Membership Renewal Efforts – Steadfast in the Parish Resource
Below are resources used at Our Savior Lutheran Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming in their efforts to encourage members to attend services and also to make sure that the membership rolls accurately reflect those who attend services (or are shut-ins).
Throughout this year special effort has been spent in sermons and Bible Studies to extol the gifts of God that come in Divine Service, noting the difference between the praises of Romans 12 (praise which happens each day) and the actual purpose of Divine Service (this is a very Lutheran distinction to make). Most people have no understanding of this distinction but it makes a huge difference in the minds of those who attend church vs. those who think they can miss it and “worship” on their own.
Fall – Elder preliminary contacts/phone calls; preparing for accurate attendance record-keeping and reporting
December through May – establish a list of all members who have attended at least once (this will establish the list of delinquent members to use in summer and fall)
January/February – Special Bible Studies on Church Membership (using CPH book “Connected to Christ: Why Membership Matters“)
Lent – Encouragement and challenge to membership to attend services every week (midweek and Sundays).
Easter – Elders send out Easter cards and letter.
Early Summer – Pastors and Elder compose initial list of delinquents of those who did not attend at all from December to May. Several Categories of action were set up: Whereabouts Unknown (non-attending, mail returned, no accurate contact information), Candidates for Removal (non-attending, local, and not a special case of pastoral care), Candidates for Transfer (non-attending, not local), and Special Cases (under pastoral care or in situations demanding special care and consideration in the estimation of the pastors of Our Savior).
Mid Summer – A list of members who have “Whereabouts Unknown” is published publicly and members are asked to provide any information they may have on those members. Pastors and Elders follow up if they get new information.
Throughout any efforts to communicate a close ear is kept to see about members who may have moved into “shut-in” status without the church knowing.
August, September, October (timing based upon Voters meeting for removals)- Delinquents letters are sent out in a series of three (each increasingly stern about the status of their membership). Responses to the letters are dealt with by phone calls from pastors, meetings with the pastors, and encouragement to attend church. Attendance of church takes that member off the delinquent list. Meetings and conversations with the pastor may mean the member is moved to a special case. Elders are continuing to try to reach out by phone calls and so forth to members. Pastors also try last ditch efforts to contact members prior to sending letter #3.
Transfer letter suggestions are also sent out in August to those members who do not live close enough to the congregation to receive pastoral care. Letters include a suggested congregation near to them to transfer to. If they fail to respond, there are stronger letters sent to them in October.
After all of this a list of members who are requiring action by the congregation is developed and put before the voters for necessary removal (check your bylaws about membership and who can do this).