More and more churches now expect new church members to complete a membership class, but the debate about whether these classes should be REQUIRED is still an ongoing one. Here are some of the arguments I’ve heard from both sides, and I’d love to hear your opinion. Help all of us consider this important issue.
Arguments FOR a Required Class:
- Nothing in the Bible forbids this requirement. There’s no clear text that says, “Churches shall not require new members to complete a class.”
- Too many churches take church membership lightly. One way to counter this tendency is to show new members that this church is different – and it’s best to do that when members first join.
- Stated expectations up front are critical to leading members to be faithful. And, a required class means that all members must hear those expectations. For churches that do church discipline, it’s tough to do so if you haven’t established expectations up front.
- If every member is to serve in some way, a required class helps every member learn about possibilities. In addition, the earlier a new member is encouraged to get involved, the more likely he or she will do so.
- Members who aren’t willing to attend a membership class probably shouldn’t be members in the first place. Thus, a required class also helps to weed out folks who aren’t really committed to the church.
Arguments AGAINST a Required Class:
- The Bible never speaks of a membership class required to join the church. And, where the Bible doesn’t speak, we don’t have permission to add requirements for church membership.
- Establishing an expectation—but not a requirement—that new members attend a membership class is probably the best we can get. That is, having a clearly stated expectation is further than some churches have ever gone; they start there before they require the class.
- We’ve never done it that way before. In fact, what does a church do with all its current members if a membership class is now required? Rather than seek to answer this question, some churches simply don’t tackle the topic of a membership class at all.
- We might lose members if we require the class. For some congregations that are struggling, the thought of losing any new member is enough to fight against requiring a class.
- Requiring a class is legalistic. After all, it’s just adding another burden for people who are ready to serve the Lord through His church.
What are your thoughts? What does your church do?