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Paul Chappell - Why You Need A New Members Class: And What To Teach

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Every few months I have the privilege to teach a three-week newcomers class at our church. I relish this time with our new and prospective members, and I’ve found that they thoroughly enjoy it as well.

In the earliest days of our church, our new members orientation consisted of an afternoon reception at our home. Terrie and I would set up chairs in the living room and provide food for fellowship. We would both share our testimonies, and I would explain to our new members the structure and vision of our church. I’d share our Baptist distinctives with them, express my heart to be available for their spiritual needs, and give them an opportunity to ask questions.

Over the years, this new member orientation has evolved. Now we offer it as a three-week class during our normal Sunday school hour, and we call it “Starting Point.” I’m currently in the middle of one of our series now—I teach the final class tomorrow.

In our current class, we have about seventy-five prospective members from a variety of backgrounds. We have single moms, a couple who were saved from an Islamic background, a single dad from a Catholic background, and several young couples with no religious background at all. You can see how they would have many questions regarding what we believe and even what a local church is supposed to be and do.

Every time I teach this class, I’m reminded of how important it is to acclimate the newcomer to our church and equip them with an understanding of the New Testament local church.

Sometimes friends in ministry ask what all I include in this class and how we structure it. I’ve already shared some more in-depth thoughts on that in a Spiritual Leaderhip Podcast, but in a nutshell, here are a few thoughts:

  • On week 1, I teach about the story of Lancaster Baptist church—our history as well as some of our main principles.
  • On week 2, I teach about life in the family of Lancaster Baptist. This includes our three-fold purpose statement (loving God, growing together, serving others) with practical applications for being part of these areas.
  • On week 3, I teach about the biblical structure of a church as well as specifics of what this looks like in our church. I explain the offices of the pastor and deacon, who they can contact for help, and encourage them to fully engage in one of the adult Bible classes.
  • In our church, we encourage new members as well as potential members to attend “Starting Point.” Often, the potential members make the decision to join the church at some point during this class.
  • On the Sunday evening of the third class, I introduce the new members to our church family, and we have a church-wide reception. This allows for our existing members to reach out to the newcomers with a warm welcome. It also allows newcomers to begin forming new relationships.

Whatever your strategy for orientating new members to your church family, I can’t stress strongly enough that you do have some strategy. In fact, I’d love to hear yours! Feel free to share in the comments below what you have found works well for you and in your church.

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My last two churches had a new members' class and I fully agree with how important it is.  The church we just joined does not and I would very much like to help start one.  It's so critical that people understand what the church they are joining believes and why.

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I have never been "program minded."  I guess I could see the benefit if I had an extremely large church with tons of visitors. 

But I have always believed that if the Pastor would stop sub-dividing his work, and actually teach the adult Sunday School class - ALL of the adults, all of the newcomers would very quickly get a good idea of what the church believed. 

I could see a class for new converts or new members at - say - 5:00 or so - maybe an hour before the evening service starts to cover some of this material.

I just could never justify taking away from the Sunday School class to do that.  Sunday School to me is where the Pastor has the opportunity to really dig in and give the church some MEAT. 

I see too many Pastors dividing up their classes so much, and they end up putting "teachers" in who are not skilled enough in the Word to really teach.  The church becomes anemic, living on the milk, when they should be digging in the meat.

It is the Pastor's job to teach, and he is not doing anyone any favors when he drops out, or only teaches one small select group.


Too many "programs" - not enough teaching and preaching.  The main attraction to any NT Bible Believing Baptist church should be (1) Jesus Christ, and (2) the teaching and preaching of the word of God.

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In the OP I did not see a mention or emphasis on Bible Doctrine and the responsibilities of new members.  Such things as the husband's responsibilities before God and the duty of wives to be in submission to their husbands and the children to be in obediant, family devotions, etc.  His 3 weeks are all about his local church and accomplishments.


Babes in Christ need to be indoctrinated the things of God right away to replace bad habits with Godly ones, before they get sucked in to the machinations of the local CCM radio station, christian bookstores, Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyers on tv.


There's something special about being a member of a New Testament Church and every new member should be taught rather quickly what God expects from them.  There's nothing special about sending a payment to the 700 Club or attending a CCM rock concert at your friends "church".

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Great point Swathdiver.  Which is exactly why the Sunday School hour for the adults should be more doctrine oriented to really build that foundation for them to grow on.  Once the new believer sees the depths of material in the Holy Scriptures, and how it touches on EVERY facet of life, the more inclined they will be to avoid the CCM, Osteen, Meyers types.  And if the Pastor is a good teacher, he will be able to train them how to study on their own, and encourage them to do their own reading and study. 

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