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)
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.
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:
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)
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!