Levels of Membership?

Should someone receive more influence because he/she has been around longer? I’m talking about institutional church membership and those who offer their tenure as evidence that They Should Be Heard:

  • After 28 years of church membership, you would think they would have asked me my opinion before buying new windows.
  • I’ve been a member of this church for 35 years and I’ve never heard such things from the pulpit.
  • My father was a founder of this church and he never would have imagined the church he started going in this direction.

This is not to say that long-standing members are to be dismissed or disregarded. But established church members who say these kinds of things seem to have a completely different understanding of What It Means to Be Part of a Congregation than those who connect with a church today as new members.

For the record, I personally believe that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a church member for 50 years or 5 minutes. All members have the same influence and voice.

(Isn’t there a parable about this?)

So how do we convey to long-standing members that their viewpoints are very important but so are the viewpoints of newer members? And what about participants who will never formally join the church? They might be spiritually committed, they might even pledge financial support – but they have no plans to “join” officially. Should they have a voice?

These questions speak to the fact that there are tremendous differences in how we view Church, depending on who we are and where we are coming from. The differences between generations, digital natives versus digital immigrants, and multicultural shifts impact the way we see spiritual communities. But as long as we have established church members who insist on being listened to based on their long-time tenure, we will be distracted.

Our calling and our priorities: to make disciples and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we succeed here, we will be just fine.

 

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2 responses to “Levels of Membership?

  1. Interesting post, Jan. It plays off of some research I’ve done in the last few months on some vibrant, intentionally intimate faith communities. A striking feature: there are, in those communities, individuals who are–by design–on a different level. That’s not a factor of their just sticking around, or their giving more come stewardship season, and expecting tit-for-tat in return. It’s that they’re willing to stand in covenant discipline, to set themselves to a more challenging spiritual standard. Not “better than.” There’s not been ego involved, as best I can discern. But definitely “deeper than.”

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