General CBF

Millennials and the local church: Membership or belonging?

By Wanda Kidd

As I talk to young adults about the value of membership in a local church, there is a real push back.

The idea of membership has been just an accepted concept in relationship to church all of my life and it never dawned on me to challenge the concept, but their resistance has made me want to explore the underlying reasons for their concerns.  It begs for a larger conversation about this issue of the importance of membership into a congregation rather than providing a place for people to belong.

Membership means to them:

  1. Ironically, they are loyal to their church of origin and are hesitant to join other congregations.
  2. They see a disconnection between the number of people on a church role and the actual number of people sitting in the pews on a Sunday morning.
  3. There is a sense that if they join a church, they will be asked to pay for debts a church incurred before they joined.
  4. They will be asked to take over jobs in the church that others do not want to do, rather than being asked to do ministry that matches up with their gifts.
  5. They fear that they will be seen as a number to boost church stats rather than a person who is looking for a spiritual home.
  6. They look at many local congregations and do not see how they have impacted their communities in any Christ-motivated ways.
  7. They see people more interested in maintaining the status quo than being responsive to the call of the people inside and outside of the church.

Hear some of the things that young adults have told me about belonging to a church:

  1. I wish people would take the time to learn my name and a few things about me. I may only be a part of your church for a few months or a few years, but I want to get to know you while I am here.
  2. I need people to help me discover my God-giftedness and then help me discover ways that I could connect with others in the church to serve.  In other words, please do not assume that because I am young that I want to keep the nursery or work with children. I may want to learn how to cook for church suppers, be an usher or work with the building crew.
  3. I would love to be invited into small leadership opportunities so that I can grow into being the best person God created me to be. I might want to lead, but there are many things about leadership that I need to learn and where better to learn than by watching people who have invested their lives in Christ’s family.
  4. I wish people in the church would invite me to sit with them in church or at church dinners and would invite me into their homes and out to eat even if we go Dutch.
  5. It would be wonderful if my passions for ministry would be heard. Possibly others would share the same burden and we could join together in helping to address the issue.
  6. I need someone who cares enough about me to teach me about the Christian faith and why we do the things we do in church and beyond the walls. I need mentors.

These are just a compilation of things that I have heard. Join in this conversation. Put down your thoughts or write an article concerning membership or belonging and send it to Let’s talk in ways we can hear each other and ways that will strengthen the church and each of us in our call to follow Christ.

Wanda Kidd serves as the CBF Collegiate Initiative Manager and as the College Ministry Coordinator for CBF of North Carolina. 

6 thoughts on “Millennials and the local church: Membership or belonging?

  1. Reblogged this on My Pilgrimage Through This World and commented:
    I have also been thinking of ways to get young people into church and this post speaks to that issue. We also need to address how to keep the youth in our churches who are already there. Give this post a read and add to the discussion a the link provided in it.

  2. There is one issue in Baptist polity that does really make a difference and it is a legal issue. Membership is the designation for voting. As a member you become a delegate. I struggle with this as we generally talk about worshippers or regular attenders when referencing small groups, ministry projects, etc. But when we get to corporate meetings of the congregation, membership matters.

  3. Pingback: Young adults challenging traditional church membership concepts – Baptist News …

  4. Pingback: Millennials Want Church Membership Defined by Mission, Ministry - Urban Christian News

  5. Pingback: membership or belonging | Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina

  6. This has been weighing on my heart for awhile. I’m glad to see conformation on this way of thinking. The venicular in the “religion realm”, I think, is not accepting of changing membership to belonging. They would say it’s the same. The bible states, Christ makes all things new, I believe this is part of God’s newness he wants for his church😍 I belong in the kingdom, I’m not a member❤ I belong to his church…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s