We’ve all been there. A new person or couple turn up at church and have been coming for a while. They are on the fringe but you are fairly sure they are genuine believers. But how do you encourage them into membership?Nobody wants to give the hard sell but, at the same time, you don’t want folk sat on the fringes forever (for their sake or that of the church). Here are some ways to help people move into membership.
Talk frequently about membership
It seems simple enough when you think about it, doesn’t it. If you never talk about membership, few people are going to ask about membership. I mean, of course, seasoned believers transferring from other churches where membership is deemed important might do (but you can’t guarantee it), but who only wants to be growing by transfer growth? What of the unchurched convert? What of the convert from churches where neither the gospel nor membership was taught? If you never talk about membership, don’t expect anybody to ask you about it.
Make membership meaningful
If membership doesn’t mean anything in your church, you can’t be surprised if nobody sees the point in joining. If you can serve, take communion, get involved with every area of church life without being a member, it begs the question why anybody would become a member? If the only answer you’ve got is, ‘so you can come to members’ meetings’, be sure that will not be received as a positive! If you can’t even say that, what reasons is there for joining?
This point also goes along with the previous one. If you (as I believe you should) restrict communion to those who are in membership of a local church, this gives you the opportunity to talk about membership everytime to take communion – the very sign of ongoing membership itself. If your service is limited to members, you can chat with folks about the opportunities for serving that would require them to join the church before they can participate. Making your membership meaningful gives you the opportunity to actually talk about membership any time somebody says, ‘I’d love to do…’ or ‘I really want to be involved in…’
Hedge membership at the front door
Whilst it may seem paradoxical, when you proect membership properly – and make it hard to obtain – you imbue it with value. The easier it is to join your church, the less likely it is that people will want to join. But when you make membership harder to obtain through a proper and fulsome process, you increase its desirability. People see value in it because you only make valuable things hard to obtain. Nobody leaves their priceless possessions lying around in full view; they put them away safely and make them hard to get, only getting them out when they are to be used or shared. So it is with membership. The church is precious and so is membership, but we can’t expect anyone else to think that if we make it easier to join our church than it is to buy a pair of shoes. It may seem paradoxical, but we imbue membership with value when it is harder to obtain and when we properly protect the church more people want to join because it is seen to be valuable and thus desirable.
Show its value by asking for buy in
If your membership has real value, you won’t have any problem recruiting people by asking them to buy in. People will give to what they believe to be inherently valuable. If your membership doesn’t ask anything of anybody once they are in, they will begin to think that what looked valuable from the outside actually has little to no value once you are inside. It would be like those expensive Christmas theme parks that spring up every winter, promising great rides and attractions, and usually finding themselves in the papers and they amount to nothing more than a big rip off.
But membership that has real value will find no problem asking members to give something for being included. People gladly give and continue to pay for what they believe is valuable. They soon stop giving and paying for what is not valuable. If you want to retain your members, imbue your membership with value by both granting privileges of membership as well as responsibilities.