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Membership Matters Copyright © 2005 by Charles E. Lawless Jr. Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lawless, Charles E., 1961-- Membership matters : insights from effective churches on new member classes and assimilation / Charles E. Lawless, Jr.---1st ed. Summary: 'Based on a national study, this book shows how churches can move both new and old members into ministry by implementing effective new members' classes'---Provided by publisher. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-10: 0-310-26286-0 (jacketed hardcover) ISBN-13: 978-0-310-26286-2 1. Church membership. 2. Church work with new church members. 3. Christian education of adults. 4. Lay ministry---Recruiting. I. Title. BV820.L29 2005 254'.5---dc22 2005001129 This edition printed on acid-free paper. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. The website addresses recommended throughout this book are offered as a resource to you. These websites are not intended in any way to be or imply an endorsement on the part of Zondervan, nor do we vouch for their content for the life of this book. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other---except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Interior design by Michelle Espinoza Printed in the United States of America 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 /?DCI/ 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Chapter 1 The Challenge Moving Attenders into Membership and Ministry Paul attended First Church every Sunday morning. In fact, he had joined the church and was one of the most consistent worship attenders in his congregation. Other church members often commented on how faithful Paul and his family were. Yet, despite his perceived faithfulness, Paul wasn't involved in the church's ministry. He was gifted and talented, but Sunday morning worship attendance was his limit. Paul was what we call in this study an 'uninvolved member.' Sitting across the aisle from Paul were the Staffords, a young couple seeking a church home. They enjoyed the worship at First, and their children were fitting in well in the Sunday school classes. In fact, they were just waiting for someone to explain to them the church's process for membership. While they waited, they remained only attenders. Across town, three uninvolved believers sat faithfully in their own pews. Reba was a new member who really wanted to get involved in the church. She was waiting for someone to ask for her help, but no one did. John was a long-standing member who had decided several years ago that it was time 'for the younger people to carry the load in the church.' Sterling simply attended the church; actually joining wasn't in his plans. On any given Sunday, uninvolved churchgoers sit in almost every congregation in America. In some cases, they are like the Staffords and Reba---ready and willing, just waiting for leaders to direct them and give them an opportunity. Sometimes they are like Sterling. They are faithful to attend Sunday morning worship. They write a check each week to support the church. Ask them about their church, and they'll gladly tell you, 'We go to such and such church.' Yet, they never join. In still other cases, they are like Paul and John. They have signed the membership rolls of the church. What they don't do, though, is get involved. Attendance does not lead to action. Church is more about receiving than giving, more about coming than going, and more about being served than serving. The good news, however, is that these attenders and uninvolved members are potential sitting in a pew. That's one of the reasons our team wanted to do this study. I assume you are a church leader who has faced some of these situations. You must want to move people into membership and ministry, because you've chosen to read this book. Whether you are trying to develop an effective membership process or simply trying to motivate those who remain uninvolved, this book is for you. THE BACKGROUND OF THIS STUDY For the last decade, our research teams at the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth have been studying evangelistic churches in America. Two of these studies, led by Thom Rainer, indicated the significance of membership classes in growing churches.1 This study began as a much more detailed look at these classes and, as you will see, then moved in a new direction. CHURCH LEADERSHIP SURVEYS There were three components to this research project. Our research team, which was led by Brandon Conner at the time, first sent a survey about membership classes to 150 growing churches (see appendix 14 for a copy of the survey). The questions addressed these kinds of topics: * Does the church have a membership class? Is it required? * Who teaches the class? * What curriculum is used? * What obstacles did the church face in starting a membership class? * Who attends the class? Seventy-one churches responded, with fifty-two (73 percent of those responding) indicating they had a membership class (table 1). The churches were primarily Southern Baptist, but four other groups were also represented in the survey responses: Presbyterian, Evangelical Free, Wesleyan, and independent community churches. The Sunday morning worship average attendances were fairly evenly distributed. Table 1 CHURCHES STUDIED Size of the Number of churches Percentage of the church with a new member total number class (NMC) of churches Under 100 1 2 101 to 250 17 33 251 to 500 13 25 501 to 1,000 11 21 1,001 and up 10 19 TOTAL 52 100 Twenty-one states were represented in the survey, including states from the South, the Midwest, the Northwest, the West, and the East Coast. In most cases, the membership class began under the leadership of the current pastor. All but three of the pastors were full-time, with an average tenure of 8.9 years at the church. Table 2 lists the names used for the classes in these churches. Though certainly not original or creative, 'new member class' was the name most frequently used. Table 2E OF NEW MEMBER CLASS Class name Number of churches New Member Class 24 Discovering ___ Church/Class 101 16 Foundations 2 Basic Christian Education 1 Back to the Basics 1 More Than a Member 1 New Christian Study Group 1 RighTrack 1 Inquiry Class 1 Members on Mission 1 First Class 1 Welcome to the Family 1 Member Information Class 1 CLASS MEMBER SURVEYS AND INTERVIEWS In addition to surveying church leaders, our research team surveyed seventy-one laypersons who had attended membership classes at their churches (see appendix 15 for a copy of the survey). We asked questions like, 'What did you find most beneficial about the class? Least beneficial? Do you believe a membership class should be required for all members? Are you still active in your church?' These surveys gave us insights the leadership survey didn't give. In fact, as you will see, sometimes the leaders and class members had different opinions about the classes. Research team leader Matthew Spradlin sought to get more information from the class members by personally contacting many of them via telephone or email. Their opinions about the classes were fascinating.