What is Church Membership?
What is church membership?
Over the last several years, more and more people are asking questions about formal membership in the local church. People are wondering what church membership actually means, where its value lies, and why they should consider being members. These conversations are happening in the global church, but also here at WMBC. I’ve had several conversations with young people being baptized who are wondering why Church membership is a necessary part of their step of faith. I’ve had conversations with long-time attenders, who are active in the church, but who also have no interest in membership. Overall, most of the conversations I have about church membership are not about how wonderful it is, but why it exists.
And to be honest, I can’t really blame them. When I look at what membership in the church entails in many of the congregations I have been a part of over the years, the truth is that you don’t have to be a member of a church to be a well integrated part of the church community. In WMBC, you don’t have to be a member to volunteer or take part in any ministry. In fact, the only two things that require membership are serving on the Board, and being a part of the Discernment Team. For most churches, membership comes down to having a say on who fills staff and board roles, and whether the yearly budget is passed. And, while we say that this is an important responsibility, we require only 10-20% of active members to be present for such votes, and sometimes we barely meet those requirements.
This reality is in stark contrast to what church membership should be. In theory, being a member of a church means that you are devoted to that community: you identify with the vision and mission of this particular expression of the Body of Christ, and you have committed to using your gifts, abilities, time, and resources to help make this vision and mission a reality. This can include things like voting on new staff members and passing a budget, but it should be so much more.
With this in mind, we want to breathe new life into what it means to be a member at WMBC, so that our practice comes into alignment with our vision for membership. One of the first of these changes is separating the steps of baptism and membership, which we believe will allow us to give greater emphasis to the importance and unique value of each of those steps of commitment.
We believe that re-evaluating why we do the things we do, and making changes when we find out we’re not hitting the mark, is an important way that we can be responsible to you; the people who look to us for leadership.