For Florida Baptists, there seems to be no one way to go about assimilating new members.
But David Coggins, associate professor of leadership and Christian education at Baptist College of Florida, says there are five key elements that churches need to be intentional about including in the process.
Coggins said the first thing to do is to confirm a conversion experience. Once it is established that they understand and have accepted the gift of salvation, baptism should be the second order of business.
Some new members already may have been baptized, but it may be the next step for others, depending on the requirements of the church. Some churches prefer new believers/members complete a new members class before being baptized.
Only after these important decisions have been made is someone ready to understand the importance of church membership and what it means to be part of a body of believers.
Doctrine and church history should be next, according to Coggins, with an overview of the “Baptist Faith and Message” to give new members not only a sense of their church’s identity but also their identity as Southern Baptists. An essential part of this discussion should include an overview of the Cooperative Program and how tithing at the local level plays a role in missions around the world.
Next, give new members a sense of the different ministry opportunities available to them so they can begin to discern the place where they may be called to serve.
Coggins said it’s important to show them the many ways they can be personally involved.
“You didn’t join a club, but a group of active people on mission together,” he said.
Once they know what opportunities are there, it’s imperative to help new members understand how they can be a part of the work of the church. According to Coggins, the best way to do that is to help them understand their gifts and passions and how those connect with the ministries of the church. Then show them “next steps” for acquiring any training they might need to be effective.
Want to know more about how Florida Baptist churches are getting new members connected? Be sure to check out our July issue to read about how churches contextualize the process. That issue will be available on June 29th.
Nicole Kalil is the Jacksonville-based reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness, the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She can be reached at 904.596.3169 or via email at nicole.kalil@goFBW.com