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What does it mean to be a member of a church?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I attended a couple of church services recently at my local UU church. Never having been to church before, I'm confused as to what it means to become a member?

Can I just go to the services without becoming a member?
post #2 of 11
It's the same as being a member here at MDC. If that makes sense.

You can still read/visit but until you're a member, you're a guest! Basically becoming a member means that it's your church home. Your "go-to" church.
post #3 of 11
You can certainly attend a church without becoming a member; I would think that UU churches would be especially inclusive, although I've never been in a Christian church that wasn't accepting and welcoming of non-members. Becoming a member basically means that you make a formal commitment to a specific church. It means you're more invested in the health and life of that particular church family. It means you feel responsible for being part of that Body. Some churches expect you to take classes, some expect you to state agreement with their basic doctrine, some expect you to be baptized, etc.
post #4 of 11
At my church being a member on the surface means you sign the book and make a pledge to give money. The money can be a very small amount. We have a member joining ceremony at a couple services a year, but you can join without participating in that service if you want. You can attend services and participate in virtually all activities without being a member for as long as you want - years even! We call people who choose to do this "friends" of the church. Friends are listed in the directory if they want to be. Friends get a name tag that looks exactly like a member nametag. As far as I know, the only things a friend cannot do that a member can, are vote at the annual congregation meeting and serve on the church board.

What becoming a member means to an individual spiritually and emotionally varies from person to person. I joined for the sense of belonging and making a commitment that it signified for me. Also, I love my church and take pride in being member.

The church you are attending probably has a visitor and/or new member coordinator who can answer your questions and explain more about what being a member means at that church. Don't feel like you "ought to" join before you are ready. I attended services about a year before joining.

HTH
post #5 of 11
Yes... being a member means you are registered. For me, I can't baptize my child unless I am a member of that church. Or get married in that church and things like that. Being a member for me makes it my church home and also makes it so that I can more fully participate. And yes, I get offering envelopes too and get mailed stuff about what is going on.
post #6 of 11
at our UU, you sign a book to "become" a member... but we haven't done it yet (no reason, just the church is under construction right now and we;ve been so busy) and we are considered "members". we have name tags, our children attend RE/nursery and we've shared in joys and sorrows.
post #7 of 11
at different churches it means different things. there are also different things involved in becoming a member.

At the church i am in now not being a member means I cannot take communion, get married, or anything. I may attend services but up until recent history people who were not member could not even attend the full service. they had to leave after the first half. And becoming a member is quite complicated. also my becoming a member does not infer membership on my children. they have to become members on their own (although we allow even infants to become members). However not being a member has not kept the church from accepting us and loving us and making us feel welcome and like family. becoming a member of this church is a big deal and there is no push on anyone to join until they feel ready. and there are perfectly good reasons for all of this . . . .

other churches I have been to becoming a member meant sayig "yeah i want to be a member" and that was it. it didn't confer any special benifits on you or antyhing.

it seems like one church (i used to gravitate towards churches that had a thing against membership in general) instituted membership for tax purposes.

My MIL church memebrship meant you could vote on church business and be on boards and church government. but you had to be baptized a certain way. which lead to people getting re-baptized so they could sit on a committee.

So anyway . . .different meanings from different churches.
post #8 of 11
At our UU, you sign the book to officially become a member. Some long time attendees are in the directory as "friends of ...", and may well be members of another UU closer to where they live, but come to ours too on occasion.

To me, it means that you're making a commitment to participate and help the community to thrive.
post #9 of 11
In our UU community you become a member by "signing the book" and pledging an annual amount (though the amount can be small, or you can pledge a certain amount of time to the church... like offering to teach RE classes or something). To become a member you need to meet with the minister and sometimes take classes (if you're brand new to UU).

But non-members can do everything except vote. DH and I aren't members but we attend each week, have nametags that look like everyone elses, our older dd attends RE, we participate in events. And at our church non-members can teach RE classes, sing in the choir, sponsor or offer events, etc.

But being a member of one UU community doesn't mean you'll automatically be a member anywhere else...you'll need to visit the UU church where you move to and decide all over again if you want to be a member.
post #10 of 11
some places want where you used to be a member of as "references" and WILL call and check

but yeah, its saying thats your church home basically.
post #11 of 11
At my church (Vineyard), to become a member you attend an information session, so that you can learn about the church and what it's purpose is, and what being a member means. You then fill out a short application (which is mainly designed to help the pastors get to know you and help you think about what it means to commit to being a member). And that's it.

There is an expectation that members attend regularly and tithe and participate in ministry, but nobody goes around checking up on you or tosses you out if you don't do the above.
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