Two Texas churches tackle membership gap at front end

With Sunday morning attendance at an all-time low in Southern Baptist churches, two Texas pastors are responding to the dilemma of unregenerate members on the front end of church membership. Lyn Holly of Boyd Baptist Church in Bonham and Jeremy Green of Second Baptist Church in Waco are cleaning up their church rosters by reclaiming inactive members and creating new ministries to assimilate new members in the life of their churches.

Boyd Baptist Church in Bonham is considered a healthy, evangelistic church, averaging more than 300 in Sunday morning attendance; yet, the church lists 1,100 members on its roll. Lending credence to the pastoral joke “the FBI couldn’t find some of our members,” Pastor Lyn Holly said he has noticed an increasing trend of new church members falling through the cracks.

“If [new members] don’t form a relationship with five or six people in the first six months of joining, then you’ll probably lose them to the backdoor,” he said, citing a statistic from evangelist Ronnie Hill. “We’ve talked about how we’ve seen people come in and get involved for a while and then filter out. And in recent days we’ve been talking about closing that back door.”

To involve a higher number of new members into the life of the church, Holly said Boyd Baptist plans to debut an assimilation ministry in 2007. The ministry will shepherd new members into Sunday School classes, small groups, or other areas of ministry and “close the backdoor for the future.”

“The goal is to create effective disciples. And as they come in, if they get plugged in and get in some healthy relationships and get into ministry, it will help us mature,” he said.

Upon joining the church, new members will receive a listing of all ministry areas. With the motto “Every Member a Minister, Every Member a Missionary,” the assimilation ministry will connect new members to key areas of service in the life of the church.

To reclaim existing members who have stopped attending church, Boyd Baptist offers a fellowship program called Koinonia. Operating as a Fifth Sunday activity, members are divided into fellowship circles of three families each.

“They meet together over the next quarter until the next Fifth Sunday fellowship to deepen their relationships as members,” he said.

Noting that the church has not been “intentional” in the past about seeking out unregenerate church members, Holly hopes the new assimilation ministry planned for next year and the Koinonia program will bring more believers into the body of Christ as well as mature Boyd Baptist Church.

While serving at a church in Kentucky, Jeremy Green also noticed an alarming dip in worship service attendance. “The church roll there was over 400, but we had less than 100 in attendance,” he said.
Currently the pastor of Second Baptist Church, a new church start in Waco, Green decided to tackle the issue of the missing members from the congregation’s inception. To “get off on a good start,” Green led Second Baptist to address membership responsibilities and rights in its constitution and bylaws. Members are designated into three categories: resident, non-resident, and inactive. If a member has been inactive for more than three months, he or she is transferred to an inactive roll by the membership committee which meets three or four times a year.

“That was something I wanted to make sure that we incorporated in our constitution and bylaws,” Green said. “During the first few months of our meetings we formed a constitution committee, and this was something we hashed out and discussed and built up support for. [After] about six services we went through our constitution and bylaws and discussed it as a church and explained the reasoning and helped them understand.”

Green said the church’s desire to clean up its attendance rolls has paid off.

“It helps us to ensure we aren’t letting someone fall by the wayside,” he explained. “We are a new church start, but we pretty much know if people aren’t here. We are on the ball and I, or a Sunday School teacher, will give them a call and see if they are sick.”

Beginning by meeting in homes, Second Baptist soon moved to a hotel conference room for Sunday morning services. Currently, the church is leasing space from a Christian school.

“Right now our membership is at 50, and our attendance is right at 50 on Sunday mornings. Even when there is a family or two absent for whatever reason, our attendance still averages 50 because we have visitors,” Green said, adding that most members attend faithfully. “We’ve only met 11 months now, but even when a few families are absent our rolls are very clean. We don’t have a large inactive roll.”

But as the plant begins to grow, Green said he realizes some members will stop attending. If follow-up is impossible, the membership committee will respond according to the provisions of the constitution and move non-attending members to the inactive list.

“We will continue to help them, contact them and encourage them,” Green said. “This is a provision?a security net to ensure that no one falls by the wayside at our church.”

But Green said keeping members involved in the life of the church begins the moment they join the congregation.

“We want to teach everyone as individuals who are incorporated in our church body that every member is a minister. Everyone should be faithful to serve the Lord through the local church whether it’s through attendance, whether it’s through giving, whether it’s through teaching in Sunday School, or participating in outreach,” he said. “When you become a member of a local church, it means something. Membership is not just a card?it’s actually a call to serve Christ through a local body of believers as we try to emphasize.”

In highlighting the individual’s role as a minister and servant, Second Baptist requires all new members to complete an orientation class. The class offers fellowship, provides education for member responsibilities, and shares ministry opportunities.

But closing the back door on low attendance records will not occur without the guidance of the pastor, Green contended.

“I think it begins with the pastor and that is simply teaching and preaching God’s Word and how that relates to a corporate body of believers,” he said. “We have a responsibility as well as a privilege to serve Christ through the local church, and in the local church we have accountability. That accountability is not only in regards to attendance and giving but in service and living our lives for Christ as well. As you teach and preach these things, then other believers will catch the vision and see the reason behind this type of accountability.”

The full constitution and bylaws of Second Baptist Church may be accessed at

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