You might call it a class or a course or a track. But what should you discuss with a prospective church member?
This is something I’ve been thinking about more since taking over part of the church membership process at my church. Below you’ll find some things to consider discussing with a prospective church member. This list is suggestive, not exhaustive. You may not need to talk about the same things with each person. And no doubt, there will be disagreement as to what to talk about depending on your theological convictions. But the list below will spark ideas regardless of your church’s affiliation.
For church membership discussion, you’ll want to make this as relational as possible and show up well-prepared. Smile. Be friendly. The people you’re speaking with are likely nervous so it’s best to be as warm as possible. After having small talk and learning a little bit more about those in your church membership class, here are some general things to discuss:
What to Discuss in a Church Membership Class
1. A credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The most important thing to discuss with potential church members is his or her faith in Jesus Christ. Non-Christians cannot be church members. Ask them to tell you how they became a Christian. Although only God knows their heart, you’ll want to look for spiritual fruit in the person’s life, and keywords (e.g., repentance, sin, faith, Jesus, etc). I like to have potential church members write a 500-word testimony before meeting with me to help me better asses their faith.
2. Baptism. Has the person been baptized? Were they baptized as a baby or after their conversion? If they’ve never been baptized, are they willing to be baptized? It’s important to understand where your church stands on the doctrine of baptism. I also find this can be a touchy subject for people, so don’t make the prospective church member feel inferior.
3. Previous church experience. Ask about previous church experience. Have they ever been part of a specific denomination? Were they members of a previous church? If so, why did they leave? Red flags should appear in your mind if you sense they’re the type of person that bounces from church to church. What you’re trying to discern here is how their church background will affect the way they’ll fit in at your church.
4. Current and previous relationship status. Are they divorced or married? If divorced, do you know if they had biblical grounds for a divorce? Learn more about their family. These are important things to know.
5. Talk about your church. Give a history lesson. Mention your denomination or network (if you are in one). Talk about each staff member and give a brief description of what they do. Speak up about the vision statement and mission of the church in a compelling way. This is an ideal time to inspire people to get on board with the church’s vision. You might find it beneficial to give the person a copy of the church’s bylaws, constitution, and a church directory. Let them know anything about your church that you think they need to know.
6. Church member responsibilities. Church membership is not consumeristic. It’s not like you become a member of a church, show up occasionally on Sundays, and that’s it. Every church member has responsibilities, and I’ve outlined a few of what they are in 5 Responsibilities of Every Church Member.
7. Giving. I think it’s important to talk about money in the church membership class. Just because this can be awkward doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Churches, most churches, anyway, rely exclusively on the financial contributions of church members for all expenses. You could read a Bible passage about money (2 Cor. 8:1-17, for example) and talk about the importance of proper stewardship. You’ll want to do this in a tactful and non-threatening way.
8. Serving and small groups. Some churches find it helpful to give a spiritual gifts inventory. This helps the person better understand how they’re wired and where they can serve. It might be useful to present all of the serving teams and ask which serving teams seem like a good fit for them. Also, if your church has small groups, and I hope you do, now would be a good time to encourage a new church member to join one.
9. Inviting. Who invites people to church? New blood, usually. In other words, the people who are most likely to evangelize and invite others to church are new church members. Talk a little about evangelism and what it would look like for them to try to get other people to come to church.
If you decide they can become church members, and they want to move forward as well, you can have them sign a church membership covenant. You may want to give them a free resource, like What Is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile. The final step in the church membership process is to have the new church members formally introduced on stage during a Sunday service. Bring them on stage, talk about why church membership is biblical, say anything else you need to say, and bring some people on stage to lay hands on them to pray for them.
It’s always a beautiful day when new church members are installed.