Can churches offer a dual membership option (like dual citizenship) to their snow birds?
September 22, 2011
Updated November 21, 2011
6 comments 702 views
A not-so-hypothetical question: you have snow birds who have been attending your congregation for a couple of years. They've resisted membership because they maintain membership in their "southern" church. Now they are wondering if they can become dual members (like dual citizenship?) at both churches. Their hearts are in the right place - they want to have committed relationships with the congregation that they are in. They know that membership does not provide them with much in terms of benefits, since we will care for them regardless. They simply want to formalize the relationship. So, what do you do?
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Good Question. This is yet another example of how our lifestyle in North America was never contemplated by the framers of the church order. I appreciate that they wish to have committed relationships and that this is formalized. I am less certain about what this means for them. What responsibilities do they wish to embrace? What connection do they have when they are "down south"? What expectations do they have of the church and the church of them? Does their lifestyle effect the quality and meaningfulness of their realtionship to the congregation?
I have often found that those who are year round members find the quality of the relationship with part-time members dimishing over time. While they appreciate the desire, after a while distance and limited communication leaves the "part time" members out of the loop.
Membership does require certain commitments to the life of the congregation. The congregation has a right to know what to expect from these part time members. I would suggest that rather than have dual membership, that perhaps a form of assoicate membership that explicitly names the the kind of commitment these people are making would be appropriate.
Having said this, I personally, have little problem in "dual membership" in principle. I would want these memberships to be taken very seriously. If you go with this concept, I would want to make clear what your expectations of them are.
Do church commitments go both ways. Like we are responsible to our fellow members and they to us?
I would be in favor of a dual membership provision in our church order too. It makes sense for some of those 'snow birds' and allows for a level of pastoral care not possible now. According to some I know, some 'snow birds' neglect attending worship at all during their time away. But the home church never knows. The possibility of dual membership would help deal with some of those situations.
I say that because I think it would be essential for councils to communicate with each other in the case of dual membership. A simple (form?) letter about how the person/couple/family was ministered to and how they contributed to the ministry, and a general statement of concerns (if any), might go a long way toward a continuity of pastoral care and discipleship for such folks.
It makes sense, and I see no downside.
In fact, I think we may want to include provisions for those cases where a person/couple/family want dual membership in a different denomination too. There's not always a CRC available at which folks can feel 'at home' and they may find themselves in an Evangelical Covenant, some form of Presbyterian, or some local non-denominational 'community church.' It's good and wise to encourage membership and facilitate communication between such churches.
There's another aspect to doal membership: their financial contributions.
Our church has several snowbirds who spend three to six months in the south. They have signed up for 'automatic debit' for their weekly/monthly donations so that their financial commitment to their 'home' church continues.
But they also value the importance of their southern church home and they support that church financially ... knowing full well that their donations to a Florida church do not qualify as tax receipts for their Canadian income tax.
For them, their loyalty still lies with their 'home' church so dual membership hasn't been an issue.
Great comments and perspectives from everyone. With online networking sites, church websites expansion and emails technology allows us to keep in touch with north-south, or even east west members, thus knowing how they are doing, how their health fairs and letting members know we care.
I wish that were true in the church I attend.
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