In the SBC universe of churches:
- Some churches have a formal membership roll.
- Some churches don’t maintain a formal roll.
- Some churches use a specific book in which membership and the changes to the same are meticulously maintained. This book is a historical, permanent church document.
- Some churches have dispensed with a written membership book and rely on software.
- Some churches have explicit rules on how one can join the church and strictly follow them.
- Some churches have explicit rules on joining but are soft on following them.
- Some churches have a membership roll that is understood to be a listing of only those who are actively attending the church.
- Some churches have a membership roll that includes both active and inactive members.
- Some churches permit anyone on the roll to vote on church matters.
- Some churches restrict voting rights to an approved list of members of a certain age and above.
- Some churches “re-enroll” members periodically, even annually.
- Some churches haven’t inspected their membership rolls in decades.
- Some churches are too careless with their membership roll which might include people who are dead and people no one is sure exactly who some are.
- Some churches “clean” their rolls every year by a deliberate process and formal church vote.
- Some churches “clean” their rolls periodically through a formal or informal committee.
- Some churches never touch their rolls.
- Some churches selectively and deliberately expel members in a formal process.
- Some churches membership rolls are a mess.
In the last couple of decades it seems we go through these eruptions of indignation about messy membership rolls. Somehow it bothers people that in the aggregate we southern baptists report millions more than are present on a given Sunday. We get haughty indignation from some quarters about all those members we can’t find.
Well, so what? Complain all you want but not to me about my church roll.
None of your bidness, brother, if my church roll is loose and sloppy and doesn’t suit you. No concern of yours if my ACP report includes active, inactive, resident, nonresident, left handed or ambidextrous members. While I like a tidy membership roll, I’ve have never had one, but I’ve managed to pastor the flock adequately well anyway.
And if your church wants to keep a tight roll, have at it. I’d advise taking an aspirin or two before tackling that task. Ask some of the older members to help you go down the list and give the matter a good bit of thought and prayer first.
If you don’t handle it with some sensitivity, you might get rolled yourself.
Feel free to share your experiences in this.