What images pop into your head when you read the words ‘required membership class?’
I think the prevailing sentiment is probably a negative one. Restrictive, uninviting, narrow, etc. But I want to propose that when the church is doing what it is called to do, a required membership class would speak not to a burden placed on the one seeking to join but to the nature of the church as a radically hospitable people. I won’t pretend like having something called a new member’s class is going to do anything for anyone just because it exists, but I would argue that one of the biggest things missing in most churches is an intentionality about offering all people a way to move from acquaintance to sibling in Christ.
I don’t think it matters as much that a church should require something from people considering joining, but I do think it speaks to the heart of what it means to be the church that we should require ourselves to develop a way to know and be known; to make love and community more than a catchphrase or an ideal.
There are obviously 100 things every church thinks it does to make people feel invited and welcome. There are 100 other reasons why it would be nearly impossible for everyone who seeks it to find a perfect fit and everyday best friend group in one particular church. But if we are blessed to be a blessing to the whole world, then we, as congregations, have to require of ourselves that we offer the chance to know and be known.
If a required new member class is the space to know and be known, what would it look like?
[Also see #1 – Excommunication]