How to Make Membership Matter

Article
03.01.2010
Welcome to Membership Matters, the new members’ course of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Before you get started, we have a few suggestions for how you might use this material in the most beneficial way.
Steps to Meaningful Membership
1. Complete Membership Matters
2. Complete Membership Interview
3. Affirmation by the elders
4. Affirmation by the congregation
  1. Copy and distribute materials liberally. As long as you do not resell the material, feel free to reproduce it without our expressed permission. You don’t even need to acknowledge our authorship.
  2. Have people sign up for the course a few weeks ahead of time. Doing this will help you know how much student material you’ll need to provide.
  3. Have people read The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and Display of God’s Glory booklets before attending the course. Doing this will give them a biblical rationale for our approach to membership, a framework for understanding what is said in each session, and an opportunity to formulate thoughtful questions so that these can be addressed and settled early on.
  4. If possible, have multiple elders teach these classes. Why?
    1. First, we think the biblical principles that undergird these sessions are so important for the life of the local church that they should be communicated by teachers in the church whose God-given authority has been formally recognized by the congregation.
    2. Secondly, having elders teach these classes helps to establish the authority of the non-staff elders in the eyes of the new members.  Establishing this shared authority teaches and models a biblical plurality of elders from the beginning of a new member’s involvement.
  5. Try not to cover all six sessions in one evening.We’ve seen most profit from using a Friday night/Saturday morning format. We do sessions 1-3 Friday night from 7-10pm, with a break for refreshments between sessions. Then we invite people back for sessions 4-6 Saturday morning from 9am-noon.
  6. Communicate that attendance is mandatory for membership, but does not obligate people to join.
    1. Requiring attendance to these sessions gives us the opportunity to give biblical teaching on membership that will kill consumeristic expectations before people become members.
    2. Releasing people from the obligation of joining at the end of the course gives more skeptical people a low-risk opportunity to personally hear leaders talk about our approach to membership.
  7. Communicate what the next few steps to membership will be. Here’s how we do it at CHBC.
    1. Membership interview with the pastor or an elder. Once the membership course is completed, those who want to join are encouraged to sign up for a membership interview. This interview gives the pastor and elders an opportunity to hear whether or not a person understands the gospel, has been baptized according to Christ’s command, and has a proven track record of fruitful repentance and belief. If these requirements are met (evaluated according to the judgment of charity), then the person moves to the next step. If not, we encourage them to investigate a six-week study of Jesus with a mature church member using Christianity Explained, an evangelistic study of Mark’s gospel.
    2. Elder affirmation. Once the membership interview is completed satisfactorily, the interviewing pastor or elder brings the person’s name and testimony before the elders and recommends the person to the other elders for membership.
    3. Congregational Affirmation. Once the elders agree to corporately affirm the person’s fitness for membership, they bring before the congregation the person’s name, testimony, and a formal motion to accept the person into membership.

We hope you find the sessions instructive and encouraging both for you as a leader and for those who are considering membership in the local church you serve. Press on in faithfulness!

Click to Download Free Membership Matters Course from Captiol Hill Baptist Church

By:
Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander is the Pastor of Grace Covenant Church of Fox Valley in Elgin, Illinois.