I understand and appreciate the church’s creative efforts to reach spiritually lost people in our communities. I also understand and appreciate the attempt some churches make to creatively onboard new members by allowing them to serve in leadership positions. While I believe there are positions that non-members could hold, the role of Sunday School teacher is not one of them. If you’ve allowed “anyone with a pulse” to serve, here are some things to consider.
- Members are accountable to the body; non-member are not. There is no process for church discipline of a non-member; discipline is for members, and members must be diligent to hold one another accountable for their actions. A non-member has no accountability to the body.
- A non-member may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As much as I want to believe that everyone is well-intentioned and loves Jesus, it simply is not always the case. Some people infiltrate a church in order to do damage (Mt. 7:15). If you’re not a member, you can walk away scot-free. If there is no accountability, there may be no restraint.
- Teachers represent the church publicly. Many churches have enacted a Leader Covenant with minimum requirements for leaders. Some churches address the use of alcohol in these documents, asking leaders to abstain. A non-member who goes against the church’s policies about such things may find themselves at odds with the pastor and staff, and could end up damaging the reputation of the church if they do not adhere to some basic leadership guidelines. How will you enforce a policy against a non-member?
- Teaching is a sacred trust with high doctrinal accountability. I Timothy 4:16 says to “guard your life and your doctrine closely.” A non-member may be a non-member because the person disagrees with one or more of your church’s doctrinal positions. If unleashed in a teaching role, you can bet they will not teach according to the church’s doctrine when it comes up in a Bible study. A person or an entire group could be led astray by a non-member who disagrees with any number of doctrines that your church treasures.
- “Filling holes” with non-members is a poor substitute for good recruiting practices. If you’ve developed the habit of placing non-members in teaching roles, it may be because you are not following basic guidelines for recruiting teachers proactively. Filling leadership holes with non-members indicates that you have not been doing your job throughout the year.
- Teachers should be held to higher standards. Teachers should be challenged to tithe, attend regularly, participate in worship, support the pastor and staff, attend training, and seek unity and peace in the church body. If a non-member disagrees with any of these, he/she can simply walk away – they were not officially connected to the body in the first place as full-fledged members. And again, how will you hold a non-member accountable? What are the consequences of not following the congregation’s wishes?
As the attendance patterns of believers today become more erratic, you and I may be tempted to place non-members in teaching roles to fill the gaps. I can think of more reasons besides just these six to limit a teaching role to members only. What would you add to my list above?
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