Welcome to Season 1 Episode 34 of the Your Church Matters podcast. In this episode I gave 10 Reasons why churches should avoid having a new members class or some other orientation process.
Reader/Listener Alert: Please stay with me all the way to the end before you draw your final conclusions.
10 Reasons to Avoid Having a New Members Class
1. Without this class, you can keep members completely in the dark and guessing about what’s next. An informed member is much harder to trick and manipulate.
2. Without this class, you can keep them blissfully ignorant about what is expected of them. Church membership is really one of the few free rides in the world. Do you really want to deprive people of the one place they are entitled to be completely self-centered? And if you really need something from them, you can just spring it on them at any moment.
3. Without this class, you can keep your small group structure really small by having the majority of your members limited to just being Sunday morning worship attenders. It really lets you put all your energies into that one hour out of the week and keeps the focus on the great preaching of your pastor.
4. Without this class, you can avoid complicating things by getting tied up with any particular doctrine or structure. Keep things flexible by letting your new members set the direction of your church.
5. Without this class, you can make it easy for people to just pass through your church. If you’re lucky, they’ll leave an offering or two somewhere between the door they came in and the door they go out.
6. Without this class, you can keep your staff and other leaders anonymous for a much longer time. Most people really don’t care who is leading your children and youth anyway. They’re happy for any nameless, faceless stranger to give them a break from their kids for an hour a week.
7. Without this class, you are free to change your mission or vision on a moment’s notice and without reason. As long as you get along with each other and are on your way to heaven together, do you really need anything else anyway?
8. Without this class, you won’t have to give much thought to finding ministry opportunities for people. If they don’t know how to get involved and how to discover their gifts, talents, and passions, you won’t have to worry about them bringing up new ideas or trying to change what has been working just fine since the 1960’s. Just let the same people keep doing all the work and doing it like they’ve always done it. By the time they burn out, it will be time to train a new pastor anyway.
9. Without this class, you can enjoy the adrenaline rush of constantly trying to find enough money to pay the bills. People really don’t like the constant pressure of stewardship. Just take up a special offering once in awhile and pray that God sends you a rich person that needs a tax write-off.
10. Without this class, you can treat your church facilities like a giant maze. Imagine how much fun people will have trying to figure out the locations of the nursery, the restrooms, and the places to go for Bible study. If you’re really lucky, they’ll never find the church office and they’ll leave you alone.
I actually got the idea for this podcast several months ago while listening to Dr. Thom Rainer’s podcast Rainer on Leadership. This is one of the podcasts that I almost never miss. In Episode 103: Why Your Church Needs a New Members Class, he outlined 10 Reasons for having a new members class. As soon as I listened to that episode back in March, 2015, I envisioned a satirical approach that said just the opposite to make the point. As you look at his list below, you will (hopefully) realize that I just said the opposite in my list above.
1. Informs the member
2. Sets expectations
3. Moves members to small groups
4. Defines doctrine and polity
5. Closes the back door
6. Introduces staff
7. Clarifies vision or mission
8. Defines ministry opportunities
9. Establishes stewardship expectations
10. Provides guidance in the facilities
Some final (for now) thoughts on New Members Class:
1. Every church should and CAN have such a class.
2. It is harder to start in a long-time established church than in a new one.
3. A new church should have it in place from day 1.
4. An established church will need to implement is slowly and begin with exposing current members to the content and experience to allay any fears they have.
5. The class should be upbeat, positive, and … dare I say … fun!
6. The class should be focused on building family, community, unity, and common focus.
7. The class gives an opportunity for people to determine prior to membership that the church is not for them and provides for a dignified exit.
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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)