When I arrived in March, one of the first suggestions you offered was to develop a process for helping new members get involved in the life of First Baptist. As any new person will tell you, it’s hard to break into new groups—no matter what kind. It’s even more difficult to find where you fit in a church as large and complex as ours. It takes intentionality personally and corporately.
Membership in a body of believers is one of the great spiritual milestones of life. Even if you’re simply transferring from one group to another, the decision represents a new chapter in life. Often the process involves great wrestling, decisions, and evaluation of where a person is on the journey with Christ.
Since then, our pastoral staff has been working on several ways we can create a culture of hospitality and help us member (as a verb) one another. Each one involves several phases.
Connection. The first impression is the connection to our church via new website. Next to the personal invite, it’s the most important tool we have. When someone attends worship and fills out a connect form, or serves with us on a mission project, we know that they’re interested in follow up. Our deacons of the day visit our first-time guests on Sunday and deliver a homemade loaf of bread baked by Laurinda Norris and local honey donated by one of our deacons. They receive a packet of information about our church and its ministries delivered to their doorstep.
Information. The second part is actually called, “First Step.” On the third Sunday of each month, I host a reception in the Welcome Center for guests who want to know more about the life of Christ, membership at First Baptist, or are seeking more information. Even though it’s “First Step,” a guest attends this part after several decisions along the way. Most people who attend this reception join our church. Our staff works behind the scenes to contact, visit, and build relationships with the people here. Some people who attend First Step have been visiting our church for over a year.
Orientation. On the Sundays we have communion, we host a New Member Brunch. This is a celebration of new conversions in the life of our church as well as orientation to the life of discipleship at First Baptist. New members invite family and friends to join them. We meet new prospects in their families. We give each new member household a church history, introduce them to financial generosity to First Baptist, and they meet the Pastoral Staff. The Hospitality Committee graciously serves as hosts for this event.
Acculturation. Finally, we invite them to the Pastor’s Class. This Sunday, I’ll be teaching a class for new members. It’s a three-hour discipleship class for adults designed to help them grow in faith as a believer. I’ll explain what it means to be a Baptist. We’ll share personal testimonies, and I’ll explain how to use their strengths in service, and encourage them to share their faith in the neighborhood. They’ll have an opportunity to get involved in the ministries and mission of First Baptist as we Love Tallahassee. Several of our laity have been involved in designing this part of the journey, and we’re still tweaking as we go. These include Hal Burke, John Corven, Jim Croushorn, Claire Aguda, Jori Collette, and Fran Buhler. I’ve written a basic introduction to the life of membership at First Baptist that I’ll be sharing with them. You’re more than welcome to have a copy. Just contact the church office.
You play an important role in this process. Each new member requires at least seven contacts from someone other than a staff member. That’s a lot of investment into a person’s life. But it’s worth the relationship, isn’t it. As we do, we’re fulfilling the great commission and helping each other become better members.