Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Church Membership

Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson posted an interesting rant about church transfers on her blog. I was so intrigued by church membership that I felt compelled to leave a comment:

I think it's lame that church members leave a church without directly informing their former congregation. That said, I wish people in our church would have an awareness that certain people are no longer attending, and would call the missing members and see what's up. There's plenty of blame to go around.

It makes me wonder - what's the point of church "membership" in the 21st century?

My experience is that Baby Boomers (and younger) will attend a variety of churches in their life without regard for their official membership. They might visit one congregation for a few weeks/months/years, and then move to another one when their needs change. It's a lot like consumerism (which sucks)...but it is reality for many people who are 50-and-under.

Gone are the days of "civic religion" where all upstanding members of the community were expected to belong to a church, even if their attendance was spotty at best. They were long-time members of a church in the same way they were members of various clubs & organizations in their community. No real ties to "being church" or "doing church"...just "belonging to a church". This is where institutional loyalty becomes a priority instead of living out the gospel in radical ways.

I can see how church membership rolls served a purpose in previous generations, but I'm not convinced that they do anything for us today...especially when the average membership / worship attendance ratio is 4:1 in ELCA congregations.

I'm curious - what would it look like if churches did away with church membership rosters and focused on making disciples among those who are present?

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