Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Thoughts on Church Membership

Who should be members of a church? Is it everyone who attends once or twice a year and gives a nominal amount for offering? What about those who live in other cities and cannot physically attend more than once or twice a year? What about children of members who joined during confirmation and have now finished college and found work in another city?

Author and speaker Doug Anderson thought all members should be attend worship ½ the time they are available to worship. For example, a nurse who works every other Sunday is available to be in worship 26 times a year. Half of that is 13 times in worship or once each month. Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, expects all members to be in worship 100% of the time, and if not there, then somewhere else.
To me half of the available time seems light while every week seems excessive. Perhaps 75% of the available worship time would be appropriate.

So, what do I think about church membership?

First, membership in a church should reflect approximately those who worship regularly, those who are home-bound or in a nursing home, those in college, and those who are on active-duty in the military.

Secondly, those members who are children of members, who have attended and graduated college, and who have found employment in another town or city outside a drivable distance should be strongly encouraged to find a church near their homes and to transfer their memberships or withdraw. Otherwise, they should be removed from the rolls.

Third, in a similar vein, those members who live and work in another city far enough away to prevent regular attendance in worship should also be strongly encouraged to transfer to a local church or withdraw from membership. Otherwise, they should be removed.

Fourth, those members who live locally and don’t attend worship or do not attend worship with any kind of regularity (say, less than 50% of their available time) should be called by members of the church council or membership committee and encouraged to return to worship. If they are attending another church, their membership should be transferred. After several attempts, they should be asked to withdraw. Otherwise, they should be removed.

Finally, once someone has been removed from the membership rolls, a letter stating that they have been removed should NOT be sent. These letters, in my opinion, create a lot of hard feelings and may be the final road block to their returning to worship. We will always be open to serving them in whatever need they may have: weddings, baptisms, funerals, or visits when in the hospital. We will always encourage them to return to worship and if they should return we will reinstate them to the rolls.

One more thing: what about giving to the church and membership? This is always a tricky question but consider this scenario. Two people who never come to worship, they do not participate in faith forming groups, they do not help in any ministry or mission areas of the church and both want to remain members of the church. One gives $100 annually and the other gives $10,000 annually. Should they be treated differently? James 2:1-13 implores us to treat each person equally. Therefore, either they both should be members (even though they do not participate) or they both should be quietly removed from membership. The church can still gratefully accept their gifts and will be there in their needs (see the final point above).

To some these views may seem harsh, but I truly think that the membership rolls should reflect the active participants of the church (see point #1).

Pastor Gary

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