I just finished the book Membership Matters by Chuck Lawless. This book was based on research gathered from seventy-one different churches. The churches were different denominations and sizes. The main area covered by this research was how these churches handled the area of membership.
Specifically the researchers wanted to know if the church encouraged new people to attend a class before they became members, what would be taught in that class, how often would it be held, what to do next, and who would teach the class.
It was discovered that most of the churches did, in fact, have a class for people to take before becoming a member. The largest number of churches held the class either quarterly or monthly. The top three things being taught in these classes were doctrine of the church, expectations of members after joining, and explanation of the church’s mission and/or vision. During the majority of these classes, new members were given a gift analysis. This gift analysis was used as a basis for ministry placement within the church. The senior pastor taught the class more often than any other person with multiple people coming in second.
The research went on to suggest that incorporating a class for new members was a very positive thing. New members who went through these courses reported having a greater awareness of what is expected of them (most churches expected the following: attendance to a service, ministry placement/group involvement, and tithing). The author noted how doing a solid job of communicating these expectations up front helped prevent people from leaving later down the road.
Overall I found this book to be an easy, yet beneficial read. The author does a good job of explaining the results of the research and how it can apply to your church setting. If you don’t have a structured membership system, I highly recommend reading this book. If you do have a membership system, I still recommend you reading this book because it may provide you with some additional insights on how to improve your current system.