Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Membership Mean Something

In our determination to start more new congregations among those who are under served by our church, we created The Community Church Without Walls on the west side of Birmingham. R.G. Lyons is the pastor and he is convening a very different and very exciting sort of new United Methodist Church, thereby leading us into new dimensions of urban ministry. Noting the wonderfully high AVM number (attendance as average of membership) at The Community Church Without Walls, I asked R.G. for his interpretation of this wonderful outreach. Below is his reply.

I love R.G.'s distinction between “belonging” and “membership.” The Church Without Walls seems to really be making “membership” in the Body of Christ mean something. Amen!

Hey Will,

A while back I got a letter from you requesting a response about why our attendance is so much higher than our membership. For us, it is pretty simple...we make membership mean something. Everyone who seeks membership must go through a 12 week class and retreat and we have expanded the membership covenant to be more specific in the commitments we are making. So everyone who becomes a member, commits to worshipping weekly in at least one house church (unless sick or out of town or some other emergency that can't be avoided), spend time daily in Bible study and prayer, lives in love and peace with members/attendees of CCWW, and be involved in at least one ministry of CCWW in a hands-on capacity.

I explain membership something like this: "Membership is not about belonging. Everyone belongs; everyone is welcome. Membership is not about gaining special privileges...becoming a member does not mean you get something that non-members do not get. Rather, membership is about a commitment that you believe God is calling you to serve him by serving the church." Something like that.

For us, it has worked very well. I am very pleased that the overwhelming majority of our members have taken this covenant very seriously. So, the reason our AVM is so high is simply because we make membership a high commitment.

R.G. Lyons


Beth said...

I would like to know more about this church. can you give us the website or contact info?
Beth Estock

Life on Life said...

This is becoming a growing trend in United Methodist congregations. It warms my heart,pardon the Wesleyan pun, to hear that we are putting substance back into our ministries. Steven Handy at McKendree UMC in Nashville spoke of this at this years School of Congregational Development. Steve does not call people members he calls the missionaries to the community they are serving. We have adopted this in the faith community where I am serving, and it has changed the atmosphere around us and how we approach ministry. I believe Bishop that we are living in that time when it is no longer acceptable to be complacent in our faith walk. The Kingdom of God is at Hand.

Lyn Cosby said...

Visit the church's web site at