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 (ie: 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 members 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.
The Methodist Church has produced a small colourful book, Called by Name about what it means to be a member of the Methodist Church.
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.