Words Matter: Membership or Partnership


Most of our WELS congregations use the term members to describe the people have committed to being  connected with the church.  But what does  membership really mean?  How does the word “membership or partnership” impact people’s understanding of the need to serve in our churches?

Consider other organization or place where you can have a membership.

  • Gym
  • Country Club
  • Library
  • Swimming Pool

In my mind, all these places and their membership imply that they are going to provide me with services.

The gym will be clean and have exercise equipment.  The country club gives me status and a group of people I want to be associated with.  The library provides books and other materials for me. The swimming pool is a place where I can hang out with my family, have fun, relax and recharge.

All of these memberships allow me to determine how involved I want to be or how often I want to use their services. The message here is these organizations provide a service to me and I might pay membership dues- but I certainly don’t have to do any work.

Now, what does the word partnership convey to you?  

Partnership, to me means that they have a part to play- a committed part. An important part that is not optional but that requires serious commitment, investment and action.  When you are a partner in marriage or a law firm you also receive benefits like support, being part of something.

What differences do you see between membership and partnership? Isn’t the church designed to be a place where you come to receive knowledge about Jesus, and to grow in relationship with Him and other believers but also a place to give back out of thanks and gratitude for what Jesus has done in worship and service to others?

“Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

What type of commitment is there at your church- church membership or church partnership?

Words matter. 

Choose your words carefully otherwise you may get exactly what you asked for.


  1. Reply
    Annette Diener says:

    Such a wonderful perspective of partnership!

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