In April, a Connection Development Group formed, assigned with the task of prayerfully and thoughtfully researching how The Spring should approach membership, new members, and building a sense of community. Together the group read Membership Matters: Insights from Effective Churches on New Member Classes and Assimilation by Charles Lawless (Lawless is the Dean of The Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). The team met several weeks totaling about twelve hours.
The summaries of our findings are as follows:
• Membership does matter. We believe that biblically, it means something to join a church – more than just signing a sheet of paper. Churches who take membership seriously on the front end are more likely to produce healthy, fruit-bearing disciples of Christ than churches who have low-expectations of their members.
• Using an upfront membership class enhances health in a church. More churches are requiring a membership class in order to join the church, and the use of this tool assists in moving attenders into membership and ministry. Prevention becomes the best cure for lack of involvement. Make the membership class a priority.
• Greatest benefits of a membership class: 1) They learn about the heart of the church. 2) They build relationships with other attenders who become members. 3) They get to know the pastor and other leaders on a personal level. 4) They hear the expectations the church has of her members. People tend to be more committed if the church publicly expects them to be committed up front – and a membership class provides a place to communicate these expectations.
• Key ingredients taught: 1) How to identify with the church through proper means 2) Attending worship services and small groups 3) Serving in ministry 4) Protecting church unity 5) Giving financially 6) Basics of theology and spiritual growth
• Ends with a church covenant. We have identified what we believe are the core values for The Spring and have formed a church covenant from these core values. Our membership class will consist of expanding on these core values.