Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ministry Musing: Membership

One of the things that was expressed by a number of people at the cottage meetings was they would like to see the membership grow. Specifically, a number of people expressed a desire, or need, to reinvolve people who have become inactive.

I guess my first question is to ask, why? I suspect an underlying motivation for some is that if we get more people to join they will give more money. That in turn would free us up to do more ministry, a noble aspiration. Something to keep in mind is that to be considered an “active” member is to contribute financially once every two years, and that can be as little as $1. It is also been shown that it takes about 7 years before somebody starts giving of any significance.

My second question is, what does it mean to be a member? One thing I know membership is not and that is salvation. I fear that sometimes we equate church membership to our salvation, which I do not find any support for in the Bible. In the Lutheran church we talk about being baptized into the body of Christ. What good is it to have an arm, a leg, or an eye if they do nothing? I think there is an expectation with membership that you are contributing in significant ways to the whole. Nobody wants to be the spleen. How are you choosing to contribute?

I know of a congregation, not Lutheran mind you, that requires you sign a covenant agreeing to teach a Sunday school class, be involved in a weekly small group, attend worship 3 out of every 4 Sundays, tithe, and serve on a committee. Now that means something to say you’re a member of that congregation. Of course, we in the Lutheran church believe in Grace so our expectations aren’t nearly that high. To become a member here you need to attend the orientation and then need to partake in communion or give offering once in the course of a two year period. Have we set the bar too low? What should be our expectations for membership?

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