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What you are likely missing in your church membership class

Unsplash/John-Mark Smith
Unsplash/John-Mark Smith

At Church Answers, we’ve researched membership classes for over two decades. Every one of our projects reveals the value of these classes. Here are some research highlights from our findings.

In the late 1990s, less than 20 percent of churches required someone to attend a new member class to join. Through our anecdotal observations, we are seeing figures over 80 percent today.

  • The two most essential items to teach in the class are doctrine and expectations.
  • The most effective church membership classes are offered in one sitting.
  • Requiring the class for membership produces higher assimilation rates than optional classes.
  • These classes help minimize church conflict with front-end teaching.
  • Sunday is the best day to offer the class. The best time on Sunday is in the evening with a meal.

The membership class was one ministry many churches put on hold during the pandemic. It was also one of the last ministries churches restarted. Now is an excellent time to evaluate your membership class. What could you be missing?

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  1. Teaching too long reduces effectiveness. Don’t teach for more than two hours! The ideal length of a class is 90 minutes.
  2. Multiple sessions overcomplicate membership. For example, if someone misses one session in a four-session class, can they still join the church? How do they make up the session? The least popular classes are spread out over multiple days.
  3. Saturdays are the poorest attended days and unnecessarily overwork your team.
  4. High levels of hospitality (food, decorations, coffee) produce higher levels of class satisfaction. A good meal and table hosts will help your church make a solid first impression.
  5. The best time for a meal is Sunday evening. Another option is Sunday lunch, but this time can be problematic for young families and children who need to take naps.
  6. Don’t forget to offer childcare! Make sure you communicate your childcare accommodations each time you promote the class. You will get more young families to attend the class.
  7. Staff presence is critical, especially the lead pastor. Staff and key leaders should be present to meet, greet, and fellowship. The lead pastor should teach the class or at least part of the class.

One of the best ways to assimilate people into your church is through a membership class. The class is more the starting line than the finish line, but it’s impossible to finish if you don’t get started.

We’ve created a resource that helps you accomplish the new member class, whether you do your class in person or digitally. The Complete Membership Class Toolkit is a comprehensive guide to in-person and virtual member classes. This resource includes leader training, participant videos, bulletin inserts, an in-person guide, and a virtual class guide.

Originally published at Church Answers. 

Sam Rainer is president of Church Answers and pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Florida. 

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