May 11, 2011

Growing Pains: Part I

Church growth is exciting as well as challenging. How members of the congregation deal with the addition of new people can be just as varied, especially if the church was smaller to begin with. Growing Pains will be a 2-part blog post discussing some of things around church growth as it specifically relates to smaller churches.

Members Only
Right or wrong, good or bad, one of the things that happens in smaller churches is the creation of a membership level system. Think of it as different levels of membership such as platinum, gold, and silver members each with its own responsibilities and privileges. Your platinum members are the ones who have been a part of the congregation from the beginning, or near it. They have seen it through the "ups" and stayed with it during its more recent "downs." The level of ownership with platinum members is extremely high, mostly because if they didn't make it happen, it didn't happen. Along with this comes a sense of entitlement which includes privileges such as having a set of church keys, knowledge of "how things work," etc.

Gold and silver members are similar but with less time invested in the congregation and as a result, their responsibilities or privileges are not as large. Some work hard to achieve platinum level while others work just hard enough to maintain whichever level they have reached. These members recognize the different levels and respect those "above" them.

Church growth messes with this membership structure. New people are excited to find ways to get involved in the life of the church and grow in their faith but find themselves running into different levels of membership they didn't know were present. They ask to serve in a particular area without realizing one needs to be a gold member, at least, to volunteer be continued.

Have you witnessed anything like these different levels of membership within the Church? Your church? What was that like?


Holly Anderson said...

I have not run into this at WRCC. We are a large church who really strives to get people involved from the very beginning - we expect it, actually.

If there are *levels* of membership like you spoke of at my church (that we've attended for almost 6 years), I've never run into them! And I'm fairly involved in several ministries.

One of the many reasons I love our church home and family!

Anonymous said...

I've definitely run into that. It's tough because there doesn't seem to be many groups out there for people in their early-mid 20's - I like to call it the 'forgotten group' because almost anywhere you go there are groups for children, teens, singles, divorced, widowed, etc. It's hard to jump in somewhere when you don't know anyone and everyone already has their own 'place' in the church.

Anonymous said...

I've been on both ends of the levels of membership in the same church which has helped me be more aware that it does happen. Some of our programs are more open than others. Our mission committee welcomes numerous volunteers because there is so much to be done we can't do it all ourselves. We've had a lot of success in helping people find a niche that works for them. Other groups aren't nearly so welcoming - it's so hard to get involved that it's just not worth the time and frustration.

PJ Zeilstra said...

Growing up, I was in a church where my parents and I had attented for over a decade (my parents are working on 30 years now). I can see how the platinum level benifits my parents had even trickled down to me as I got older. I knew everyone and had access to know and do things that others didn't. I don't know if it is a bad thing to have levels, it is good to have people who are dedicated and you can count on. The rub is making sure that these are godly people who don't let the "power" go to their head. They need to realize that they are servants of the church and the congregation. The best case scenario is that these people also actively recuit new people so that there is always "new blood" in each area. This would help to prevent the building of walls in the church and also make new people feel more welcome.

Matt Lipan said...

Holly Anderson: thanks for the read and comment.

glad to hear you are enjoying your church. one of the differences i think between your church and the church i was thinking about was the size, though i believe these types of levels still exist even in large churches. perhaps just harder to notice.

thanks for sharing!

Matt Lipan said...

Anonymous #1: thanks for the read and comment.

i agree and can feel the struggle of the "forgotten group." the Church as a whole has struggled to connect with that demographic, hopefully not forgotten about them but i'm sure it feels that way when it seems like everyone else already has their "place" as you mentioned.

question, how can the Church do a better job of creating a "place" for the early-mid 20's?

thanks for being willing to share.

Matt Lipan said...

Anonymous #2: thanks for reading and commenting.

i really appreciated hearing your experience of being on the different levels of membership within the same church. has that shaped the way in which you engage others, especially new people?

it's sad that we frustrate people within the Church to the point of having them not want to make attempts to connect.

thanks again for sharing!

Matt Lipan said...

PJ Zeilstra: thanks for the read and comment.

isn't it interesting how "membership perks" trickle down within families? you bring up a really interesting point that happens all the time, especially in smaller churches.

i wonder if platinum members truly understood their call to serve if that might eliminate the idea of membership levels altogether? i wonder what the Church might look like if we could achieve that sort of desire to serve one another.

thanks for sharing!