Some churches make little distinction between attendance and membership. If people regularly show up on weekends, they’re considered members, regardless of what they believe and where they’re at in their faith journey.
Other churches recognize that there’s a difference between attending a church and being committed to it. Membership gives these churches an opportunity to encourage baptism, explain their theological distinctions, and invite people to a deeper level of commitment.
For these churches, membership is about ensuring everyone in your church has the same perspective about who God is, what the Bible says, what that means for your lives, and ultimately how your church will operate and make decisions.
Formal church membership can be intimidating to non-members, especially if it’s a requirement for voting, serving, or attending important church meetings. But it doesn’t have to feel like a secret club. If your church has a formal membership of some kind, there are ways you can make the process less mysterious and create more opportunities for people to explore it.
Here are three things you can do to encourage and nurture church membership.
1. Promote your membership class
If you distinguish between membership and attendance, you probably have some sort of membership class. Most churches make occasional announcements about when and where they take place, but that means that for the most part, people only learn about membership when they’re actively exploring it, and they may only sporadically have opportunities to hear about it again.
There’s a lot more your church could do to promote your membership class. You don’t necessarily need a dedicated sermon on the importance of church membership (although there are plenty of passages you could draw from), but when you know a membership class is coming up, you could:
Create a promotional video
Interview members who have completed the class, and have them explain things like what brought them to your church, how long they’d been attending, where they were at spiritually when they took the class, what the experience was like, and what membership has meant for them since.
In addition to promoting your class, this can help answer questions people may have in advance and alleviate concerns about what will actually happen during the class.
Add the class to your website or app
Your church website or church app should be a hub for people to find out about everything going on in your church. If your membership class isn’t there, the only way for people to find out it’s happening is by going out of their way to ask someone who knows, or waiting until you announce it. Your class should live in your events tab, so it’s “discoverable,” and people can get the details at any time.
Post about it on social media
Social media platforms like Facebook let you reach members, attendees, and people who have never heard of you. You don’t need to post an essay about the tenets of your church, but an occasional post reminding people when, where, and what your membership class is could be a great way to help people find out about it. You could also link to a longer blog post explaining the merits of membership, or you could share that promotional video you made.
When communicating the importance of membership, it’s critical to be where your people are—and they’re on mobile devices and social media. Churches that avoid digital tech when engaging with their community tend to experience gradual decline and membership stagnation. Discover how your team can do more to nurture church growth (whether through membership or general outreach), download the free ebook, 5 Bad Habits That Kill Church Growth (And How To Break Them), today!
2. Create an email series for people who are interested
Some people may want to learn a lot more about membership before they attend a structured class. That’s understandable. An email series (you could even call it a “pre-membership course”) would be a great in-between step, so you can talk more about what the membership class would entail, explain the biblical importance of membership, answer questions they may have, and even talk more about your church’s theology.
This course would essentially act as a bridge for people who are on the fence about membership and simply need a nudge in the right direction. You can also promote the course on your website, on social media, or on your blog.
3. Reinforce your church’s values through other programs
One reason people may not be comfortable with the idea of membership is that they haven’t been exposed to it enough. How often do you talk about it? When and where does it tie-in to the other things your church does?
You probably don’t want membership to be a barrier to things like baptism, communion, or small groups, but these can all be opportunities to talk about what your church believes and to mention membership.
Baptism classes generally revolve around what someone believes about Jesus, but after someone is baptized, that’s an appropriate time to talk about membership as a potential next step.
Communion is something Christians participate in as the global body of Christ, and that can naturally lead to a conversation about what it means to be part of the local church.
Small groups present constant opportunities to point back to what your church believes (and why), and they can be an excellent training ground for potential members.
Membership doesn’t have to be a mystery
The biggest barrier to membership is that people don’t know what it means. What do members do that attendees don’t? What do you have to do to become one? Does someone “indoctrinate” you? Where should someone be at spiritually before becoming a member?
These are all questions that cause people to hesitate, and non-members may not actually ask them. Thankfully, you can take away the mystery of membership by pre-emptively addressing potential concerns, and ensuring that everyone actually hears about it.
As you consider this and other ways your church drives sustainable growth, it’s critical to understand the common things that end up stunting church growth. Discover more today. Click here to download the 5 Bad Habits That Kill Church Growth (And How To Break Them) today.