What You Are Likely Missing in Your Church Membership Class

At Church Answers, we’ve researched membership classes for over two decades. Every one of our projects reveals the value of these classes. Here are some research highlights from our findings.

In the late 1990s, less than 20 percent of churches required someone to attend a new member class to join. Through our anecdotal observations, we are seeing figures over 80 percent today.

  • The two most essential items to teach in the class are doctrine and expectations.
  • The most effective church membership classes are offered in one sitting.
  • Requiring the class for membership produces higher assimilation rates than optional classes.
  • These classes help minimize church conflict with front-end teaching.
  • Sunday is the best day to offer the class. The best time on Sunday is in the evening with a meal.

The membership class was one ministry many churches put on hold during the pandemic. It was also one of the last ministries churches restarted. Now is an excellent time to evaluate your membership class. What could you be missing?

1. Teaching too long reduces effectiveness. Don’t teach for more than two hours! The ideal length of a class is 90 minutes.

2. Multiple sessions overcomplicate membership. For example, if someone misses one session in a four-session class, can they still join the church? How do they make up the session? The least popular classes are spread out over multiple days.

3. Saturdays are the poorest attended days and unnecessarily overwork your team.

4. High levels of hospitality (food, decorations, coffee) produce higher levels of class satisfaction. A good meal and table hosts will help your church make a solid first impression.

5. The best time for a meal is Sunday evening. Another option is Sunday lunch, but this time can be problematic for young families and children who need to take naps.

6. Don’t forget to offer childcare! Make sure you communicate your childcare accommodations each time you promote the class. You will get more young families to attend the class.

7. Staff presence is critical, especially the lead pastor. Staff and key leaders should be present to meet, greet, and fellowship. The lead pastor should teach the class or at least part of the class.

One of the best ways to assimilate people into your church is through a membership class. The class is more the starting line than the finish line, but it’s impossible to finish if you don’t get started.

We’ve created a resource that helps you accomplish the new member class, whether you do your class in person or digitally. The Complete Membership Class Toolkit is a comprehensive guide to in-person and virtual member classes. This resource includes leader training, participant videos, bulletin inserts, an in-person guide, and a virtual class guide.

Posted on January 25, 2023

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Robert Norris says on

    Thanks for the helpful article. In the article you mention that the most effective church membership classes are offered in one sitting yet the Complete Membership Class toolkit offered has 9 sessions. Does the toolkit have a single class approach included in it?

  • Sam, we do a class for new and potential members on Sunday mornings. It lasts during the SS and worship hours, followed by a catered luncheon with attendees, staff and staff families. As prescribed, we do this in one day, avoiding the potential of missed information about what it means to be saved, part of the church, our vision, and an outline of our organizational structure. We also give a tour of the church campus at the end of the first session to allow for stretching, restrooms, and if anyone needs to check on their children. The lunch is designed to give attendees a chance to ask specific questions of our staff or families about ministries and/or family.

    This format seems to be well-received and very helpful. Retention, although we have not really measured this specifically, seems to be very good. This time, led by myself as senior pastor and a lay teacher, answers many of the questions that transfers within Baptist life, as well as those coming from other backgrounds, have on their hearts and minds.

    Thanks for the blog. Affirming in a great way!