One of the things I wrestled with as a pastor and as a church is the issue of church membership. Some would say becoming a member of any church sends chills down their back. A church can do membership right and many do it wrong.
When Radiant Fellowship restarted after some humble beginnings our leadership team wrestled with this idea. Most of the people on our leadership team had bad experiences with this in their past and told me in a meeting, "we will not become a member of another church ever again." I know for me, it seemed the only time "members" got a letter from the pastor where I was youth pastor was to reprimand them for not giving faithfully. This did not set well with me, I wanted to get around this in the worst way but realized it was a necessary evil to establish ourselves. What did we do?
After many meetings we decided to drop the word membership and use the word partnership. We got rid of the elitist mentality that the word member conjures up and used the word partner. It is my philosophy that this defuses the negative connotation membership has and puts everyone on the same level saying, "we are partners in ministry with each other." We got around the word "member" in our bylaws by stating early on in this document that "from here we will refer to members as partners."
Having partners has been so refreshing for us! Our partnership class is one and a half hours long verses the hideously long 6 week course held at ungodly early hours on a Saturday morning. At Radiant Fellowship the partnership will randomly get emails for no other reason than to show appreciation to those that are partners.
It is a simple little thing but for us it makes sense.