Posts Tagged ‘Church Membership’

As the Sunday School Director at my church and as a Christian who wants to effectively help bring new believers into the body of Christ and new church members into our congregation, I read with great interest the book Fusion by Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson. I read the older 2007 version rather than the 2017 revised edition linked in this review. With thousands of churches implementing the system detailed in the book over more than a decade since the first edition’s publication, readers of the later edition will benefit from the experiences of many additional churches who have incorporated these methods into their regular practices.

The purpose of the book is captured in its subtitle: “Turning first-time guests into fully engaged members of your church.” That is something churches seek to do regularly as they strive to grow Christ’s church. But how does a church do that effectively in God-honoring ways? That is the challenge that this book seeks to answer not just from a theoretical basis, but from the proven experience of Searcy’s church The Journey and the thousands of additional churches who have implemented his assimilation system.

First, let me confess my juvenile and immature mental hurdle regarding the word “assimilation.” I can’t hear the word without connecting it to the Borg from Star Trek while hearing in my mind the phrase, “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” As alien antagonists who forcefully take over other populations and turn them into drones, that is hardly the mental image I want of how we as churches are to assimilate newcomers into the church. But that’s my problem, not the book’s, so let’s move on…

You will be pleasantly surprised at the level of practical detail this book offers church leaders regarding assimilation, biblical hospitality, being intentional about making great first impressions, following up with first-time and second-time guests, creating opportunities to guide guests into gradual next steps through deeper relationships and commitment to service, faith and church membership. Specific examples are given of communication cards to be completed by worship participants, emails, letters and hand-written notes to send, schedules of what to do when for first-time and second-time guests, brief online surveys for guests to complete, checklists for the first-response team, an outline for a new members class, a membership covenant sample, and more. In fact, if you go to the website listed at the back of the book you can freely download a host of related resources for this assimilation system as well as a free e-book on The Eight Systems of a Healthy Church.

One simple outline that is easy to remember regarding the system is the three Rs of retention: Return, Relationships and Responsibility. Put simply, the church’s goal for the first-time guest is to get them to return. When they return, the goal shifts to one of guiding them into deeper relationships with others through various means, especially (but not exclusively) through small groups. And once relationships start to develop, leading them to deeper ownership and personal responsibility will be the next level of commitment that leads to a fuller commitment to faith and service through church membership. Return, Relationships, and Responsibility – an easy overview of the goals for assimilating guests into the life of the church.

The authors make a great point that you don’t have to buy into the entire system at once exactly as outlined (although it would probably be more effective if you did). If you choose, you can follow the suggested “seven small things you can do to get started right away” from the conclusion of the book to start tackling the beast of effective assimilation sooner rather than later. Chances are pretty good that many churches are already doing some such things to some degree now. Reading the book will help you recognize the things you’re doing right as well as a number of opportunities you may be missing. Some of these opportunities can be grasped quickly while others will take more planning, time and resources to do well.

I appreciate the note from Searcy and Henson that you need to give these efforts time to produce results. Don’t try these methods for a few weeks and then get discouraged and quit. Plan thoroughly and execute consistently for at least six months because it may well take that long for the church members and guests to adapt and respond positively to the efforts to a noticeable degree. The book reminds us of Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

All churches aren’t alike and there may be a few things you’ll read in the book that you decide just don’t fit your style or church culture. That’s OK. However, I am reminded of one evangelist’s response to someone’s objection of his approach to evangelism: “I prefer my way of doing evangelism to your way of not doing evangelism.” Ouch! If you and your church are not currently effective and intentional at assimilating guests into the life of your church, then considering Fusion‘s approach is worth of your consideration. Thousands of churches have done so and have the positive results to prove it.

People don’t necessarily go to the church that is nearest to them. They go to the one that is dearest to them. Your intentional efforts at assimilation can be a huge factor in making your church the dearest for your guests so that they choose to come back and eventually fully invest in with their lives.

Fusion is not an impersonal set of actions to implement like a cookie cutter to make drones like Star Trek’s Borg. In fact, the conclusion of the book says “The Kingdom only grows one person at a time. So focus on the one, and the one will turn into many.”

I heartily recommend the book if you are genuinely interested in reaching and keeping newcomers to your church. Do what it suggests for the glory of God and I believe you will see positive results. I look forward to being more intentional, organized and effective in my own efforts going forward as a result of reading Fusion.

I Am a Church MemberI’ve been a church member ever since I made a profession of faith and was baptized at First Baptist Church of Winchester, Kentucky as a freshman in high school in the early 1970s.  Growing up in the church prior to that experience and being an active church member in several churches since then, being a church member is a way of life for me.  Still, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen in black and white the simple, biblical, straightforward discussion of what it means to be a church member that I just read in Thom Rainer‘s newest book, I Am a Church Member.  In under 100 pages, Rainer makes a sound case for letting go of the self-serving, consumer-oriented, entitled mentality that some bring to membership (similar, for example, to country club membership), and for, instead, demonstrating a more biblical attitude and practice.

The book’s introduction presents the two contrasting attitudes to church membership, followed by brief chapters whose titles give accurate previews of what you’ll find:

  • I Will Be a Functioning Church Member
  • I Will Be a Unifying Church Member
  • I Will Not Let My Church Be About My Preferences and Desires
  • I Will Pray for My Church Leaders
  • I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members
  • I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift

Each of the chapters above ends with a specific pledge pertinent to the topic at hand.

This is not a book just for those new to the church.  While it would be a fantastic book to give each new member in the context of a new member class, it is certain that long-time members need to read and be reminded of these truths as well.  I certainly found a few places where the message brought to mind experiences in my past were I have failed to be the kind of church member Rainer describes as helpful and of sound, Christ-like attitude.  That is a hard but necessary reminder for us all.

I can see this book being used in many helpful ways, from the new member classes just mentioned, to the basis of a sermon series, used in a church-wide book study, used by small groups to grow in their understanding and faithful service, and by individuals interested in serving others more than they are served.  I can envision the six pledges that end the chapters hanging on church walls as constant reminders.  In my church which is without a pastor at the moment, I can see us using this book as the basis for a study while we are in the process of searching for a pastor so that we are in a good place with servant hearts and Christ-like attitudes for that time when a new pastor comes to lead us.

As Rainer points out, the New Testament use of the word “member” isn’t the same as our culture typically means.  In 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, the Apostle Paul wrote to a church divided, “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.  And God has placed these in the church.”  Membership for the Christian is in the body of Christ – the church – which Christ loved and gave himself for.  We are there to serve, not to be served, and to focus on giving, not receiving.

Whether you are a church member or not, whether you have been a member for a few months or many decades, you will benefit from this clear articulation of what it means to be a biblical church member.  I believe God will use this simple, short book to change the attitudes of many, and in doing so to help make His church more of what He is calling her to be.

Below is a brief video intro to the book.  You can find out more at Rainer’s web page about it.  Churches can buy the book in quantities of 20 for only $5 each from Lifeway Christian Resources.