Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Membership Process, Part 1

Tim Brister —  May 31, 2010 — 9 Comments

There are four major components of what I call the “Commission Continuum”–that is the metaprocess of kingly administration from beginning to end.  Those four components are assimilation, membership, discipleship, and leadership.  I just completed the first component of the assimilation process and want to address the membership process in a couple of blogposts.

Once regular attenders have expressed desire to become members of Grace, the process looks something like this:

a.  Membership Packet (with application for membership)
b.  Membership Classes
c.  Membership Interview
d.  Congregational Vote (during Members’ Meeting)
e.  Formal Recognition at Communion Service (last Sunday night of the month)

Membership Packet

Inside the membership packet, we include the following information:

1.  Membership Application
2.  Church Purpose and Vision
3.  Church Covenant
4.  Church Confession
5.  Church Constitution

I am currently working to add our church’s core values/practices and philosophy of ministry which includes being a church planting church and interweaving gospel, community, and mission in the fabric of our identity. We ask the prospective members to read through these documents, become familiar with them, and note and questions or issues they may have with these pre-commitments.  We also make these documents available on our church website (we plan on revising/editing our constitution and updating the language of our covenant later this year).  For those of you who would like to see what our application looks like, click here.  It is a simple, one-page application that prospective members fill out and give to one of the elders who assists in setting up the membership interview.

Membership Classes

In the past, we have held our membership classes on consecutive Monday nights, devoting 2-3 hours each night to instruction, discussion, and fellowship.  However, we are looking to rework the schedule for a Friday night-Saturday noon deal where the class can be taken in one weekend.  Although we have not done this yet, here is a schedule I have worked up in recent weeks:

Friday Night

6:00-7:30 Dinner with Pastoral Team and Their Families (Grace Gathered)
7:30-9:00 Session 1 (Who we are, what we believe, core values/practices)

Saturday Morning

8:30-10:00 Session 2 (How we live and operate, systems and structures)
10:30-12:00 Session 3 (What we are doing [ministry] and where we are going [mission])
12:00-1:00 Lunch with Deacons and Grace Growth Group Leaders (Grace Scattered)

The goal behind these classes are not simply to drill them with information about the church but to give them access to the leadership and gain a sense of life in the body.  With two opportunities to share meals with the church leadership, prospective members can have everyday conversation and learn more about the day-to-day lives of those serving the church whether pastors, deacons, or small group leaders.

Those who attend the membership classes will have various degrees of exposure to church life, but it is important not to assume anything, especially the gospel.  There may some, perhaps several, who are seeking to become members of your church who are unconverted, and it is through the membership class that they learn of their need first and foremost to repent of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ.  Another important aspect of the membership classes is the informal approach that can be adopted where they feel comfortable asking questions or raising issues they have without feeling embarrassed or intimidated.  Whether newly converted or believers who have been long-time members of another church, if you are careful and intentional in the various expressions of church life, people will have questions or express curiosity as to why things are done the way they are.

In my next post, I will conclude the membership process talking about the membership interview, pastoral assessment, and congregational vote.  For those of you do membership classes, I would love to hear how you do it (format, content, how often, etc.) and in general what your membership process looks like.  Thanks for contributing to this discussion!

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  • http://ajesusmoment.com Steve

    Good stuff. Our membership process is no where near that together. Something to shoot at.

  • Lynn Gray

    Does your church require a prospective member to attend the membership class before they can be a member? What about agreement with the church cov or statement of faith?

    Lynn

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Lynn,

      We currently have our membership classes 2-3 times a year, so it is very possible that someone may work through the membership process before the class is available. We allow prospective to members to become members prior to attending the class with an understanding that they will attend the next available class. We have not, to this point, experienced problems with this approach.

      We do require that members sign on to the church covenant and confession (1833 NHCF) and be familiar with the 1689LBCF. If there are questions or issues regarding either of these, we discuss them in the membership interview. I can think of only once or twice where there were issues preventing prospective members from joining our church family.

  • Dismal Deacon

    How does baptism relate to church membership? When do you baptism a new believer and at the time of baptism do they become a member of your church?

    DD

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      That is correct. A new believer becomes a member of our church at the time of their baptism.

  • http://www.pillarontherock.com/ Chris Krycho

    Three questions that struck me in reading this:

    (1) What sorts of things do you do to encourage that conversational atmosphere? And following up with that a little, what sort of overall overall approach do you take in the membership classes?

    (2) I’m looking forward to seeing how you conduct pastoral interviews and how that fits with admittance to membership. Do you simply defer any discussion of whether individuals are ready for membership until that time?

    (3) (You can just point me to a link if you’ve talked about this already.) How frequently and in what contexts is the importance of membership addressed outside the membership class—i.e. in sermons, etc.?

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Chris,

      I have typed a lengthy response twice, but before I had a change to post it, my browser crashed. Know that I am not ignoring your questions, and I hope to be able to answer them soon!

      • http://www.pillarontherock.com/ Chris Krycho

        No worries; I completely understand that. I’ve had the same thing happen to me too many times.

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