Thursday, February 4, 2010

Guest Blogger - Michael Andres - The Pathway to Membership

Based on the response to my post, "What Would You Like to See?" I have invited University UMC's Discipleship Assistant Director, Michael Andres, to give us a little more background and insight on The Pathway to Membership. As always, comments and questions for either of us are welcomed.

The Pathway to Membership

Howdy All! I’m Michael Andres, the Assistant Director for Discipleship at University United Methodist Church were I serve as the church’s primary program leader for discipleship ministries along side Pastor Will. Most of my work focuses developing, implementing, and launching elements of The Pathway to Discipleship. As a part of my work with Pastor Will, I have the unique privilege and blessing to work with the newest members of our church.

When someone expresses a desire to join University they have two options. The first is to answer the traditional invitation to local church membership given at the end of each worship service. The second is to attend one of our Pastor’s Luncheons – an opportunity to have lunch with our pastoral staff, and join the church in a less stressful venue than in front of hundreds of people on a Sunday morning. Regardless of which of these two options someone selects, they complete the first part of The Pathway to Membership – COMMUNITY. It is in one of these opportunities that they enter into the community of faith of University.

The next step in The Pathway to Membership is to attend U|CONNECT, a class led by Pastors Adam and Will, introducing The Pathway to Discipleship and University’s expectations of membership. This is the second part of The Pathway to Membership – COVENANT. It is here that they make covenant with University to engage in their journey of discipleship, and in so doing begin living out their vows of membership – to support the church through their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

It is only once someone has completed both COMMUNITY and COVENANT that they are then received into the full membership. Rather than being focused on the sheer intake of new members, which isn’t necessarily an accurate indicator of church vitality, we’ve chosen to focus on the depth of the members we’re receiving. And yet, the number of members we’re receiving is not shrinking!

Prior to implementing The Pathway to Membership, only 46% of new members attended U|CONNECT. To be clear, I’m not saying that discipleship can’t happen outside The Pathways to Membership and Discipleship. But I am saying that a remarkable 54% of our newest members could not be accurately accounted for in terms of their spiritual growth or needs. This isn’t to say that they haven’t grown in their journeys of faith here at University, but what it does mean is that there was no certainty that as a church we were doing all we could to disciple and shepherd them.

However, once The Pathway to Membership was put in place in September 2009, that 46% began to change. After merely two months it rose to 74%, and after three more months it rose to 91%. In a matter of five months, the expectation of membership was raised, the number of members received didn’t decrease, and the church now had a more effective way to ensure a successful start in the discipling and shepherding ministries of its newest members.


Michael Andres

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