Pastor Help: Cleaning Church Rolls and Restoring Meaningful Membership

We are two months away from cleaning the membership rolls at our church from 1,109 to 68. God has been gracious and kind to us along the way. A pastor-brother asked me this week for advice on moving about 3,500 members off of his church roll. I gave him the following points of advice:

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  1. Clearly define church membership with a phrase everyone can use. At Bethany Baptist Church we say that membership means we are responsible for each other's discipleship.

  2. Preach and teach applying the bible text to the church as a body and not just for individual Christians.

  3. Rebuke the church and lament and repent corporately for the sin of not faithfully exercising responsibility for so many non-attending members.

  4. Distinguish members from non-members at least once a month with all the members standing for renewing the church covenant before communion. If you do church votes in the presence of non-members then have all members stand before you ask for the hands raised for and against the motion.

  5. Keep calling members to show up at congregational meetings.

  6. Teach that taking members off the roll is a mild form of excommunication, not a declaration that they are not Christian. It is a withdrawing of the church's affirmation of discipleship and Christian profession, not an affirmation of condemnation.

Below are some resources to help pastors think through the issue.

Cleaning the rolls:

  1. Why We Disciplined Half our Church by Mark Dever

  2. Cleaning Up the Rolls by Matt Schmucker

  3. Cleaning Up the Rolls (Part 2): The Care List by Matt Schmucker

  4. How Can I lead my church to clean the rolls? (Schmucker summarized)

Meaningful Church Membership:

  1. What is Church Membership? by PJ Tibayan

  2. Twelve Steps to Regaining Meaningful Membership (article)

  3. Twelve Steps to Regaining Meaningful Membership (video-lecture)

  4. Twelve Steps to Regaining Meaningful Membership (summary)

  5. Moving Toward Meaningful Membership (David King)

  6. Five Ways Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle Cultivated Meaningful Membership