Six Reasons Your New Member Class Is Not Effective

An effective new member class is a gift. It provides front-end assimilation. It gets people involved in ministry. It moves them to groups and to wise stewardship.

I am a big proponent of new member classes. But not all new member classes are created equally. Some are effective; some are not. If you think your church’s new member class is not as effective as it could be, there are possibly some quick and helpful solutions. Let’s look at the six most common problems in new member classes so you can make those adjustments.

  1. The class is not a priority. A membership class should be a regularly-scheduled event. It should be a priority of church leadership. Church members and guests alike should hear clearly the importance of the class in the life of the church.
  2. The class is missing one or more of the three key ingredients. Every new member class should include three key elements: information about the church; expectations of members; and a clear assimilation process as soon as the class concludes. Failure to have all three ingredients significantly weakens the effectiveness of the class.
  3. The class has information overload. New or prospective members will only retain a modest amount of information. Too many membership classes try to share almost everything about the church instead of hitting highlights and pointing the members to sources of information for future consumption.
  4. The class lasts too long. While this issue is certainly related to the number of hours a class lasts, it is more tied to the number of days a class continues. Classes that go beyond a single day tend to lose people.
  5. The class is boring. The leader of the class needs to be a good communicator. Different delivery approaches, such as adding video elements, help as well. Classes can also turn boring when there are not enough breaks.
  6. The class has no follow-up process. The conclusion of the new member class should be the beginning of assimilation. Communication of information is not sufficient. The church must have a clear process to make certain new members get connected, get involved, and get committed.

New member classes are vital to the health of a church. But these classes are only effective if the commitment, priority, and effort of the church leadership is evident on an ongoing basis.

Let me hear from you. What do you do in your church’s new member classes?

Posted on January 2, 2019

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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  • Jamie Wilson says on

    In our most recent membership class, it became evident a person isn’t a believer. I haven’t encountered this before at least so blatant. Has anyone on here encountered that before? If so, how did you handle it, and also, what measures do you use to prevent it from happening?

  • Rick Sheets says on

    I just listened to a podcast this morning on church attendance variance of 25%. It appears to have been from January / February 2019. In that podcast you referenced this blog and mentioned that their would be a tag to an assimilation checklist; however, having read this blog, I do not see the link to the assimilation checklist.

    Can someone help?

  • Minister of Music says on

    “I Am A Church Member” speaks for it’s self, covering all the aspects of wishing to be just that It should have answered that question Bert.
    Discipleship is essential for a new convert into the family of God. Those who have excepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior and ask him to be Lord of their life. Good teachers and mentors are what’s hard to find. All the topics on what has taken place should be covered in a
    New members class or Discipleship class which ever you prefer to call it and it should help equip a new convert to essentials for living the Christian life. Great stuff Thom, Your a blessing brother.
    Minister of Music

  • Rick Mays says on

    Would love to hear your response to people who ask why church membership is important?

  • A good new member class should have hot coffee.

  • I’d love your help and advice:
    – How do churches decide their aggreed upon standards for membership? In other words, what is the process? Does the pastor decide, does a committee decide, does the denomination, etc? Specifics would be helpful.
    – What expectations (standards) are asked of members?
    – How does a church hold those members accountable to those expectations?

  • David Kinnon says on

    In practice, I see two types of class here. 1) There is the “New Believers” class, which aims to help newly-confessing Christians of whatever age to understand what their confession of faith means, and to introduce them to the lifelong path of discipleship. In the case of our church it usually culminates in baptism by immersion. That takes time, with close mentoring and consistent follow-up on a one-to-one or buddy basis. 2) There is the “New Members” class, which follows from the New Believers class. Guidance and encouragement are given on what it means to be involved in one or other of the church’s ministries. The overview of each ministry and an explanation of the gifting required to be an effective participant can be done more quickly, with development continuing once participation has begun. Having explained what we do, I confirm that I am always willing to hear of the experiences of others and to learn from them.

  • What are you teaching and who is doing the teaching? Is it people you pulled in or real clergy? At what stage of life are the attendees? I am not sure if one size fits all.

  • Good Morning, brother…
    Thank God my new class is effective. I discovered this now by reading the article. I made it right.
    Generally, my new class lasts 9 months plus a period of follow-up until baptism and profession of faith (I am a Presbyterian), totaling from 10 to 11 months in total.
    Yes, it lasts almost a year. We do not have the idea of ​​producing serial nominal beliefs, but getting people to understand the gospel and a real commitment to Christ. It is not a magic formula with 100% success, but I believe to be the most effective both in teaching the fundamentals of denomination, faith and Christian life and the new state of the individual.
    Usually my new class revolves around 60 hours of class or a little more. All who wish to be members of the church must pass through them, whether from Romanism or another denomination.
    Those who come from the same denomination or with a reformed faith confession go through a study with less burden of hours, but their convictions of faith and their history in the previous church are checked to see if they are actually attached to it or have been a member of it for a long time time or if he did not go out in quarrels or to escape from ecclesiastical discipline for committing sins. In any case, the administration is not immediate, it lasts at least 6 months to take effect the membership and have full rights as a member.
    Unfortunately, this is not very well seen by many pastors of my denomination who in some cases only do a discipleship of 4 classes and is ready. I am radically against this.
    Hug to everyone
    Happy 2019.
    Get to know our project:

    • Anderson, you say by reading Thom’s article you learned your new member program is right on track. Did you happen to read #4 and apply it to your program? Have a great day,

  • David Troublefield, DMin says on

    All purposeful people-groups (i.e., social systems, or groups of two people or more who share a common purpose) must address well each day 4 main challenges in order to maintain their organizational health and to secure their brighter tomorrows. Two of those 4 challenges are integration and motivation. If integration is done well, then one-half of motivation also will have been done. Integration is a process that may start with a class but really never ends; in the church, people should be integrated to Christ and His Word–which can include information about how a congregation has decided to structure itself and operate daily, etc. The motivation part includes information shared in all ways effective for the group to receive it (it is almost impossible to over-communicate); motivation is the challenge that will not stay done because people are hard-wired to wind-down over time and need each other for winding-up again.

    If pastors hope to accomplish all their goals during 2019 (which are the 2 other main challenges of purposeful people-groups), then they must give serious attention to these 2 functional imperatives. Doing so is not a waste of time; instead, doing them right, well, and now helps to ensure that the congregation captures all of its God-given future rather than experiencing plateau and decline. LifeWay’s consultants are only a phone call away and can help 🙂

    • John McBride says on

      What resource are you using when referring to the four challenges to purposeful people groups?

      • David Troublefield, DMin says on

        A careful reading about the groups (2+ people with a purpose to fulfill together; e.g., Adam and Eve, the nation of Israel, the local church) described in the Old and New Testaments shows that, for successfully accomplishing the missions assigned to them by God, they dealt with 4 main challenges (social scientists have noticed this about groups too and refer to the challenges as functional imperatives–or, must-do’s). The first 2 are internal/group-facing; the second 2 are external/world-facing. When the groups did not address well 1 or more of the challenges, then they did not possess/display as much organizational health (i.e., all of the ability necessary to sustain themselves well over consecutive periods of time), and some ceased existing. Typically, congregations/businesses/associations/communities/etc. fail to structure, budget, staff, and operate with the 4 challenges directly in mind–but appear to hope for the better results as if they had. To experience all of the successes for which God has given local churches the potential in their settings, we should aim to address the 4 challenges directly and well.

    • “Integration is a process that may start with a class but really never ends.”
      I would argue that full integration never really occurs. New members, even after 10 years, will likely never break into the cliques or get face time with the leadership or clergy.