BAPTIST MEMBERSHIP at THE WELL

October 2016

Introduction

The Well is firstly a big family of people journeying with each other towards Jesus Christ, and calling many into similar relationships of freedom, joy, peace and hope. We’re also a charity which is constitutionally a membership organisation (called a CIO ‘Charitable Incorporated Organisation). 

What does membership mean in a Baptist church like The Well?

One of the values of our church, which we share with the Baptist family around the world, is sharing the journey together. There’s no sense of hierarchy, here’s what our values say (wellsheffield.com/values):

“For us, it’s all about relationship, not religion. People before principles. We value being an extended-family on a journey with an open invitation for many to belong”

 We act and think like a big family, so we share about our lives and the direction God is taking us together as a church.  One important way to do this is at our regular Church Family Meetings.  Here we can hear from each other, discuss, discern the mind of Christ for our church together, and pray with the people present in the room. From this meeting, and from our legal constitution, flows the delegated authority for others to lead and implement most of the day-to-day life of our church.

What difference does choosing to be a member make?

We value hearing from each other whether a person is a ‘member’ of the church charity or not. There’s no second class status, and non-members who are committed to our church will be just as much part everything and welcome to family meetings. Similarly, those under 16 years old have a voice in our family too. Often at Church Family Meetings everyone’s opinions and indications will be counted.

Occasionally, we vote to decide or support an issue. Our constitution explains which issues these tend to be, at those times only members’ votes count.  Mostly we don’t need to vote, as our decisions are taken by mutual agreement: chatting, praying it through, discerning together.

Practically: Our constitution gives members a formal voice and influence in key decision making. It is important for a well defined, transparent and accountable governance system. We have responsibilities like employment, owning property, handling finances to be stewarded well. Big decisions or changes need members’ approval, whilst the responsibility for day-to-day decisions are generally delegated to charity Trustees, staff or leaders within the church.

Spiritually:  At its best, it represents a community covenanting or committing together. It can act like a Godly marker – you are choosing to commit, to pull together, to share rights and responsibilities as a member with your Christian family at The Well.

Liability?

Church members have no personal financial or legal liabilities if the charity ceases.

Does this make me a Baptist?

Only if you want it to! This is firstly about membership of our charity. If you’d rather think of yourself as of another denomination, or none, that’s no problem.

How do we ensure this process works well?

The Church Family Meeting can review our membership criteria and how it works in practice every few years. Amendments can be made easily, because these criteria are not part of our formal constitution, they are a working document alongside it.

 What are the membership criteria?

·       being a Christian and upholding Christian values

·       bible as guide to discipleship and lifestyle

·       public baptism is encouraged but not required

·       regularly being present in the life of the community. Such as worship & communion services, events, groups, etc. (for at least the past 6 months)

·       serving/helping out, and showing you are committed

·       financially investing in the life of the community, or giving in-kind

·       regularly attending church members’ meetings

·       age limit of 16+

·       membership is for a term of 2 years. People will be invited to re-affirm their membership every 2 years, to make it an active commitment.

·       not normally be an active member of another local church at the same time. Members of other Baptist churches can apply to transfer their membership by meeting the above criteria

How will membership applications be weighed up?

Our constitution requires that people apply to become members, in a way designated by the Trustees, with whom the final decision rests. During 2016 when we expect many dozens of people to apply, the Trustees will weigh the above criteria, and consider personal relationships or recommendations of others of good standing and existing Baptist members. If necessary, they’ll arrange a short interview to get to know a person better. New members will be introduced to the next available Church Family Meeting.

If necessary, the Church Family Meeting will delegate the role of assessing new membership applications to a small team, who will bring their recommendations to the Trustees at regular intervals. New members will be introduced to the next available Church Family Meeting.

How will membership be re-affirmed every 2 years?

We want membership to be an active process, and our list of members up-to-date and relevant. Every 2 years, members will be asked to re-affirm their choice and commitment to The Well, in a simple way. If they don’t wish to, after a while their membership will be withdrawn.

How does membership stop normally?

A member can resign at any time in writing/email. The Trustees can also recommend to the Church Family Meeting that a person be removed as a member in exceptional circumstances (outlined in the constitution) following due and fair process.

For reference: Copy of The Well CIO Constitution: https://wellsheffield.com/constitution/

 

Adopted by The Well Church, October 2016