helping people become part of a church family is one of the most unique and rewarding aspects of pastoral work I have encountered. So much happens in these kinds of meetings.
Some of the blessings are:
- Teaching people things about the Bible they didn’t know.
- Hearing how people came to faith in Christ.
- Leading people into a new season of their life.
- Helping people develop a love for the church as the Bride of Christ.
Some of the opportunities are:
- Introducing people to Jesus.
- Challenging people to take the step of baptism.
- Explaining the benefit of committed community.
- Helping people understand the need for authority in the church.
I mention all of this because these are real issue you will come across. Read through the blessings and opportunities and be prepared with some kind of response in each of those areas. They may not all come up but some will inevitably come up.
I believe church membership classes are best taught in small group scenarios.
This looks like:
- A group of 10-20 people.
- 2 hour set time frame.
- Over lunch or dinner.
- Where people can share their stories of faith.
- Where you can project information on a screen.
- Or pass out packets of information.
- Or point people to the church website.
- Pencils, Pens and something to write on.
Step One: Start with some History
The Membership Class itself should be framed by some kind of historical presentation. A good example of this is The Orchard Community Church in Escondido. Orchard has the member candidates watch a seven minute video before they get to the class meeting. See here.
Step Two: Explain Why Membership is Important
Church Membership is really Family Membership. That is what you really want to convey. Church membership without relationship becomes a volunteer contract that nobody wants to be part of. People agree to social contracts they believe are mutually beneficial. Church family membership is one where we desire to bring life to you and desire to gain life from you. Life giving relationships are at the core of motive for membership.
Again, at the Orchard Community Church when they use the word “membership” they are defining it with words like, commitment, partnership, service, sacrifice and covenant relationship. To be a member at a church is different than being a member anywhere else. When you say you want to be a member at the Orchard you are saying that you believe this is where God wants you to be and where you believe God is alive and active. We invite you to take a step and become part of the family at the Orchard where you will be part of what helps the church reach people by inviting them to find hope and experience love through faith in Christ.
What do they require? Their requirements are simple:
- Be part of the church for at least six months or more.
- Believe the things they believe about God.
- Join at a member meeting where you share your story of putting your faith in Jesus for your salvation.
Step Three: Cover the Constitutional Document
A Constitutional Document typically has within it a few things that have defining markers at a church. For instance. At the Orchard Community Church things like doctrine, voting and controversial positions are all listed inside of the Constitution. Click here to see Orchard Community Church’s Constitution ==> Orchard Constitution & Bylaws Oct. 2017
Things to make sure to cover in this section are:
- Doctrine: What does the church believe?
- Order: How does the church authority and hierarchy function i.e. Elders and nominating committee and church voting.
- Controversial Issues: Are their beliefs the church has that people need to know so they can make an informed commitment to be part of the church family.
Step Four: Listen to their Testimony of Faith
This is one of the best parts of the your time together. This is the time where people are encouraged to share how they came to faith in Jesus. There will be people with incredible faith stories and people whom have no idea others made such a commitment.
Things to look for:
- Does this person have a clear moment of decision to trust in Jesus?
- If so, when, where and how did it take place? The point of this exercise is to help the believer be firm in their faith. (1 Peter 5:8)
- If the person does not have a clear moment of decision, they may say “I’ve always been a Christian” or “I was born into the faith”, I recommend having them pray with me then and there to make that moment the day and time they made a clear decision of faith. (Romans 10:9)
Step Five: Ask them to sign some kind of Covenant
At the Orchard Community Church, they use a Membership Covenant form. Here is a sample form, Click here ==> Orchard Membership P#2
The form includes things like:
- Expectations from the Member
- An understanding that they are submitting to Elders at the church
- A questionnaire regarding when they made faith decisions like first time decisions and baptisms, and past churches they may want to let you know about.
- Space for their signature and the signature of the Board of Elders Chairman.
In the end, church membership is voluntary. Don’t forget that. It is important to recognize people are willingly submitting to membership and can leave at any time. What makes the difference is building genuine relationships with people and using this class to increase the family of God.
Let me know if you have any questions!