Integrating New Members into the Life of the Church
The main thing to remember is simply to pray, experience the joy of the Lord and the Fruit of the Spirit, and then treat the new member the way that Jesus, who is within you, wants to treat them. We should not see our relationship to the new member as a burden or chore but as an opportunity to express the love that the Lord places in our hearts. There are a few specifics that may help however.
REMEMBER THAT THE NEW MEMBER:
1. Has fresh tender sensitive emotions toward God.
2. Expects regular members to be advanced in spiritual life.
3. Often has a simple understanding of doctrines and the Bible but a profound understanding of salvation.
4. Has often lost a circle of friends.
5. Needs to grow in understanding of how to dress, eat and observe Sabbath.
6. Has a limited understanding of place and importance of Spirit of Prophecy.
7. May not understand the fine points of the law but place great emphasis on justice, mercy and love.
8. Is zealous for witnessing and service.
9. May have children who have not attended Sabbath School or church school and may be a bit unruly
10. Is trying to live a totally new life style.
11. Is often wounded by a cold shoulder, fast business deal of fellow member, false expectations of special favors in business, inconsistencies in regular members.
12. Is usually eager to learn.
THINGS TO AVOID IN WORKING WITH NEW MEMBERS
1. Formal, legalistic lifestyle
2. Liberal, careless lifestyle
3. Denominational jargon.
4. Criticism of the brethren
5. Be careful how you set a new member straight in lifestyle or doctrine.
(Work with the pastor on this or answer questions or give testimony, but much harm is done when one of the saints goes about to reform a brother/sister by admonition alone.)
(For example, A sister runs up to a new member and says, “Oh Sister White says we shouldn’t wear jewelry.”)
6. Harping on what the Spirit of Prophecy says.
Most new members will be acquainted with the Spirit of Prophecy and believe in it, however we need to avoid the impression that we bypass the Bible because we have something more precious.
7. Cliques: Most new members find it difficult to break into a new group of people that may have grown up together or gone to school together.
8. Avoid the tendency to put the new member into office right away. Give them time to understand how things work.
THINGS TO DO TO HELP THE NEW MEMBER
It would be well for each new member to have a SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN who would do the following: (Guardians could be selected from a pool of those willing to serve in this manner. Often there is already a member close to the new member who can do this.) Every member should be alert to these ways to minister to the new member, however.
1. Invite new members home for Sabbath dinner.
2. Spend a Sabbath day with new members engaging in Sabbath activities which include children.
– Have a special Sabbath meal.
– Tell how Sabbath is a high point in the week.
– Have cards for table conversation and testimony on God’s goodness. The Un-game has spiritual questions that could be drawn and discussed. This helps people to get acquainted spiritually.
– Arrange a visit to a lambing barn, a special place in nature, a hike or drive in the woods, a local exibit of nature, a fossil bed, a park, or game reserve.
– Share nature hobies like rocks, birds, nature photography.
– Take folks with you on singing bands or outreach ministry.
– Visit a shut-in or person in the hospital.
– Include balance of music and reading, fellowship, rest, and ministry.
– Give testimony eg. some Sabbaths more devoted to family and rest….some more to ministry.
– Demonstrate advantages of modern devices e.g. combination of nature DVD with music; inspirational music on mobile player while walking through the Redwood forest. Outdoor church on a mountain top or on a bluff overlooking the lake or ocean
3. Share meaningful resources with new members.
– Books for children
e.g. on Sabbath activities for children.
– Places to go on Sabbath
– Nature videos
– Devotional materials
– Ideas on how to save money
4. Call new member on phone just to chat.
5. Be warm, friendly, and genuine.
6. Invite new member to social gatherings and include non-Adventist spouse and/ or family.
7. Try to communicate within the context of the new member’s world.
New members may come from a rough street background or a humanistic secular one. Help the new member to understand spiritual realities in their context, not so much in yours.
Secular minded people tend to see good and bad as reflected in movies or media. The good person loves and accepts people, is understanding, warm and friendly, gives freely . The bad person is the one who is selfish, hurtful, hateful, snobbish or unkind.
Sometimes a good hearted person coming out of the world may make a great donation to the church only to find that some saint who majors in minors objects to the color of the carpet that was donated, etc. Sometimes a saint who knows and practices all the fine points of the law is uncomfortable around the new member who is loud and a little raw. This can lead the new member to interpret the saint as snobbish. Sometimes our attempts to pinch pennies, which sparks harsh words at board meetings, can be seen as petty and perverse by the new member.
Don’t be shocked or embarrassed by a new member’s reference to a past of loose living, drunkenness, fighting, Spiritualistic experiences, etc. They need to learn a new way but it will take time. Share a book on the subject but let them know from your testimony and your understanding of scripture gently and over a period of time. Let them know that you love them even if you are coming from a totally different background.
Suppose a young man tells how he has practiced spiritual healing in his work at the hospital. Affirm the fact that God heals through His people and through love. Discuss the Biblical passages and loan The Ministry of Healing. Don’t jump immediately into a discourse about how that kind of healing is from the Devil.
Illustrate your points with reference to common knowledge: e.g.
News media language and historical information
Suppose your new member is a soldier, athlete, or law enforcement officer. It is best to talk about Christian men such as Tom Landry (Mike Ditka tells how Landry reprimanded Mike’s swearing in a golf game by saying: “Who is this Good Lord you have been talking about all day? Do you know Him?”) and how they handled a situation, or how Ben Hur finally came to the realization that surrender was victory.
8. Don’t be afraid to give your own testimony about your experience with the Lord.
9. Take a genuine interest in the special interests and hobbies of new members.
This can expand our own horizons and give a better understanding of people in the world. New members will soon change their priorities but we don’t have to be threatened by innocuous hobbies that new members have been involved in. These may well not be interesting to the committed Christian, but often provide a comfortable point for conversation and fellowship, as well as an arena for networking. The view of the world is that good people are doing these things, while bad people are doing crime.
e.g. black powder shooting, loading own shells, car racing, motorcycles, dune buggies, showing animals, riding bulls, all kinds of sports, restoring old cars, aerobic dancing, etc.
10. Involve the new member in training for ministry. This is the best time for the new member to become involved. The zeal is high and their network of friends provides a fertile arena for evangelism. It is necessary, however, to show the new member how to work rather than to just turn them loose without training and support.
11. Establish a prayer fellowship and discipling relationship with a new member.
Drop by for prayer when you have a need and encourage your partner to do the same. Share freely about how things are going. Spend some time together in recreation.
12. Remember that Scripture will be very meaningful to the new member. When questions arise, be ready to share a scripture together, then explain its application to life. Be careful not to do this in a preaching sort of way, but simply share texts that have been helpful and how it works for you.
HOW THE SABBATH SCHOOL AND CHURCH CAN HELP THE NEW MEMBER
1. Advantage of small group Sabbath School Class
1. Small group format encourages fellowship, friendship, sharing of experience and mutual goals in Christian living.
2. Small groups allow the new member to enter into discussion which offers clues to progress or hindrances in spiritual growth
3. Small groups allow time for prayer for victories or friends
4. Small groups offer opportunities for members to share their experience in gaining victories.
5. Research shows that new members that have fewer than 5-7 friends in the new church tend to drop out. Small groups help to form these friendships.
6. New members need to feel needed. Small groups recognize a vacancy when the new member is not there.
7. Small groups also focus on a ministry which gives the new member a purpose to belong.
2. Provide a New Member’s pack with subscriptions to Review and introductions to the church programs, organizations, schools, hospitals etc.
The ABC has several resources including a cassette like Welcome to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and a pamphlets: The Story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Durand, and Why I am a Seventh-day Adventist by William Johnsson.
3. Greeters should introduce the new member to one other person who will try to introduce them to another.
4. New members who fail to come to church should be visited the same week that they fail to show up.
5. Greeters can help to arrange meals or invitations through a card system or other means in cooperation with those with the gift of hospitality.
May the Lord continue to bless your ministry.
“Those who have newly come to the faith should be patientlyand tenderly dealt with, and it is the duty of the older members of the church to devise ways and means to
provide help and sympathy and instruction for those
who have conscientiously withdrawn from other
churches for the truth’s sake, and thus cut themselves
off from the pastoral labor to which they have been
accustomed. The church has a special responsibility
laid upon her to attend to these souls who have
followed the first rays of light they have received; and
if the members of the church neglect this duty, they
will be unfaithful to the trust that God has given
them.” (Evangelism p. 351)
“After individuals have been converted to the truth, they need to be looked after. The zeal of many ministers seems
to fail as soon as a measure of success attends their
efforts. They do not realize that these newly converted
ones need nursing,–watchful attention, help,
and encouragement. These should not be left alone,
a prey to Satan’s most powerful temptations; they
need to be educated in regard to their duties, to be
kindly dealt with, to be led along, and to be visited
and prayed with. These souls need the meat apportioned
to every man in due season.” Evangelism p. 351
Eyes on Jesus
Prepare new members for the fact that they may be disappointed by association with long standing members. They will likely expect everyone to be on fire for Christ as themselves only to discover that they are not.
They should be reminded that Judas, one of Christ’s disciples, betrayed Him. Teach them to keep their eyes on Jesus as their example and not on people. Some believers have forgotten how to be sweet loving and kind. The new member can minister to those who have grown lax or cold through prayer and example.
Encourage the new convert not to follow the conduct, lifestyle, or lack of Sabbath observance of some members. Prepare them to realize that they will be a fresh example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and can help to bring about a revival in the church.