047 – Why are people so crazy when it comes to church membership? [Podcast]

A listener question

crazy church membership


Welcome to Season 1 Episode 47 of the Your Church Matters podcast.  In this episode I addressed a listener question from Katherine.  She wrote: “Why do people join the church on the first visit and never come back? Or why do they come every Sunday forever and never join?”



Why do people do the crazy things they do?

As far as individuals are concerned, we can only speculate because we are not inside their head.

Some possible reasons why someone might join the church on the first visit:

  • Some people are joiners
  • Some people are impulsive
  • Some people have ulterior motives

Some possible reasons why someone might come every Sunday and never join:

  • Some people are not joiners
  • Some would rather be participants than members
  • Some would rather be observers than participants
  • Some want the benefits of proximity without the responsibilities of membership

There could be many other reasons and , in reality, we have no control and little influence on those individual motivations.

So what can the church do?


We have to do a better job of effectively communicating what it is to be a member of the body. Click To Tweet


We have to do a better job of effectively communicating what it is to be a member of the body. We make church membership both too easy and too hard and it is, therefore, confusing.

We contribute to confusion over church membership by:

  • Emphasizing joining the church as individuals, rather than following Jesus in community
  • Making discipleship a program directed toward church members, rather than a process that meets people wherever they are on their journey of faith
  • Focusing on what happens inside the walls of the church house, rather than engaging our communities and bringing the influence of Christ into our everyday traffic patterns
  • Putting the majority of time, energy, financial, and personnel resources into the Sunday morning worship event makes it difficult for people to assimilate into the life of the church where they are engaged in body life and are finding their ministry as fully developed Christ-followers (disciples).

Eliminating the too easy path to church membership:

  • If it is not possible for someone to join the church on their first visit, they won’t.
  • If the church has an “altar call” type of response as part of the service, consider removing church membership as a possible response at that time. (I talked about altar calls in Season 1 Episode 44)
  • Absolute minimum should be a scheduled conversation with someone trained to explain church membership.
  • Best is a required new member orientation. EVERY church should have one! (Check out Season 1 Episode 34)
  • Make it clear that membership in the body has responsibilities and expectations, not privilege.

Eliminating the too hard barriers to effective and healthy church membership:

People are 5 times more likely to assimilate into the body life of the church if they are engaged in a small group than if they only attend worship. (According to Thom Rainer).  Our primary focus on the worship event may actually be making it more difficult for people to become healthy and effective followers of Jesus.  Instead of being a sit and soak church …

  • Become a Lego church – many points of connection
  • Start cutting some square holes – instead of asking God to send round pegs to fit your round holes



Coming December 18, 2015 … In search of Spiritual Jedi …

Culture Wars jedi clouds image_Fotor

The revised and updated version of my book Culture Wars releases the same day as the new Star Wars movie.  I am encouraging my friends to buy the book from Amazon on that day.  There are some special bonuses that will only be available to those who purchase on December 18.  Click here for more information.


To comment on this episode or leave a question for a future episode:

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2. Email: contactgerrylewis@gmail.com

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4. Direct tweet @drgerrylewis

*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)



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