Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some Priorities (in retrospect), part 4

#4 - Closer look at the “front door”

Throughout these series of posts, I have tried to think through what my initial priorities were in coming to Ogletown four years ago. Today, I want to share about the priority of the “front door” of our church. By the front door, I am referring to how someone enters our formally enters the fellowship of our church, whether it be through membership or baptism.

Our front door of membership – Over the years I have been in ministry, I have realized the importance of meaningful membership in a local church. Churches (Baptists, especially) have not always done a great job of marking off who is truly a part of the church and who is not. Often, our membership rolls are large, but many of those on the roll haven’t attended our church in a long time. Some of this could easily be a reality because the responsibilities and privileges of membership were not explained to them in the first place. They “joined the church” but never really knew enough about the church’s beliefs, covenant, practices, etc. to make the best decision. They responded well to some good spiritual impulses, but the church didn’t follow up in the best ways.

We have worked at Ogletown over the last few years to establish an ongoing Membership Matters class. In that class we talk about our core values and beliefs, our covenant, mission, and certain things unique to our church. We want to ensure that those who are entering the church have sufficient knowledge to make the decision to invest their lives with this faith family. By having this class, our membership process is somewhat slower, but I have a greater confidence that those who are coming into our church are ready to make a commitment to our church. We have begun to think of membership more as partnership and less of belonging to a club (paying dues and receiving benefits).

We have seen the rewards of this as a church. Those who have been through the class, who have invested the time to learn more about Ogletown, come with hearts ready to serve! We follow the class up with an ‘interview’ (a half hour or so) so that we can learn the story of those coming to unite with our body.  We then present the candidates for membership to our church family (often at our baptism service).  I am grateful for the way that God has used this ‘tweak’ to grow our church family.