My assistant Patti stepped into my office and showed me a Welcome Card from a recent weekend. The couple who had filled out the card wanted to "re-join" our church and were asking what to do. "Have them take the membership class again," I said. I could almost hear the questions as I said the words. "Why? They were members here before! We know about their spiritual journey and they know our church; why should they be forced to take a three-hour class?"
For full disclosure, the couple isn't young in their faith. He is seminary-trained, has pastored and has led a Christian non-profit in the past. They moved away some years back, but have decided to return to Yuma to be near their family. In addition, they have been our friends for about a quarter century. Why, then, would I require them to take our membership class?
1. Our church has changed. Though our messages are the same, our methods aren't. Over the years, we have stopped doing some things and started others. Our values are simpler and more direct. We have a process that is simple. We are larger than they remember, but less complex. We are fierce in guarding that simplicity! When a church does this, it changes the conversation! We spend most of our time talking about the important things and intentionally neglecting the things that don't matter.
2. They have changed. Hearing about their recent years will help us know where they will fit, should they decide to join. They bring incredible gifting and rich backgrounds, but we don't expect them to fit in just anywhere. We and they will want to find a ministry fit that will enrich them and be a great encouragement to those already in that ministry.
3. They will get to meet others who are connecting with our church. One of my great joys is watching people walk in to our membership class as strangers and walk out with new friends. These days we have people coming from about every kind of background, both religious and non-religious. People like this couple gain a huge insight as they hear some of the stories of others in their class.
Throwing a "One Way" sign in front of people whom I love isn't my favorite thing to do, especially if they reject it. However, it's the best way I have found to keep us all moving in the same direction.