Making Your Church New Member Class Better: Answering the Top Five Questions

With more people regathering in-person for church, a pent-up demand is building for membership classes. The membership class was one ministry many churches put on hold during the pandemic. A year has passed since most churches paused in-person gatherings. During that year, people still decided to join a church. Even if people have not vocalized their decision, you likely have a larger group wanting to join your church than you realize.

Now is the time to restart the membership class. It’s also your opportunity to revamp how you onboard people in your church. How can you make your membership class better? At Church Answers, we’ve noticed some trends.  

1. Should a church require a class for membership? In the late 1990s, less than 20 percent of churches required someone to attend a new member class to join. Through our anecdotal observations, we are seeing figures over 80 percent today. The shift is dramatic, and the lesson is obvious. Some churches make membership classes optional, but it is better to require them for membership.

2. What is the content of the class? The most successful classes focus on two key items: Doctrine and expectations. Be upfront about what you believe. Explain your statement of faith. Let people know your beliefs before they decide to join. You can no longer assume people understand historical denominational differences. Additionally, churches within the same denomination in the same town can be quite different now. Don’t surprise people. Additionally, be upfront about your expectations of members. Many churches are putting their membership expectations into the form of a covenant. Here is an example.

3. When should a church offer the class? The best day to assimilate people is Sunday, when they are already on campus (or Saturday if that is your primary worship day). Two good options exist on Sunday. Offer the class during your group time and encourage people to start attending a group the following week. People who join are five times more likely to stick in the church if they join a group. You can also offer the group right after your service and provide lunch. This option allows you the opportunity to show a high level of hospitality. Make sure the food is good and offer childcare. Just be aware young families will bump against naptime for their children if you go too long.

4. How long should the class be? The most effective church membership classes are offered in one sitting and last no more than two hours. If you go two hours, then make sure you take a break at the halfway point. The least popular classes are spread out over multiple days or occur all day on Saturday.

5. Is there a resource to help with a membership class? One of the most common requests for help at Church Answers involves the new member class. We’ve created a resource that helps you accomplish the new member class, whether you do your class in person or digitally. This resource includes leader training, participant videos, bulletin inserts, an in-person guide, and a virtual class guide. You can get the resource here.

Church membership is nothing like a country club, where you pay your dues and receive a service. Church membership is a commitment to be part of God’s community through the body of Christ. In order to be part (a member) of the body (the church), you must commit to a local church. The term “local” refers to a specific location with a specific people. The term “body” represents how there are no lone ranger Christians. Those who have faith in Christ are meant to be connected to a larger group of believers through the church.

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