Some of the better material in books I find in the appendices. Such is true of Fusion by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson. Subtitled "Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church," the authors address a topic that is a day-to-day challenge for anyone engaged in evangelism and disciple formation.
I found that the "Membership Tools" in Appendix C generated a helpful reflection for anyone who is asked why church membership matters. To put it another way, what difference does following Jesus make? The authors give several reasons. As they assist regular attenders down the road to full membership, they regularly teach, and I slightly amend, their four primary reasons for church membership:
- We need healthy relationships
- We need our gifts to be accepted and used.
- We need to feel like we're growing, making progress in the spiritual life
- We need to belong- to something bigger than us.
#1 requires that we relearn healthy ways of being in relationship with God and others. It's about knowing God as loving and being equipped to love others. Both are life-long and joining the church, if anything, is just the beginning of this journey. Guests or regular attenders need to not only hear about God's love but also, discover and experience it.
#2 relates to the importance of belonging and acceptance. The need to make a contribution and to make a difference is there. If regular attenders are blocked from discovering their ministry and mission field, then they will look to be equipped somewhere else, or not at all.
#3 means that it's important for guests to see that members are expected to grow. The commitment to full membership is a personal decision to begin and continue growing as a Christian disciple. Membership is not the goal or the end, growing is.
#4 guests should be able to say "I belong here, I'm wanted here" in all their experiences in church worship, various groups, and in interaction with other members. Are the conversations and behaviors observed kind and gracious?