I am sure that all churches and elder boards struggle from time to time with issues of members transferring out and not requesting that their papers be sent to another church, with times when the "rolls" are looked at with a difficult mixture of administrative necessity and pastoral concern, with seeking to understand what their role and responsibility is in this situation. Nationally, the concept of membership seems to have changed greatly from 50 or even 20 years ago.
In light of that, I ran across an interesting tidbit from the first edition of Montsma and Van Dellen's Church Order commentary from 1932 or thereabouts. It was mentioned that when people immigrated, they were often ... here's the point ...*given a copy of their membership papers themselves and were told to bring them to the church where they would settle.* Elders certainly have a role in the guidance, care, and direction of members, to "guard all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers".
But such a practice as the one that Monstma and Van Dellen comment on would seem to say that within our history there is a countering truth, that membership is the responsibility of the individual, and they should be encouraged to take an active role in the process. What do you think? Are our current practices adequate? Is the practice that Montsma and Van Dellen note just a quirk of history or something that could be adapted to the transient nature of our modern world? How would pastoral care and oversight be blended with such a practice?