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What If Your Church Were More Like Rotary?

I’ve been a Rotarian now since 1996. Rotary is an international service organization. Our motto is “Service Above Self.”
In most cities around the world, you can find Rotarians meeting once a week, all seeking to make the world a better place to live. 

We strive to live a life of integrity and one of the ways we do this is through applying a four-way test of the things we think, say and do.

So, we ask ourselves these questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendship? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

As a pastor, I have sometimes wished that the church were a little bit more like Rotary in the following ways.

1. Accountable

From the beginning of membership, Rotarians emphasize that your presence is expected. An “inactive Rotarian” is really an oxymoron.

Rotarians are either committed to service or they are not members. Therefore, Rotarians are encouraged to make up meetings.

We are not legalistic about it, but members are encouraged to attend another meeting in another community or make up a meeting online. These makeup meetings are logged and announced at meetings.

However, most churches have members that the FBI couldn’t find. For many, the idea of being committed to the church with one’s attendance is a foreign concept. Many want to belong but without obligation.

It was Jesus’ custom to worship regularly at the synagogue. The Apostle Paul said that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25).

What would happen if the church held her members more accountable for attendance?

2. Dues Expected

Everyone pays his or her dues in Rotary. It seems that the church is one of the few organizations anywhere that a person can be a member and reap all the benefits and services and never pay a dime to belong.

While assessing dues isn’t quite the answer here, it seems that part of any orientation to membership should include a clear expectation of consistent monetary giving. It’s part of being a disciple of Jesus.

When a gap in monetary giving occurs over many months, it may be an indication that something has disrupted the relationship between the member and the church.

3. Outreach Minded

Rotarians will invite other business leaders to a Rotary meeting and sponsor them as new members. That should happen in the church as it does in Rotary.

Of course, church membership is based on much different criteria. However, more people who join the church ought to be able to look in the congregation and pick out their “sponsor,” those people who introduced them to Jesus and the church.

4. Purpose Driven

People who join Rotary usually know why they are Rotarians and can tell someone else why they should consider becoming a Rotarian.

Businessmen and women have very little free time. They will not waste their time or money on an organization that is not making a difference in their community or world.

While each Rotarian may answer a little differently the reason he or she is a Rotarian, each one knows why he or she belongs to Rotary and can repeat it to others.

If Christians cannot adequately and succinctly state why they are Christians or why they are members of a particular church, how can they convince others?

5. Great Relationships

Rotarians laugh and enjoy each other’s company. There’s little bickering, few struggles for power or demeaning comments.

There is a strong emphasis on looking on the bright side of life and celebrating the good things that have happened in our lives.

Comparatively, a lot of what you hear in many churches is bad news. You leave more depressed than you arrived because you hear a long list of problems and needs that are not balanced with any praises or celebrations in people’s lives.

Combine this with a little conflict, and a few people jockeying for power and control, and it’s little wonder why people choose to stay away.

6. Name Tags

Rotarians always wear name tags. A club might only have 25 members but its members will still wear name tags. Names are important to us.

Some people in church will avoid speaking to others because they don’t know names. Members are sometimes afraid to introduce themselves in fear they might be speaking to another member. So, to avoid potential embarrassment, they don’t speak to anyone and appear unfriendly.

What if we all wore name tags? Fred Craddock’s church did that at Cherry Log Church.

If churches were more like Rotary in these ways would there be more accountability with both our attendance and our finances?

Would we be more outreach-minded and more purpose-driven?

Would we be more focused on developing great relationships with each other, which includes knowing each other’s names?

If so, that would mean the church would have to change. Change?

Now what was that Rotary motto?

Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Ga. This column first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.