What's a "non-resident" member?

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by BroChris, Dec 24, 2010.

  1. BroChris

    BroChris
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    The church I've been the pastor of for the last year an a half has about 170 members, but we have an average attendance of around 50. Obviously we need to do something about this disconnect, but I've heard lots of opinions over the years on what exactly the best course is.

    For now, I'm more wondering about definitions. How do you define a non-resident member? The definition I hear most often is that it's a church member who moved out of the area and therefore no longer attends. That makes sense to me at first, but here's where it breaks down in my head.

    Consider two inactive families at my church. The first family has always lived in a town about 20 minutes driving distance away. Due to a conflict in the church years ago, they stopped attending. They are classified as inactive resident members.

    The second family lived in our town, but at some point moved to the same town as the first family. At that time, they stopped attending. They are classified as inactive non-resident members.

    This doesn't make sense to me! How can two inactive families in the same town be classified differently? If 20 minutes seems like a reasonable drive to you, what if it were a 30 minute drive? An hour? Does this change the situation?

    And perhaps the distance or classification doesn't matter at all. Perhaps we need to simply deal with inactive members the same across the board (whatever course of action that may be). What do you think?
     
  2. abcgrad94

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    In my experience, a non-resident member would be a college student who is away from their home church while attending school, but they are still a member of the church. Same goes for the elderly folks who spend their winters in Florida but are still members of the church. This also might apply to shut-ins.

    To me, if someone decides not to attend the church anymore, they should be removed from membership, not considered a "non-resident member." Being a member implies they have voting rights. If they are not attending or being active in the church (as physically able) I don't think they should have voting rights. This is how you get business meetings with a bunch of people showing up to vote on an issue and the pastor not even knowing who the folks are!
     
  3. Jim1999

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    I remained a member of my home church all through my ministry. I did not vote and only attended services on special occasions and kept in touch with information on what I was doing.

    Frankly, I don't make a big deal about membership as much as fellowship and ministry.

    Do we make too much of the political aspects of church rather than the actual function; the ministry overall?

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  4. SaggyWoman

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    I agree.

    I am not as much on the "voting rights" but rather...what are you doing to promote the vision of the church.
     
  5. Trotter

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    At our church, any member who has not been there in a year is dropped from the rolls. They are classified as "inactive" if they haven't been there in a couple of months or so, though. I am thinking that inactive members are not counted in church business votes, either (if you're not there then you don't know what is going on).

    This has really pared down the church rolls since this was implemented, but at least now they reflect who is actually a part of the church.
     
  6. Deacon

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    Quite a few of our missionaries are church members - they would qualify as non-resident members.

    Some members may be "snow-birds", they fly south for the winter, they might qualify as non-resident members.

    College students have been mentioned already.


    The ones you listed are non-attenders, don't attend for 6 months (without do cause) and we write you a letter informing you that you are off our membership list.

    Rob
     
    #6 Deacon, Dec 24, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 24, 2010
  7. Salty

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    All provisions should be clearly spelled out in your Constitution.

    Personally, I would never want to drop someone from the rolls. A person who has not attend for a while, should be on the inactive roll (ineligible to vote) but never dropped (John 10:27-28)

    I have never been one big on non-resident membership, other then possibly missionaries.
    Students and military personnel should join churches where they will be most of the year.
     
  8. Deacon

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    I never thougnt membership in a church meant the person was guaranteed salvation.

    Membership is for voting on church functions; if you don't attend then you don't care enough to vote.

    We have a 75% forum requirement - I think we've only not met the goal once.

    Rob
     
  9. Tom Butler

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    A non-resident member is what the congregation says it is. These days, it's not unusual for one to drive 20-30 miles to a church.

    So, as long as they show up, it really doesn't make much difference.

    It's when we don't hear from them for a long time, or simply lose contact, that the definition comes into play.
     
  10. JohnDeereFan

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    Yeah, I'm a big fan of that. A few months ago, we did that and removed several members. It wasn't discipline. They were free to re-apply for membership and, of course, they'll always be welcome as visitors, but we just didn't feel they were commited to the church or that we could justify keeping them on the rolls.

    So far, they haven't re-applied.
     
  11. Major B

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    As Ronnie Sr. says, a non resident member is a member who the CIA can't find.
     
  12. David Lamb

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    I haven't come across that particular term before. I know of missionaries, and college/university students who maintain membership of their home church, even though for the time being they can rarely attend. But that seems quite different to the situation where a church member moves away. When that happens, their first church should surely encourage them to join a church near to their new home.
     
  13. Tom Butler

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    It's pretty much the same way on this side of the pond. Students, missionaries, even members of the military may keep their membership in their home church. But they should be encouraged to find a church where they are and place themselves under its "watch care."

    I also know some students that simply transfer their membership to a church near the college while they're going to classes, then move it back to their home church during the summer.

    Those who move away should be encouraged to find a church near their new home. One thing I have noticed is that when they don't, they weren't active when they lived here. The left the radar long before they moved away.
     
  14. BroChris

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    My next question, then, is what to do about this? I've been thinking about calling up all 150(ish) people who are "members," yet I've never met. How do I tell them, "You're welcome to come back, but if you don't, we're kicking you out!"???

    It seems to me that I shouldn't merely remove names. I'd like to reach out to them, and let them know what's going on in terms of their membership. If I didn't let them know, I can envision people trying to move their membership later, only to find out that we removed them from membership years ago.

    Or do I go an entirely different route? Should I even care who is officially a "member"? There are a few people who attend regularly, who haven't "joined" the church, yet I consider them just as much belonging to the family of God as anyone else in the church. It just isn't a big deal. Maybe I shouldn't make a big deal about inactive non-resident members either.

    At the same time, though, I feel like by not doing anything with the non-resident members, I'm actually doing a disservice to them. I'm allowing them to think that church membership doesn't matter. Or on the flip side, I'm allowing them to possibly think that they're on good standing with the church because their names are still on the roles.

    My desire is that I can utilize their membership status with the church as an opportunity to talk with them about Christ and the importance of belonging to a local church.
     
  15. Salty

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    I would be knocking on doors (with a deacon) and sharing my concern with them and that you would like them to be involved again. I first would find out why they have not been in attendance - was it justified - working out of town, illness, ect. Possibly they have already joined another church. If so, wish them Godspeed. Often some folks will leave because of the arrival of a new pastor. Either they feel no one can replace Pastor Jones, or they find some other excuse. Can feel like you are walking on eggs sometimes. Probably would be best to call ahead first as many folks just have a disdain on those who "just show up". If you can, try to find out as much about the person as you can. Did they previously have a leadership position?, when were they saved and baptized. Are they from another state originally, served in the military Just any bit of info can be a great starting point, especially if you have something in common with them

    Of course you need to use tact. Each individual/family will be different. Find out what there needs are. Has there been marital strife? If so, they may not want to come and show their baggage.

    This is a noble cause you are about to enter. Do not take it lightly. Rather there needs to be much prayer and fasting. I am of the opinion that the main mission of the church is to edify the members - and those members are to minister to their friends and neighbors with the Gospel

    Please keep us posted.

    Salty
     
    #15 Salty, Jan 8, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 8, 2011
  16. ichthys

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    We have also discussed this idea at our church. Well a few of us have. I'm sure it's never occurred to 98% of them.

    From my way of thinking, it should be a great opportunity for "a new pastor" and the deacons (or Sunday school leaders if the non-resident members had one before) to reach out to those who haven't been in a looooooong time. If the first time you just tell them you are visiting and trying to meet people who you've not met, and ask them if you can pray for them or anything they're going through, they shouldn't get too mad or offended. Even if you don't ask them to come back directly the first time, it's clear you're leaving the door open for them to, just by visiting. It should be clear that that's the intention of the visit, but then again, will they see that if you don't mention it?

    It would also help if you could get the deacons and Sunday school leaders, women's group leaders, whoever's important, involved, get them to go down the list and check off who they already know the answers to, and have them visit with you, so it's not just "the new pastor running roughshod over the roll." Because to most people who are running from a church that they left years back that never considered knocking them off the rolls before, they'll see you as the catalyst. If they see more people involved in "the purge" then maybe they will take their membership more seriously anyway.

    Then there's the practical side of me that says "If the church is going well, then do you really want to reintroduce any unhappy spirits right now and mess it up?" but that side gets shouted down in time. :smilewinkgrin:

    God bless you and your church in this endeavor, it's something that needs to be done in a lot of places. Definitely let us know how this turns out.
     
  17. Tom Butler

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    Before you act unilaterally, be sure that your church has a policy regarding the requirements of membership in place. The church needs to be agreed on this (or at least a majority).

    This could involve various levels of membership. Say, an absence of six months means automatic revocation of voting rights, or placing them on an inactive member list. It could also provide for a revocation of membership (a nice word for disfellowshipping) after one year's absences.

    There should also be a provision for restoring people to membership who repent. It could go as far as requiring one to go before the church and ask.

    Once those provisions are in place, then you and your deacons (and teachers and other staff) may start trying to contact them.

    I wouldn't worry about their feelings. Simply ask them why they've been absent. And if you're convinced they're really not interested, just tell them that at the next business meeting, they will be removed from membership. Do not ask them if they want to stay on the roll. It's not their choice.

    If there are extenuating circumstances, you can act accordingly.

    Don't worry about saying something that will run them off. They're already off. And most of them won't really care if you kick them out. If they did, you wouldn't be having to have this visit.
     
  18. Tom Butler

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    Ain't that the truth!
     
  19. Mike Stidham

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    Since you cite the Military in your sig line, how about that status applying to active duty service members who keep their membership in their hometown?
     
  20. Salty

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    Anyone, including military who will be absent for more than 3 or 4 months should be transferring their membership. Even in combat zones, there may be a local Baptist church! Though I was not in Vietnam - I believe GI's began Grace Bap of Saigon - which is still a local Baptist Church (any Vietnam vets - can you verify this)
    But other than Combat zone with no local church would be the only exception.
     

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