Seven Expectations of Every Church Member

Sam Rainer

August 11, 2013

Local churches are like families. Some are healthier than others. All have issues. Unfortunately, many churches are suffering from a serious case of consumerism. The cultural norm of too many congregations has become “How can you serve me?” rather than “How can I serve Christ and others?” But I believe many pastors and church leaders are to blame as much as their flocks. We pastors simply have not done a good job of communicating upfront what we expect of church members.

I have a high view of church membership, and I hope I lead my church to have the same view. As we assimilate new people into the body of Christ, the goal is to maintain a culture of high expectations of every church member. I believe the best starting point for setting these expectations is a new member class. Whatever descriptor you use for the class, whatever timeslot you choose to teach the class, every new member class should communicate three key points about your church: information, doctrine, and expectations.

Information gives new people an idea of the basics of your church: staff, worship style, ministry philosophy, and where the bathrooms are located.

Doctrine lets people know upfront what you believe. You can no longer assume people understand historical denominational differences. Additionally, churches within the same denomination in the same town can be quite different now. Don’t surprise people. Don’t downplay doctrine. Don’t confuse people. Be clear about what you believe and who you are.

Expectations are often neglected when we’re communicating with potential new members. After all, we don’t want to scare them away with a stack of sign-up sheets. But I believe the lack of clarifying expectations on the front end of membership is one of the main reasons why we’re encouraging an unhealthy culture of consumerism in the church.

So what should you expect of new members? I’ve listed the seven expectations I teach in my church’s new member class.

  1. I will worship. We expect people to attend worship services regularly, and we expect them to worship with the heart, the mind, and the will.
  2. I will mature. We expect people to grow spiritually through small groups. We desire for people to have a sense of belonging to our church.
  3. I will serve. God created us to serve. He gifted us to serve. And He commands us to serve. Every member should function in the body, and this functioning happens through service.
  4. I will give. Mature believers have a generous spirit. We expect all members to give their tithe, time, and resources for the mission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
  5. I will seek unity. We have a wonderfully unified body of believers at my church. I tell new people I don’t want them to mess it up.
  6. I will pray. All members should pray corporately and privately. Above all, they should pray for gospel fruit.
  7. I will sacrifice. Membership means serving first. Sacrifice means putting gospel work above your preferences.

You do not join a church to see what you can get out of it. You join a church to sacrifice for the mission of God. And all churches should be clear about how they accomplish this mission. Set the expectations upfront, and you will likely see fewer people with a consumer mentality.

24 comments on “Seven Expectations of Every Church Member”

  1. Great Expectations Pastor and well said. However, it is time for All the Men and Women of God to give the people what God is saying and doing RIGHT NOW. Such as when Christ came on the scene with a New Commandment that we love one another.

    God is Speaking RIGHT NOW…He Is fulfilling Prophecy. Rev 22:2 is being fulfilled.The Tree of Life is Here and has been processed in it’s all natural state for 21st century consumption and people around the Globe are receiving the benefits of total Healing and Restoration in their Finances, Relationships, their Lifestyle and their Hearts Desires…straight to 3 Jn 2. Life Unlimited Jn 10:10 Life More Abundantly.

    So are you ready to get the information that will give you what you need to truly help God’s people? Even Jesus knew that as long as the people were hungry and in need His words fell on deaf ears. Remember He got Up and it’s time for His people to get up! I heard God saying, “Feed My Sheep.”

    Be Blessed, “One of Those Women” a Special Messenger

  2. walter price says:

    Great blog, Sam. I think I may steal that. 😎

  3. Rick Lowhorn says:

    Great posting. It is so good to hear and see a time of focus on this topic. I fear that the past has not only resulted in members being mis-informed but also an environment that encouraged the presence of thorns among the wheat. Thanks for leadership with great intention.

  4. SW Stanley says:

    Sincerely appreciate and agree with this thoughtful list. How do we imagine this is successfully enacted or “enforced”? What is your approach when people agree verbally but do not agree in action?

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      SW – Great question. Let me give you an example using my church. Since our church leaders have at least one personal interview (usually multiple) with everyone attending the new member class, we find only a few who do not follow through. Of course, some are more spiritually mature than others. Those who are newer believers will need more guidance. For those who adamantly (perhaps even maliciously) refuse to live out the expectations, we work through a process of discipline. As with any church, it must be done on a case-by-case basis. For example, we’re obviously not on a witch hunt for anyone who gave 9.8% instead of 10%, nor for someone who missed two Sundays in a row. However, we do challenge everyone with these expectations. I’ll be preaching an entire sermon series around them in January.

      1. Tony Rodriguez says:

        Pastor, I love this Article and way of thinking. Will you make this Sermon Series available for purchase? This is music to my ears.

        1. Sam Rainer says:

          Tony – I will preach the series in January. It will be available for free at We put the video and audio of all sermons on our website. Thanks!

          1. Tony Rodriguez says:

            Thank you for responding and I truly appreciate you taking the time to respond about my request

          2. Jason says:

            I looked up the sermon series on the website but do not see a title that I am thinking fit expectations? Can you help?

      2. William Teal says:

        Hi Sam,
        I believe your intent is well directed. Most I agree with. Communicating essential information is vital to clear any issues that may surface, provided the new members ask the questions that are on their minds. Most won’t. They will wait until they learn the essential things they have questions on and then make up their mind about staying, or leaving. How the church body, leaders, handle them during this time is crucial.
        Since today, we are not under the Old Covenant, the Law being fulfilled in Christ, those rules of tithing, etc, are no longer to be demanded of Christ’s church. It puts people back under the Old Covenant, with false expectations that were part and parcel of the Old Testament: give tithe=reward; failure to give tithe=cursing, Malachi 3 and other places. We can slip back into the Old Testament Law very easily if we start demanding certain things that the New Covenant Christian is freed from. We have to be careful to realize the freedom of the Christian today in Christ but unsaved people will never be able to fulfill the law of Christ, ie, Love, Service, Dedication. To demand Christian Service from Unsaved people is not achievable. The problem is that not all church members are actually saved, even if they confess that they are. This dilemma will always be there: Work with those who give evidence that they are not saved, hoping that Christ will save them, or to demand from them what they cannot give, resulting the exit of these as the demands grow upon them. There is no way to guarantee that any new ones who come will be saved, they will just replace those who left. Cycle repeats. Some may be saved, others need to be saved.

  5. Your article was wonderful. It is a partnership between God The Pastor, and the congregation. God protects the sheep and the Shepherd. He knew there would be problems from both ways. so He says touch not my anointed and He also says woe to the shepherd that scatter my sheep! Too often the members of a church have guidelines they feel a Pastor should do. But most will not obligate themselves to the ministry to further God’s Kingdom. I have some expectations that we use in our New Member’s Class. I think I will borrow some of yours as well to go along with mine. Hope you don’t mind. I will give you credit for them!

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks! Feel free to use the post in your class.

  6. Ron says:

    As a committed church member and leader who fulfills sincerely but imperfectly the seven bullet points, I would suggest the following for church leaders:

    Give us biblical worship, not will worship. We expect elders to lead worship services in a manner worthy of God, and we expect them to worship with the Bible, in hand and in practice.
    Give us sound doctrine. We grow spiritually through the truth.
    Serve with us. God created us to serve together. Your pet projects should sometimes give way to others.
    Give like members do. Exercise hospitality, and evidence a generous spirit. We expect our elders to give their tithe, time, and resources for the mission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth with us.
    Seek unity. We don’t want our elders to mess it up.
    Pray with us. In our homes, when visiting us. Show us some gospel fruit.
    Sacrifice. Leadership means serving first. Sacrifice means putting gospel work above your paychecks and vacations.

  7. Davis says:


    Would share what you new members class is comprises of and would share content.

  8. Ishola Taiwo says:

    God bless you Pastor.
    If Christ- the Great She,pherd did not hesitate to state clearly the cost of following Him (cost of discipleship) then we the undershepherd should not shy from telling people God’s expectation of them

  9. What does Christ require to become a member of His Church?

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