Posted tagged ‘Church Administration’

Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Membership Process, Part 2

June 7, 2010

Last week, I took up the first part of the membership process, namely the membership application and class.  Today, I want to finish up the membership process by taking up the interview and congregational vote.  It goes without saying that these processes are always being evaluated and subject to change as we look to discover how to give faithful oversight and care to the health and growth of the church.

The Membership Interview

Grace is the first church that I have attended or have been on staff with that conducts membership interviews.  For many Baptist churches, a person is accepted into membership upon filling out a membership card and being presented to the church almost immediately.  I would argue that such approaches have played a significant role in the unregenerate state of membership in the Southern Baptist Convention.  But that was not the point of this post, was it? 😉  But all jesting aside, answering the why question for interviews will play a significant role in how you do them as well.

We schedule membership interviews throughout the week, and we generally do them before/after services on Sunday or in the late afternoon/evening during the weekdays.  At least two elders are present at the interviews (although we are looking at possibly doing it with just one), which typically last an 1-1.5 hours (depending if a couple is interviewed together).  The prospective member is asked to bring with them a written version of their testimony which we add to the application (we had already received).  Our approach to the interview is conversational and somewhat informal (it is intimidating enough for most people!).  The outline of our interview typically flows in the conversation like this:

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

May 31, 2010

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!

Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Assimilation Process, Part 4 (Prospective Members)

May 24, 2010

The Assimilation Process:
Part 1: First-Time Guest
Part 2: New Believers
Part 3: Regular Attenders

The fourth and final aspect of the assimilation process is the prospective member (I will launch into the membership process next).  Membership in a local church may be a difficult thing for some attenders, especially if they think that it is not required or feel that they are being forced to sign a contract.  But membership in a covenant community of local believers is vitally important.  To assist our attenders in understanding membership better, I have compiled these excellent Q&A links from IX Marks and printed them off for their reading pleasure.  Also here is an excellent four minute response from John Piper on the importance and necessity of church membership:

I don’t want to jump ahead into the details of the membership process just yet, so let me just say a few things in general at this point in the membership process.  As a Baptist church, we at Grace strongly believe in regenerate church membership which simply says that the church should be comprised of born-again, baptized believers.  We also believe that a church ought to be pre-committed in what we believe (church confession) and how we agree to live together (church covenant).  During the assimilation process, regular attenders ought to be exposed to the nature and constitution of your church, including how intentional and careful you are when it comes to membership.

If your approach to church membership is fickle or flimsy, it is likely that you will experience nominal church members, a wide back door open, increasing need for corrective church discipline, and greater potential of disunity in the body of Christ.  Obviously, none of these things can ultimately be eliminated, but if you are careful and intentional with how you handle membership on the front end, you communicate to the congregation that you genuinely care for the sheep and you communicate to the prospective member the privilege and responsibility of membership from the beginning.  In a way, a healthy and robust approach to church membership serves as a form of church discipline and an expression of devotion to Christ, the church’s Head, in pursuit of a pure church who embrace the gospel and are unified with a common purpose to glorify Jesus in word and deed.

So who are those that are prospective members?  People who have come to understand/embrace the gospel and have also come to understand/embrace your church.  In the next series of posts, I will explain the membership process that we have laid out here at Grace.  Till then, let me hear your thoughts on you approach membership.  As a learning community, I believe we can strengthen and encourage one another’s efforts to serve the body of Christ!

Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Assimilation Process, Part 3 (Regular Attenders)

May 17, 2010

The Assimilation Process
Part 1: First-Time Guests
Part 2: New Christians

In Part 3 of the assimilation process, I want to focus on those who are regular attenders but not in the membership process.  Whereas in part two, people are seeking to understand the gospel, in part three, people are seeking to understand your church.  Now obviously, a person can be a non-Christian seeking both; moreover, it is very possible that several attenders are seeking to understand your church who have assumed or have not given adequate attention to understanding the gospel!  I think one of the errors over the last 40-50 years is that we have watered down both the gospel and church membership, and a healthy assimilation process will not seek to move people to “next steps” without first getting firm footing on what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a member of a local church.

Regular attenders are those in between first-time guests and church members.  In general, I think a healthy, evangelistic church should have 20-30% (or more) of their gathered worship attendance comprised of attenders, meaning that people from the community are being engaged with the gospel and impacted by the church’s ministry.  From my experience with those at this point in the assimilation process, this is a diverse group.  Some are:

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Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Assimilation Process, Part 2 (Attenders – New Christians)

May 11, 2010

I know today is not Monday, so I apologize for this post being a little late.

Last week, I took up part one in the assimilation process, focusing on first-time guests.  After people visit for the first time, there is typically an in between period where they are no longer new but also not in the membership process.  The regular attender is what I want to focus on this post.

Before I begin, I have to clarify some assumptions here.  First, people who visit our church do not become members by walking down an aisle, filling out a card, and then are presented to the church.  While there is no set time frame, the typical new member attends Grace for 3-6 months before pursuing membership (though there are exceptions).  This is intentional on both ends.  We want those who visit Grace to understand our philosophy of ministry, gospel rhythms, core values/practices, confessional and covenantal pre-commitments, and so on before making a decision to becoming a member. We want them to take it seriously, as we do.  This time also gives us the opportunity of getting to know them better, to understand their previous church experience, have them in our homes, and gain a better understanding of their life story. Our commitments to regenerate church membership and gospel centrality encourage us in the assimilation process while guarding the “front door” of membership.

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Monday Is for Kingly Administration

April 26, 2010

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of serving on the pastoral team of Grace Baptist Church.  A major part of my work has been thinking through the nuts and bolts of ministry design and how we can be better stewards of the resources available to us for greater gospel advance.  This means that I have analyzing the systems and structures of our local church, creating those that didn’t exist and seeking to better those that did.  The work of formation, implementation, and assessment is an ongoing process, and I think there is much that I can learn from others invested in these same issues in the local church.

So what I would like to do is to facilitate the opportunity for those interested to share ideas and resources while discussing the development and design of your local church ministry.  I would like to bounce many of my ideas off of you, and I believe we can all benefit from the insights and practical assistance provided by one another.  I love the local church, and I love those who love the local church enough to care deeply about how she is structured and formed to facilitate greater gospel growth and health in the body of Christ while seeking to extend the reach of the gospel throughout the community.

If you’d like to join in, please let me know in the comments.  If you are wondering what specifically I am thinking about, I am considering: assimilation process, discipleship process, initial follow-up of visitors, leadership development, pastoral care, small groups/decentralization, elder roles and responsibilities, church planting process, church website and online presence management, new Christian follow-up and training, missional mobilization, incarnational ministry, attractional/missional paradigms, evangelism practices, etc.

Starting next week, I hope to begin with the assimilation process.  I hope to break it down into 4-5 parts, explaining how I have been trying to develop this at Grace.  If you are responsible or familiar with the assimilation process in your local church, I’d love to hear it!  It is my hope that this series of posts would be a sort of online cohort and collaborative effort for all those working behind the scenes for the sake of the church.