I’m not upset about people who become members of churches and then cease to fulfill the obligation and commitment they made. If I sat around and worried about that group of people, I’d be in a frenzy. I can’t force people to stay committed.
I do think, however, that we should stay connected with them – especially those who have committed to membership. We need to invite them to renew their commitment and decisions to live as a member of the church in the truest sense of what membership means. They may need help staying committed.
As far as inactive church members go, it’s a sign of our culture. People make commitments easily and take them lightly. Why? Because we are a culture that practices non-commitment. And not only do we practice it, we value it. Here are some examples:
1. Memberships at YMCA’s and rec clubs are on the rise and have been on the rise, but the number of people actually going to the gyms is not increasing in direct proportion to the number of membership issued. There’s a commitment with no commitment.
2. Commitments to event invitations on Facebook not only are extremely easy, but carry no weight whatsoever for any event planner. I know very few people who honestly take their facebook event commitment seriously.
3. Commitments in marriage have continued to decline over the last three decades. Commitments are made but not kept.
4. People would much rather pay a registration “late fee” for the purpose of keeping options open than to committ to a particular event weeks in advance.
5. And the same is true for the church. People become members, making commitments to uphold the church through their financial support, their attendance and more. People of all ages, making a commitment but not keeping it.
What does this mean for the church? We could talk about it all day long. This is more than a single conversation can handle, but the first step is to realize it that we are in the midst of of a non-committed culture.
The second step, on a practical level, is to never apologize for calling, connecting with and inviting members who are not connected. You never know when they need the nudge or need to talk with someone. Invite them to remember their commitment. Don’t do it begrudgingly, but lovingly, consistently and generously. Keep them in the loop. Keep them on the mailing list. Keep praying for them. It’s also a reminder to church leaders that every Sunday is important for the person who is seeking a connection with God. On any given Sunday there is a chance that someone is in the service who is a non believer, an inactive member who happened to come back because of something in their life, or an unchurched person who is looking for a place to plug in.
The third step is to personally place a high value on commitment. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don’t back down on your word. Model what commitment is all about. And guard against over commitment.