Some call it “Starting Pointe Class,” others “New Member’s Class.” We call ours the “Connection Class.” It really doesn’t matter what you name it, but I believe it’s so important to have a class for newcomers in your church. I didn’t do this when I initially started and the Lord used a situation to speak to my heart about the need for such a class.
We were in our first few months of getting established as an Independent Baptist Church in northeast Charlotte. A family, who had already been saved & baptized, visited our church one Sunday morning and immediately said, “This is the place for us!” Of course, I was excited to have any warm body at that time. We had just got started and were running around 40 at the time. So, we accepted them the next week into our membership upon their profession of faith and transfer from a Southern Baptist church in town. A couple weeks later the wife came to me and said, “Pastor, I have a question. I’ve noticed in your preaching that you take the Bible literally. Is that true?” At first, I thought she was joking. I proceeded to tell her that if I didn’t take the Bible literally I wouldn’t be a Christian much less a Pastor. I was so surprised that it took her this long to figure that out. Of course, they chose to leave the church.
It was during that situation the Lord put it on my heart to develop a class for all newcomers to attend before becoming a member of the church in order that they might have a foundational understanding of who we are. It has been one of the most successful additions to our ministry in retaining guests and assimilating them into the membership of the church.
Here’s a few things I recommend as you start this class.
1. Develop a clear name for the class.
Our purpose as a church is to get every guest inside the Connection Class. It’s for that reason we named it “Connection Class,” to connect people to our ministry. Try to avoid the traditional “New Member’s Class,” unless it’s your desire to have only new members attend the class. I wanted this class to be the starting point for every person that walked in our door. I’ve seen in some instances where just the name “New Members” made some people nervous about even attending the class out of fear. Our goal is simply to help them get connected, and what I will teach them are things I want them to know before they commit to membership in our church.
2. If at all possible, teach the class yourself and include your wife.
We promote our class as an opportunity to get to know “Pastor & Kathleen.” People want to get to know their pastor. This is a wonderful opportunity to let the tie loose and allow new families to get to know you and your spouse. I don’t think it’s wrong to have an Assistant Pastor teach this type of class, but I certainly feel it is more effective for the Pastor.
3. Design the class to be a brief, survey of the church ministry.
I’ve heard of some churches whose newcomer’s class is anywhere from 13 to 26 weeks long. That’s way too long! It’s one thing if it’s a discipleship-centered Bible study, but not for an introductory class to your church. Ours is four weeks. In those four weeks newcomers get insight to the doctrine of the church, information regarding church membership, policies and procedures for serving in ministry, and the present and future vision for the church. All of this in just four, brief weeks.
4. Have one set time for the class.
Our class is every Sunday morning at 9:30am during the regular Adult & Children’s Bible class hour. It’s a continual four week cycle of the class. Some months I will have 10 to 12 and other months I will have just 2 or 3. But every week, at the same time, the class is taking place.
5. Assemble a booklet to give to each attendee.
In four weeks of classes we have four designated lessons:
- Our Position (A look at our doctrine, what we believe, our identity as a Baptist church)
- Our Purpose (History of the church and the purpose of our existence – The Great Commission)
- Our Procedures (How to become a member, get involved in ministry, and how we handle money)
- Our Plan (The future and vision of our ministry as well as a brief look at the New Testament Church)
Inside this booklet is a four week guide that includes the notes to these lessons. It also includes our church constitution and bylaws, list of ministries to serve in, history of the church, and membership information.
6. Use the class as an opportunity to present the gospel to unsaved families.
I’m amazed at how often the Lord opens the opportunity for us to connect with those who are searching for truth. I invite anyone and everyone to attend the class (I would never allow an unsaved person to join the church, but this is an awesome opportunity to present the gospel to them). For instance, I’ve had a Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim, Catholics, etc. attend the class, and with each one we are given the opportunity to share the truth about Jesus Christ as they are searching for information about a church home.
7. Invite newcomers in your home for a time of fellowship and growth.
Every attendee of the Connection Class gets an invitation to our home for a time of fellowship with other church staff and leadership. It’s a great way to cap off the insight to our church by introducing them to other families outside of the weekly services.
If I can help your ministry by provide the notes we use or other information regarding The Connection Class at Laurel Baptist Church, email me at email@example.com.