More on Preachers Placing Membership

After the post on Preachers Placing Membership, I received this question from Richard Root:

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

I started answering and it turned into a follow-up blog.

Here’s my answer:

It’s changed me. I enter the relationship being recognized as a part of the Lord’s family in that locality. I refer to it often.

In the second sermon I preach at a new congregation, I spend a few minutes in the introduction going over my rules, explaining how I operate. 

You can read those in my blog, starting with:

Beginning at a New Church — My First Three Rules

The next five posts define more rules I present at the beginning of the next five sermons:

Name Memory Rule

Communication Rules

Criticism Rule

Originality Rule

Discussion Rules

This helps people learn how I live, communicate, and respond.

Since I love criticism, if they can help me have better rules (habits) I’ll welcome that. They’ll be doing me a favor.

The whole package changes the relationships. I’ve spent sixty years thinking about how and why I do things. If someone can help me improve, I welcome that. If they can’t, I’m not going to change because of criticism.

I discuss most of these rules in the interview process. I tell how I work. I ask the elders how they work and relate to the preacher (me). That’s the time to learn how they will see you and treat you as a preacher. After you’ve unloaded the U-Haul is too late.

The results of those discussions are included in my contract.

Interim Ministry Job Description

In summary, the policy of placing membership is one of many ways I organize my work since I started studying and practicing Family Systems.

I discuss this in my blog posts. It starts with this post and continues for the next five posts. What (Who) Is the Problem?

You can find the same material in my book, Between Ministers. You can learn more about that book and buy that book on Amazon: Between Ministers

From my understanding, every preacher, every elder, every person has his or her set of rules.

Our rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, understood, and contradictory. 

The study and application of Family Systems have helped me think about my rules (habits, ways of doing things), talk about my rules (people get to know me and how to work with me quicker when I tell them rather than slowly discovering by observing and guessing for years). It helps me reconcile my contradictory rules which reduces my stress.

When I talk about Gail and me placing membership, it helps the congregation think about their rules of placing membership. 

Until people get clear on who they want to be members and why they want or don’t want certain people to be members, they’ll be guided by fear instead of faith (Acts 9:26–28).

By not having a good policy of placing membership, people will be excluded who should be included and who can be powerful workers in the congregation when recognized and used to the extent of their abilities. Others may be recognized as members who only want to be observers, critics, or divisive. 

Mature Christians often aren’t clear on membership principles. The apostles at Jerusalem were among those moved by fear in not wanting to accept Saul of Tarsus as a member of that congregation (Acts 9:26–28).

What are your rules about placing membership?

What rules does your congregation have about recognizing and utilizing Christians in the congregation where you have your membership?

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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