Why Church Membership?

Church membership is becoming a thing of the past. Many Christians don’t see the value in membership, or they just want to avoid anything that smells like commitment and accountability. Perhaps you are like me and have heard the following: “I am already attending, giving, serving, etc. What difference is membership going to make?” “I am already a member of the Church at large through my baptism, so why should I join this local congregation?” I am sure you have heard some version of this and more, too.

It begs the question: Why be a member of a local church? What is the value of membership? This question also came up in a recent Leverage Network session, while reviewing the system of assimilation. The assimilation system is for helping people move from guest to member. There are many biblical reasons we give for membership, and they are valuable. I also think it is wise to help people understand the practical blessings of membership. This list was created with my elders for our setting. You may have more or less for your setting. The important thing is to identify the blessings and communicate them to the congregation. Please post what you would add.

        1. You are known and loved. You have a place where you belong.
        2. You have an active church family that is there for you to lean on for care, prayer, friendship, celebration, and support.
        3. You have a place to grow spiritually and experience God’s grace through the Word, Sacraments, service, and the fellowship of believers.
        4. You are part of a bigger movement of God and have a potential for greater impact on your local community and world through the work together as a denomination.
        5. You have an elder assigned to you for your spiritual care.
        6. You have the ability to be in the leadership of the church.
        7. You have a voice in major decisions of the church (budget, property, buildings, calling a pastor, etc.).
        8. You can go to your shepherd (pastor) who is well-trained in the Word and knows you, for guidance and care.

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

Baptism: How Do They Know?

One of the greatest joys of being a pastor is having the opportunity to baptize. I think many of you would agree. Baptism is at the core of our theology and identity. Baptism is important to keep front and center, and this is why so much church architecture is designed with the font in the narthex or the center of the church. We get it. We are insiders, but how do you help outsiders or guests that come to your church, or provide tools for your members to share baptism with others?

Better yet, do you have a system in place for baptism? In other words, do you have a system to answer these questions:

        • How does one request a baptism? (i.e. online, office, connection card)
        • How is it decided when and where the baptism will take place?
        • What processes do you have to get information? (i.e. form)
        • Who makes certificates etc.?
        • Do you have a class, and who teaches it?
        • Do you have an expectation or policy about baptisms?
        • Do you have a policy for families who give gifts for a baptism? (Is it for the pastor or does it go to the church?)
        • How would I know your system?

All these questions may be overwhelming and may not seem needed. Yet, if we believe baptism is important, we should communicate our system as clearly as possible with our church guests. One place to start is to have a baptism brochure. You can view one that we developed here. It is not perfect and you may want to change content, especially pictures (LOL). The point is not just to make a brochure but to educate your congregation on the tool. They have family members, neighbors, etc. who are not baptized. Perhaps they even shared baptism already. Great! But a piece of paper with an invitation puts a decision in the hand of the receiver. That piece of paper goes with the member as a reminder to invite, and with the receiver as a reminder of God’s calling to the waters of baptism.

I pray as summer ends that God makes some more splashes in the baptismal fonts!

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

Doesn’t the Pastor Work Only One Day a Week?

There is an old joke that likes to be repeated often and that being a pastor is an easy job since you only work one day a week. It can be funny from the right person at the right time. It also makes me wonder if people do not understand all we do or what we do. They know what they see or, perhaps, what we tell them or what they hear.

Pastors in general always have more to do than they can do. There are endless to-do lists and new things popping up that have urgency to them. In the midst of this, there is prep for classes, preaching, and meetings. The pastor’s role has expanded in many churches.

Given the variables and contextual issues, I am wondering how pastors use their time in a given week. Please respond below using these categories and give a range or a number. If there is a lot of “Other,” I am really curious what that is. If you like to explain your number, that would be appreciated too.

        1. Sermon prep
        2. Worship prep
        3. Visitation (sick, hospital, counseling, etc.)
        4. Teaching
        5. Church admin.
        6. Meetings (boards, staff, leadership, etc.)
        7. Time in the community – serving or networking
        8. Ministry training
        9. One on one or small group discipleship
        10. Planning
        11. Connecting with new people
        12. Personal/professional growth
        13. Other

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

How Do They Not Know That?

I was in a church leadership meeting and I noticed our leaders did not know some very important things about our mission and ministry. We have covered them in orientation, in our growth time, and in many passing discussions but it did not stick. At first, I was frustrated and did a few chest pumps because I have told them these things several times before. Then I remembered how much I forget, and I work here :). I decided that at our next meeting I would give a pop quiz in order to see what they really know but also to emphasize the importance of knowing these things. We made a game out of it and had a lot of fun, plus learned together. I now have access to DYM (downloadyouthministry.com), and you can make it more of a trivia game together. The point is to find different ways to keep important information in front of your people. Have fun with it!

Sample questions:

        1. What is the vision statement of Hope?
        2. What are the core values of Hope?
        3. Does Hope have visitors? T or F and why? (The answer is we only have guests because we invite, prepare, and welcome guests to our homes. Visitors are not planned, not really wanted, and you look forward to them leaving.)
        4. What are the 3 responsibilities of a Greeter at the Beach?
        5. What is the next Big Event?
        6. How do you respond when a guest asks to get involved?
        7. What did the voters pass that hasn’t been fully acted on?
        8. What is my role on Sunday morning?
        9. How do you explain what a Lutheran Church believes, to a new guest?
        10. When and where is the next membership class being offered?
        11. How do you respond when a guest asks about communion?
        12. How do you respond when asked about baptism?

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

How Is Your Health?

I have a small confession to make. I have a love-hate relationship with Easter worship. On one side, I am very excited to share the Gospel with more people who perhaps have never been in church. I enjoy the energy that comes with Easter. We proclaim, “Christ is risen!” and the congregation shouts back, “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” The congregation worships with more energy, and we have more people than any other Sunday. It is a high Sunday! On the other side of the high is a low because there are fewer people and less energy in worship the following Sundays, and all the promises from people to connect or come more often have fallen away. I start to feel the fatigue of the season and see the extra work ahead for the summer. The gap between expectations (vision) and reality gets too great and I find myself with less energy, a desire to do only what I have to do, and a schedule that seems overwhelming.

We all know to keep our eyes on Jesus. To guard our time and make sure there is time for devotion, recreation, and rest. But there are just times when we are not all there even when keeping our boundaries. Perhaps you can relate, or you are thinking I’m nuts. Either way, I encourage you to review and do the following questionnaire. The questionnaire is not perfect, but it will give you a basic insight into your current situation. Answer each of the questions YES or NO.

        1. I feel overworked.
        2. My sense of confidence is diminished.
        3. My trust in church leaders is weak.
        4. I wonder about my calling as a pastor.
        5. My life is far too stressful.
        6. I feel my work is futile.
        7. I feel isolated and alone.
        8. My board and I disagree on the vision of the church.
        9. I feel emotionally empty.
        10. I am confused about my major role.
        11. My spouse and family are unhappy.
        12. I am not working in my area of giftedness.
        13. My work is too demanding.
        14. I am insecure in my present position.
        15. I must prove myself a hard worker.
        16. My ministry is not satisfying.
        17. It is difficult for me to say, “No.”
        18. My dream of success has not happened.
        19. I can’t meet the needs of my people.
        20. I would like to leave my church.

If you answer YES to ten or more questions, you are likely facing compassion fatigue or conflict of vision. If that is you, why not talk with someone you trust about your answers?

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

Church Health

In our Leverage interview with Rev. Karl Vaters, we had a first article discussion about church dynamics and leadership based on size. I have served in a large church of more than 1,000, a medium-sized church, and I have started two churches. I can tell you there is a difference. In my current setting, I have a foot in both canoes. Pastor Karl’s books and blogs have been helpful in discerning how to do ministry in our setting. I hope you were encouraged by the interview.

I am grateful for the feedback I received that leads to this question I have for us: “What is a healthy church and how would you define it?” Pastor Karl suggested that health can be measured by how well a church is following the great commandment and the great commission. Some have suggested health is being faithful. I would love to gather your thoughts on what you think is a healthy church. I invite you to post your comments or email them to me (j.scheler@southernlcms.org). I will compile and share them.

As soon as you determine what health is, you have to be able to quantify it. This usually means numbers. I do not think numbers reflect health, but they point to a greater story of the church’s health. Most churches like to measure ABCs (attendance, building, and cash) as a sign of health. Again, you can look at ABCs as indicators, but they don’t really tell the story or reflect the health of a church. You can also have churches that are growing or shrinking be healthy or unhealthy. Numbers do not do it alone. Our Synod tracks measurements of attendance, membership, baptism, confirmation, staff, and giving in the statistical report, but does that really measure health?

I hope you will share your thoughts and join the conversation. What do you think is a healthy church, and what are the measurements we should use to gauge health?

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District