Any Christian that calls College Park Church their church family should become a member of our church. As a leader, one of your responsibilities is to help usher people into belonging to the church through church membership. So, if you have people in your group who are not members of the church, how do you encourage them to join?
1. Talk to Your Group about Next Steps
Let those in your group who are not members know that joining in church membership is their “next step” of belonging.
2. Go Big and Go Individual
Explore how to talk about membership as a whole Small Group (like spending one gathering going over the Member Covenant or Member Confession) and how to talk about membership with individuals in your group that you know aren’t yet members (perhaps after a gathering or at coffee).
3. Answer “Why?”
Those who aren’t members will have questions about membership. One will be, “Why should I become a member?” (See below.)
4. Tell Them How
Make sure that they know how this process works. Their first step is to go to DISCOVER College Park, where they will then hear about their next steps toward membership. If they press you for details about the total process, you can share with them that DISCOVER is followed by CONNECT at College Park and then JOIN College Park, and then they complete an elder interview and a final congregational vote in. But their first step is attending DISCOVER.
5. Circle Back
Be patient with people who may be confused or resistant to church membership. They will need some guidance. Remind them how this is key to participating at the church. If you need help in talking with someone about this, feel free to leverage your Coach, elder, or a staff member to help.
Why Should I Become a Member?
Chances are, those in your Small Group who are not yet members will wonder why they should take this step. Just as the very first Christians were members of a local gathering of God’s people called a church (Matthew 18:17; Acts 14:23), so anybody who chooses Christ is also choosing to join His people. Today, we do this through a local church.
Christians submit themselves to a local church as an expression of belonging to the body of Christ, and in order to live out God’s commands of how to live with fellow believers (Ephesians 4:15-16; Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 10:24-25) and to submit to church leaders (Hebrews 13:17).
Of course, some may ask why a local church should have a formal membership process. “Can’t I just consider myself a part of the church by attending regularly?” Although the New Testament does use the term “members” to refer to Christians (Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 2:19), perhaps the best argument for church membership can be seen in seven observations form Scripture that indicate formal identification as a member of a local church as the standard for Christians.
1. Once a Christian was formally and publicly identified with Christ through baptism, entering into a local church was the next step.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
2. There was no such thing as a “lone-ranger Christian.” Christians met together regularly to worship and share life.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved
3. The personal identities of local church members were known to the watching world—even persecutors.
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison (Acts 8:3).
4. Local churches were planted throughout the known world, each with its own elders who oversaw their church’s members.
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed (Acts 14:21-23).
5. Church leaders were made responsible for a specific “flock.”
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3).
6. Christians were instructed to submit to specific leaders.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).
7. Christians had authority and responsibility to exclude false teachers and unrepentant participants from the church body. (You can’t expel someone from a church unless they belong to it in the first place.)
“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).
Although the early churches in the New Testament may not have had the exact same process for membership that our church uses (like having a signed form), being formally identified as part of Christ’s body through one local church is the standard for God’s people. That’s why we encourage every Christian in our church to consider joining us as a member.
Benefits of Membership
An additional answer to “Why membership?” may include mentioning the benefits of membership, including:
- Their testimony of faith in Jesus is affirmed by the body.
- They are cared for through restorative discipline.
- They are led by elders.
- They participate in the decision-making of the church through voting at congregational meetings.
- They can engage in serving and leadership roles (Small Group Leader, Sunday School teacher, deacon, elder, etc.).
- They can engage in certain key serving roles (such as Small Group Leader and Children’s Sunday School teacher)
- They receive priority in biblical counseling through our Soul Care ministry.
- They receive a higher level of financial assistance through benevolence.
- They participate in the restorative church discipline process (i.e. members and leaders explicitly seek to restore members who are in sin and remove them if unrepentant).
- They receive personal prayer and shepherding from the elders of our church.