Six Perspectives on Dual Church Membership

I love local churches. I just love them.

I know they are filled with imperfect members. I know all the members are sinners and occasional hypocrites just like me. That reality has not changed since the first century.

But I just love local churches.

And I love being a member of a local church. First Corinthians 12, in essence, gives three qualities of healthy church members: they are committed; they are serving; and they are accountable.

And lest you missed it, the word “member,” referring to church members, is in 1 Corinthians 12 five times. Church membership is biblical and church member is a biblical term.

But what do we do with the concept of dual membership? As a rule, most of us believers should belong to one and only one local congregation. We need to be accountable to one body and ministering where we live. But I can see some exceptions. For discussion, then, let me throw out six perspectives on belonging to two different churches.

Keep in mind, there are doctrinal and polity issues that could preclude dual membership. I certainly want to respect the integrity of each local church. Let’s consider, then, these six perspectives on dual church membership:.

  1. Yes: If the member truly lives in two different locations throughout the year. Obvious examples include “snowbirds” who migrate south in the colder months, and businesspersons required to live in two locations because of their unique jobs.
  2. Yes: If the member has a high probability of returning to the original church in the near future. A college student moves out of state but plans on taking a job in her hometown when she graduates. She might do well to minister and serve in both her college church and then her hometown church. A soldier is stationed in another state or country but will be coming home. Both might do well with dual membership.
  3. Yes: If both churches embrace dual membership. In some contexts, churches do not allow dual membership, but they will allow you to become affiliated with their congregation “under watch care,” whatever that means.
  4. No: If the church member knows he is not returning, but he has a sentimental attachment to one church. Moving is difficult. Leaving a church we love is tough as well. But that is no reason to stay tied to a congregation where you will never serve in the near future.
  5. No: If the member wants to escape accountability. I actually heard a church member say he has dual membership, and he has become accountable to neither church. There must be an understanding of accountability in each church.
  6. No: If the member must compromise doctrinally with either church to join. There are some good churches where I disagree with their doctrines on secondary and tertiary issues. I could not and would not join them. I don’t doubt their faith, but I can’t compromise my beliefs either.

For the past few years, I have been advocating the concept of “I am a church member.” In a few cases, it might be okay to say, “I am a member of two churches.”

I hope you will engage with me on this issue. There is so much to discuss, affirm, and, possibly, disagree.

Posted on August 1, 2016


With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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75 Comments

  • Jeffrey Salvo says on

    I am currently working at a church but do a small group in another church, I have tried small groups at the church I work for and ultimately didn’t fit. I stumbled upon this church and fit in. I feel like I am searching for the best fit always.

  • I am a member of two churches for this reason. The church i grew up in is very traditional, speaking softly singing traditional church hymns while the second church is much more modern and lively more prone to singing modern “christian rock” type songs and the pastor is full of energy running around the stage and using props. Both churches have similar messages and teach the same interpretation of the bible. I have a 5 year old son and the more modern lively church seems to appeal more to him. I visit the modern church on saturday nights and my traditional church sunday mornings. Is this an acceptable reason and way of going about dual membership?

  • We are having a vote on whether to keep our pastor, and it will be a close one. There is a couple that has dual membership. In our constitution it does recognize the dual membership but does not say whether they have voting rights. I have heard both sides to the argument, but would like your opinion on it. God bless you, and thank you!

  • Is it wrong for people to leave a church to start a new church and invite members from the former church to participate in their service?
    Thank you

  • Is it wrong for a Catholic to belong to two different if so why & do evangelist churches accept dual participate with a Catholic church & do Catholic churches accept dual participate with evangelist churches

  • Do evangelist churches accept dual participation

  • I came across this post because I’m considering joining a church for reasons of social engagement. I feel the secular world leaves a lot on the table in terms of spiritually and community solidarity, but doctrinal matters are not very important to me at the moment. I was wondering if there are any rules prohibiting being a member of more than one church. For example, I suspect the Unitarians are up my alley philosophically, but I also would like to avail myself of the benefits inherent in the wealth and power the Catholic Church has. Eastern religions also interest me. Is it possible to simultaneously belong to a Christian Church and a Hindu one, for example? Muslim and Buddhist? Or any other combination?

  • Russell Roberts says on

    Thom,

    I am a bi-vocational pastor at a small, rural SBC church in northwest Texas. A few weeks ago, I accepted the bi-vocational pastorate at a second small SBC church here in our community. So, I am currently the pastor of 2 distinct and autonomous SBC churches. I believe the correct term for this arrangement is a “circuit pastor”. I am already a member of the first church, but feel as though I need to formally join the second church as well. Do you agree and do you know how I would go about doing so? Does the SBC have any guidelines I/we should follow?

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