This is part two of a three-part series on reclaiming inactive church members. I have borrowed and expanded on material found in the book Reclaiming Inactive Church Members. Click here to go to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. As I said in the last blog, it’s an oldie but a goodie.
Today I want you to consider different “games” that people play as they slip off the Sunday School class radar. When you believe these games are being played, it’s time to spring into action and start the reclamation process.
1. HIDE and SEEK, “Come and Get Me”
- These members don’t say anything about being unhappy, but they are
- They wonder if anyone has noticed their absence and cares enough to contact them
- According to the rules of this game, if a class doesn’t contact them and say, “Ready or not, here we come,” the inactive member quickly makes up their mind not to return
2. CHARADES – Can You Figure Out What My Actions Mean?
- These inactive members don’t come right out and tell us why they are hurt, or have trouble admitting it, so they act out their emotions
- These members often feel underrated or overlooked
- They often opt for this game because they feel awkward about revealing their true feelings
- They are sending out a cry for help
3. The MERRY GO-ROUND “It’s Me Again”
- This inactive member often goes through periods in which they show regularity in attendance, only to be followed by an extended period of absence
- They may also “ride the roller coaster” – they experience high times of commitment followed by low points of non-commitment, disappointment, and apathy
4. BASEBALL – Three Strikes and You’re Out
- This member is just waiting for one final reason to drop out
- The church tends to always have a “full count” with this person
- The inactive member may feel like they are unheard, unappreciated, overlooked, or underrated
5. POKER – “I’m All In”
- They let the church know what they’re going to do in advance (i.e. “If the church does X, then I’m going to do Y”
- This member is forces himself into a corner and if he doesn’t make good on his bluff, he loses credibility with other members
- He’s really saying, “If I’m important to you, then you’ll go along with my wishes rather than risk losing me”
- This person’s motives may be completely noble, and he may have the best interests of the church at heart, but ultimately he is putting the church on notice
- Always backing down to this person means you may set yourself up for many future bluffs and “all-in” statements
6. COWBOYS and INDIANS
- This person believes “it’s us or it’s them”
- Winners take all; the rest lose face and can leave
- A dead giveaway that members are playing this game is the use of personal pronouns
Reclamation is Central to the Grand Narrative of Scripture
A ministry of reclamation is biblical and follows the example set by the Lord. No matter what kinds of games people play, we should always be ready to reclaim them and extend grace. Here are several verses of Scripture that address the topic of reclamation:
Ephesians 2:14-17 says that, “He is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might created in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God…”
Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone…” The word we translate “reasonableness” literally means “generous in overlooking injury or insult; rising above pettiness” in the original Greek language. It is God’s desire that his people be in right relationship to one another at all times.
Luke 14:23 shows the heart of God and his passion to reach the cultural outcasts. “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled (a picture of God turning his attention to the Gentile world so that they might hear the gospel message and also believe in him like the Jewish people). People will not compel themselves to come to God’s house….they have to be compelled to come in.
Hebrews 10:25 tells us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” Sometimes people fall out of the habit of coming to church and belonging to a local church, so they must be encouraged to continue to walk in Christ as members of His body, the church.
Perhaps the most familiar verse is John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in would not perish, but have eternal life.” God so loved you and I (and those absent members of your class) that He originated a plan to sacrifice his Son so that we all might be reconciled to him. Reclamation is the story the Bible tells over and over, cover to cover.