oday I was engaged in the annual fall tradition of
managing membership. It works like this. I am given a printout of everybody in our database. The data includes names, contact info, significant dates, and membership status. The last one is the tricky one. I go through the list and take note of who has come and gone, who is a member and who is not, and who is active in their membership and who is not. There are 120 pages. You may guess this is not my favourite day of the year. And the decisions to be made are not really easy either. When is someone a member? Why are some people not members? How do we decide that someone is no longer active? There are as many stories as there are people. Interesting stories, but not helpful in trying to make a clear and simple system.
For that reason, at least partially for that reason, I think it would be helpful if each person told me for themselves that they want to be actively involved at Immanuel. This is the concept behind the “renew your membership” plan for January 1. The assumption is that most of you can easily do this because you are actively engaged in the life and ministry of Immanuel and will continue to be. But for each of us there are times and seasons when things change. Perhaps we are feeling a need to step back for a season. Or perhaps we have been in a dry season and would benefit being welcomed and challenged to a new period of fruitfulness. Whatever our personal story, it is our communal responsibility to walk the journey together and hold each other accountable in helpful ways. We need to be in conversation about these things.
Over the past couple of years, I have made an effort to visit as many of you as I could and ask these kinds of questions. The conversations were excellent, but it is impossible for me to follow up regularly with each of you. We need a way that is both efficient and effective in keeping people in a conversation about how they are living out their Christian faith.
So, the plan looks like this.
- As 2016 comes to close we will distribute “membership recommitment forms.”
- The forms will say something like this:
“I, ________________, trusting in God’s faithfulness to me in saving me through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and being led by the Holy Spirit, commit myself to the following as an expression of my faith.
I will grow by _________________________________ (what, with whom, how often)
I will contribute financially this amount $_______________per__________(week, month year)
I will participate in serving in this ministry ___________________________
I seek to be a positive influence in the lives of these people ____________________________,
___________________, ___________________, _______________________, _____________________.
Other: God has called me to _______________________________________
And I will have my_____________________________ (spouse, small group, elder, friend) hold me accountable for my progress.
- This plan has been passed by Executive. The pastoral elders and executive elders have agreed to do follow-up calls.
- At our fall congregational meeting, scheduled for December 1, 2016, there will be opportunity to discuss this plan. You have the option at anytime to call, email or talk with us about it if you so desire.
- In the new year follow-up calls will be made encouraging participation, discussing challenges, helping with questions etc.
When I teach leadership and particularly when I talk to pastors and councils, I suggest that in order to do anything effective you need to know and name reality. One of the goals of this move is to get a real read on who wants to commit to active engagement at Immanuel. The primary goal, and I hope you can see this as a natural positive thing for a church community, is that we develop a culture of encouraging accountability and open conversation about how we are living out our faith in Jesus Christ.
Pastor Erick Schuringa