Since there is no minimum age for public profession of faith, it’s common for young teens to be ready to affirm their baptism but not yet ready to enter into all the privileges and responsibilities of confessing membership.
As defined by the Church Order, confessing membership conveys the privileges of
presenting children for baptism.
voting at congregational meetings.
holding church office.
In addition, the responsibilities of confessing membership “include full participation in the work, life, and mutual discipline of the local congregation and the universal body of Christ” (Church Order, Art. 59-c).
The CRC’s Church Order Article 59 clearly states that persons who make public profession of faith “shall be designated as ‘confessing members.’” But if a person publicly professes his or her faith at age 14, how and when do they make the transition to receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership?
What’s the Right Age?
The Church Order used to define age 18 as the time when a confessing member should be “accorded the full rights and privileges of [adult] membership” (Church Order 2010, Art. 59-b). Synod 2011 amended that requirement, saying, “Each congregation shall determine the appropriate age at which a confessing member shall receive such privileges and responsibilities” (Church Order 2011, Supplement Art. 59-c).
If your church has not yet defined the age for receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership, this discussion should be a priority at your next council meeting.
We at Faith Formation Ministries suggest that churches consider age 16 as the minimum age for receiving the privileges and responsibilities of confessing membership. Here’s why:
By age 16, the gifts that God has given young people are evident. Churches should call and equip young people to use those gifts in service to God and others.
Setting age 16 as the minimum for confessing membership allows teens at least two full years of deeper engagement with their congregation before they finish high school and leave for college or embark on a career.
This deeper engagement could help reverse the trend of increasing numbers of young adults leaving the church.
Typical 16-year-olds are fully capable of understanding the issues addressed in congregational meetings.
Committed 16-year-olds are eager to put their faith into action.
Celebrating Entrance into Confessing Membership
When someone who has made a prior public profession of faith reaches the age your church has set for receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership, recognize that milestone publicly. Create traditions to celebrate briefly with them during the worship service.
Each month (whenever applicable), recognize all professing members who have just reached the age your church has set for receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership. Encourage the members of your congregation to (1) recognize the gifts that these individuals have been given by God and (2) provide opportunities for those people to use their gifts in ministry.
Annually remind your church’s various leadership teams to extend invitations to new confessing members.
Present a copy of the book I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Ranier. The author writes from a Baptist background, but this book applies significantly to members of the CRC as well. Ranier encourages people to be functioning, unifying members who support their congregation and see membership as a gift.
Provide the person with offering envelopes, a church mailbox, and other things that are usually provided to confessing members with full privileges and responsibilities.