A Look at Sammamish Presbyterian’s New Member Explosion
By Aaron Willett, SeaPres Communications
Earlier this year, the whole congregation of Sammamish Presbyterian Church spent four weeks gathering for worship and a new members class—simultaneously. Senior Pastor Rev. Jeff Lincicome hatched an innovative plan with the staff to offer a new member’s class as a sermon series. The result? 78 new members joined the church in a culminating ceremony where all members, new and old, were asked to re-up their commitment to Be the Church. Along the way their pastoral staff, elders and deacons were all called upon to carry the banner, reaching out to these new members with open arms.
Rev. Chris Griggs, Associate Pastor of Adult Discipleship, recalls, “Jeff came up with the idea of taking the content of a new membership class and building a sermon series around it. He called the sermon series Be the Church and asked what does it mean for us to be people of faith, to be connected to followers of Jesus Christ throughout time and all over the world? What does it mean for us to live that out in a particular congregation? What does it mean for us to use our gifts in ministry, and what does it mean to make a commitment to do that together in a body? We gave everyone in the congregation a chance to say, ‘I’m in. God has called me to be a part of the body of Christ in this time and this place, and I’m committing to live my life as part of this body of Christ.’”
The impetus was a simple desire to remind the whole congregation what it means to be church together. Senior Pastor Rev. Jeff Lincicome saw the potential to merge that with their new members class. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we do something different? Why don’t we [take] what we teach in new member’s classes and turn it into a sermon series?’” The idea met two crucial and often ignored needs: To refresh long-time members, and appeal to the busy schedules of regular attenders who struggle to find time for a new member’s class. According to Jeff, “The reality is that we have people who have been here for twenty years [without] a new members class. It would give them a chance to review and maybe even re-up their commitment—to say ‘Hey, you know what? I joined this church a long time ago, but I’m going to re-join this church.’” On the other side of that coin are those who have struggled to find the time: “We have some folks who we’ve been sending letters about new members classes every year for six years, and they just can’t do it. It just doesn’t work for them.”