If you want to know more about membership in the Methodist Church or are wondering what it means to become a member, here are some frequently asked questions:
How many members are there in the Methodist Church?
The Methodist Church is Britain's fourth largest Christian denomination and part of the worldwide Methodist family of over 60 million committed members and a further 20 million adherents. As per the latest count, there are approximately 170,000 people who have made and sustained a commitment to Christian discipleship within the Methodist Church of Great Britain and are active members of a local Methodist church.
I go to church so surely I already belong as a member of the congregation?
Yes, you do belong. But the Methodist Church also offers you the chance to show another step of commitment by being 'confirmed' and 'received into membership'. This means that there is a service in which you make promises - these are the same promises that are made when someone is baptised. A prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in that person's life is also said in both services. If you have already been confirmed in another denomination, you can be received as a Methodist member by a simple act of welcome.
What is the difference between Confirmation and being 'received into membership'?
It is important to recognise publicly a growth in your maturity as a committed Christian, and to witness to your faith, and for that to be affirmed. Confirmation does that and many denominations offer this rite. Confirmation is when you publicly confirm the promises that you made or were made on your behalf (if you were baptised as a baby). In the service the minister lays his/her hands on your head and says 'Lord, confirm [strengthen] your servant (your name) by your Holy Spirit that she/he may continue yours for ever.'
Being 'received into membership' means that you are welcomed into a particular Methodist church (i.e. usually your local church) which can support you in your discipleship and where you can support others. In the service, the minister welcomes you into membership saying: 'We receive and welcome you as a member of the Methodist Church, and of the church in this place.' The minister and a representative of the local church then shake your hand.
If you move to another Methodist church then you will not be confirmed again, though when your membership is transferred to that church, you will often be formally greeted by a handshake during a service.
Why do I need to become a 'member' in this sense?
Becoming a 'member' is a way of saying that you belong to and support your local Methodist Church and that you want to do this.
Being a member of the Methodist Church means that you can hold certain responsibilities (e.g., steward, pastoral visitor, local preacher). Only members can be on the church council or be elected to the circuit meeting, district synod or the Methodist Conference.
The promise of mutual support is one of Methodism's strengths. When you become a member a pastoral visitor or a class leader is responsible for visiting you and offering spiritual support, encouragement, and challenge.
Do I have to be a member of the Methodist Church in order to receive Holy Communion?
No. Methodists believe that Holy Communion is itself a 'means of grace' which may well draw you on to make further commitment to Christ. Children also may receive Communion.
If you or your child(ren) have not been baptised, and you do receive Communion, your minister will suggest that you consider being baptised. (The Methodist Church has produced a small colourful book, All This for You , about what baptism means in the Methodist Church, to help adults and parents of children think about what baptism means.)
If you are an adult, it may be the right time to consider membership as well, and preparation will be offered to you.
Where does the idea of 'membership' come from?
The Methodist Church used to be a religious society within the Church of England rather than a separate Church. The terminology of 'membership' and the 'membership ticket' dates from that time and has stuck.
How old do I have to be in order to become a member?
There is no minimum age at which a person can become a member of the Methodist Church. However, you do need to be able to understand the promises that you will be making in the service of Confirmation and Reception into Membership.
How do I become a member?
Talk to your minister, who will let you know what arrangements are possible locally to prepare you. There may be a group of people in the church or the circuit, who are considering membership. It is important that you have the chance to explore your own questions about Christian faith and the particular witness that is offered in the Methodist tradition.
If after the time of preparation, you still want to be confirmed and received into membership then a service will be arranged when this will take place.
What do I have to believe or say to become a member?
The Service of Confirmation and Reception into Membership includes two questions asked as an Affirmation of Faith: 'Do you turn away from evil and all that denies God?' and 'Do you turn to God, trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and in the Holy Spirit as Helper and Guide?' The answer to both questions is 'By the grace of God I do.'
Everyone present is then asked to affirm their belief and trust in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as members of the universal Church which has expressed its faith in the one God through such as the Apostles' Creed over the centuries.
After confirmation and the reception, the newly-confirmed are asked to make three promises: 'Will you commit yourself to the Christian life of worship and service, and be open to the renewing power of God?', 'Will you seek the strength of God's Spirit as you accept the cost of following Jesus Christ in your daily life?' and 'Will you witness, by word and deed, to the good news of God in Christ, and so bring glory to God?'. The response to each of these is 'With God's help I will.'
What are the obligations of membership?
The membership ticket lists commitments that members of the Methodist Church undertake:
As a member of the Methodist Church I am called to:
worship within the local church, including regular sharing in Holy Communion, and through personal prayer
learning and caring, through Bible study and meeting for fellowship, so that I may grow in faith and support others in their discipleship
service, by being a good neighbour in the community, challenging injustice and using my resources to support the Church in its mission in the world
evangelism, through working out my faith in daily life and sharing Christ with others.
What is the membership ticket?
Every member of the Methodist Church receives a membership ticket at least once a year. This is signed by your minister and give the details of your pastoral visitor or class leader.
Some members keep the card in their purse or wallet, other put in on their mantelpiece or use it as a bookmark in their Bible. It is a reminder of what you have taken on as a committed member of the Church. These commitments are described above in the answer to What are the obligations of membership?
How is my membership transferred from one Methodist Church to another?
Normally when you move from one Methodist Church to another, the minister of your old Methodist Church contacts the minister of the new church - (assuming s/he knows where you are moving to). If this does not happen, speak to the minister of your new church and they will contact your previous minister.
Often your new church will want to acknowledge your transfer of membership and formally welcome you. This may happen as part of a service during which the minister and a representative of your new church greet you with a handshake (as happens when a person is received into membership for the first time).
Grangewood Methodist Church - 30th October 2022