Is the Preacher a Member of the Congregation? When do he and his family “place membership”? Do they do it like other people or do they get a special pass?

I was in my third full-time work as a preacher.

It occurred to me that I’d never “placed membership” with any church where I’d worked. I thought about it and decided if I ever moved again Gail and I would place membership with the local congregation.

Some question if that is scriptural or necessary. Acts 9:26–28 helps with that:

And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out (NKJV).

  1. Saul tried to place membership.
  2. The members of the church, including the apostles (all), were afraid of him.
  3. When Barnabas became his sponsor, Saul was received and involved as a member of the Jerusalem church.

Several years ago, it was common practice in churches where I worked for Christians moving into town to bring a letter from the elders of the church where they’d been working to the new congregation. They commended them to the new church and often told how they’d been involved in the previous church.

This served as an introduction and helped them get involved quicker than coming with no information. Trust can be built by the testimony of someone you trust.

Saul wasn’t the last person who wanted to place membership in a church where people were afraid, questioned soundness, doubted faithfulness, and wondered whether they should be put to work.

The time came for us to move to a new location. As the elders of the new congregation and I were discussing our working relationship, I told them Gail and I wanted to place membership.

They replied, “We’ve never had a preacher place membership.”

My response: “I’ve never placed membership before but I want to this time.”

Their question: “Why do you want to place membership?”.

Three reasons:

  1. People who place membership get their name in the bulletin.
  2. The first time we have a new members potluck Gail won’t have to bring a dish because we’ll be new members.
  3. If you let me place membership, I don’t have to do everything — even though I’m the preacher. “All the members do not have the same function.”

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function (Romans 12:4).

Another reason I want to place membership is to observe how people become members in that congregation. I tell the elders I want my family to be treated as any other family placing membership. If that is an interview with the elders or filling out forms, I want to experience that.

Conclusion after placing membership with eleven congregations over thirty-three years — I plan to keep placing membership when I enter a new congregation.

(Visited 911 times, 121 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

5 Responses to “Is the Preacher a Member of the Congregation? When do he and his family “place membership”? Do they do it like other people or do they get a special pass?

  • Roger L. Leonard
    3 years ago

    I preached for one congregation for about five years and was let go by the elders. I was told by one elder in a private conversation just before I left that I was not considered a member. That was somewhat shocking. It does not seem odd now, however, since Jerrie was told that no preacher had ever placed membership before. One has to wonder how a lot of elders view the preacher in this regard. It also raises more questions than some may realize. Can the elders shepherd him as one of their sheep? Or is he an outsider? Can they discipline him if he’s not a member? What congregation is he a member of if not the one he preaches for? And what about his family? Is his wife a member? His Christian children? I can understand some of what that elder meant, because I was treated as an employee much more than a minister of the gospel and as a brother in Christ. This matter is much deeper than it seems and explains a lot about how some elders view the preacher. And to be frank, I’d never thought about it until Jerrie explained it some years back. I guess we preaches just assume we are accepted members if we get the job! Thanks, Jerrie.
    Roger L.Leonard

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago


      Thank you for raising more questions and implications that come out of this question.

  • Jerrie, do you think this has changed the thinking on the part of the Elderships where you served??? Did they treat your wife and kids as members??? Interesting

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago


      I started answering you question.

      I now have enough reply to write another post.

      Please look for my answer next month August 16. My habit is to post at 5:00 p.m. on my Facebook page.

      It will come to those subscribed as a notification to those who subscribe to my blog posts August 17, 5:00 a.m.

      If you haven’t subscribed, you may do so at

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    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago


      I started answering your question and it turned into a blog post which I will use next month.

      Please share your email address and I will send you a rough copy: