Inactive members are those members of the congregation who have voluntarily stopped attending worship services. The reasons that members choose to stop attending worship services (and the other activities of the congregation) vary from becoming busy with other things to experiencing a significant hurt related to the congregation. In most cases, the reasons a person has for being absent are not known by the pastor or other congregational leaders.
Inactive members fall into two categories. Long-term inactive members have been absent from worship for six months or more. It is not unusual for a congregation to have members who have been absent for years and, in some cases, even decades. Short-term inactive members are members who have been absent for a relatively short time, typically six weeks to six months.
Engaging inactive members can be challenging. Congregations typically assign the responsibility for inactive members to the Board of Elders (or equivalent) in their Constitution or By-laws. Although the usual guidance for classifying and dealing with inactive members is administrative, engaging inactive members is a spiritual concern that should always be conducted with the mindset that our inactive members are at great risk by being away from Christ’s good gifts given through the local altar and pulpit.
Shepherding Our Strays
The LCMS Office of National Mission has developed a resource to equip congregational leaders and members to respond to the challenges of engaging inactive members. Called Shepherding Our Strays (SOS), this resource is much more than a checklist for “cleaning up the rolls” or “clearing out the deadwood,” SOS provides congregations with practical processes and useful tools for intentionally reaching out to inactive members with the care and compassion of Christ.
SOS is a module in the re:Vitality suite of resources. It can be used in conjunction with other re:Vitality resources or as a standalone resource. It includes a congregation-wide Bible study and a workshop for the leaders and members of the congregation who will be creating and executing plans for engaging short-term and long-term inactive members.
Using the workshop leader’s guide, a person from the congregation can serve as the workshop facilitator. No outside assistance is required. The leader’s guide can be downloaded for review and preparation. It includes the information needed to order workshop materials.
Additional information about SOS and assistance with SOS workshop materials is available by emailing WOR@lcms.org