How can I lead my church to clean up its membership rolls?

  1. First, teach on church membership. Whether in expositional sermons, a topical series, or a Bible study, address passages like Matthew 18:15–17, 1 Corinthians 5, and 2 Corinthians 2:6 and the implications they have for church membership. Patiently teach people until they understand the importance of church membership and their responsibilities as members.
  2. Begin removing nonattending members, beginning with the easiest and moving to the hardest. From easiest to hardest…
  • Members who are dead. Put the names of any dead members of your church before the congregation with a motion to remove them from membership in the following business meeting. This gives the congregation some time to think about what they’re doing and why.
  • Members whom you cannot find.If you and other church members have made repeated efforts to contact certain members and have been unable to get in touch with them, bring their names before the congregation with a motion to remove them.
  • Absent and disinterested members.As you attempt to contact all the members on the rolls, you may find people who no longer want to have anything to do with the church. Remove them next.
  • Members out of the area. If a member is unable to attend the church because he’s moved away, encourage him to join a local church in his area that can watch over him and keep him accountable. An emotional attachment to a church far away is not a good reason to hang on to membership there.
  • Non-attending members in the area.This is certainly a tougher group. These people may want to maintain their membership, they are able to attend, and they may have relationships with other members, but they don’t want much to do with the church. Move slowly and continue to patiently instruct people about the meaning of church membership.

3. There are other groups of people to address, like “attends, but won’t sign the statement of faith” or “in the area, but cannot attend.” If old age or infirmity prevents someone from attending they shouldn’t be dismissed, but cared for. And it would be wise to exercise special charity toward elderly members who have moved out of the area, because they likely grew up with a different understanding of church membership and are unlikely to change. Out of love, consider allowing them to remain on the rolls.

(Most of this material has been adapted from Matt Schmucker’s article, “Cleaning Up the Rolls”)

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