Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Cambridge God Adventure 8) Integrating new members

Sadly, the integration of new members into church life is often a weak point especially when believers' baptism is not followed up by helping those baptized to belong effectively within church life. Baptismal classes can prepare for the high-point of baptism yet give little specific caring afterwards.  It makes for the worst kind of 'anti-climax'-  after glorious baptism into Christ's body, the community of his church, newcomers are left alone instead of being enabled to take their unique place in the gathered community of believers.

I think, because of the increasing vision for working in small groups, we recognized how valuable it would be if all baptismal candidates were linked within groups that would ensure progress beyond baptism. Joyfully we formed what we called CARE GROUPS.  Three teenage girls were due to be baptized shortly and we began immediately by providing support of older Christians who promised to meet with them before, during, and after baptism to help them belong and discover their own gifting. Even as we planned this first group, two older friends requested baptism and this led to a second care group.  Suddenly groups were sprouting up everywhere.  Such a large proportion out of the active membership were engaged in fresh and demanding ways!

Thus a pattern was established for integrating those baptized into membership which proved to be effective over many years in building up the body of Christ.  As requests for baptism multiplied (and how we prayed for this on our prayer agenda....more later!) so did the need for support and integration.  Eventually we moved onto establishing a partnership scheme which linked baptismal candidates with older members in a study programme developed by the Scottish Baptist Union.  I still treasure the names of those who belonged to the first Care Groups because they really lived up to their name.  Actually, I recall so many of those first group enthusiasts with immense joy.

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