Being together again is a blessing! Joining the church can also be a blessing. At Covenant, we’ll “Explore Membership” together for four Sundays. On Sept. 12, 19, 26 and Oct. 3, potential new members will learn more about our vision statement and our people, and make connections that will help ensure a familiar face at future worship services and Covenant events.
Amy Skaggs, Covenant’s visitor and new member coordinator, is eager to greet class participants face-to-face. “I am so excited for this next Explore Membership class because we will finally be back in-person,” she said, adding that the last in-person class was in February 2020. “Our virtual class last fall was really fun and special but being back in person will be a little easier for the entire class to bond.”
At a recent worship service, Covenant Pastor Thomas Daniel emphasized that Explore Membership participants will learn about three spiritual practices, and explained how they connect to our vision. “If you’re interested in our new member class, we will be teaching about our vision statement: Encouraging one another to follow Jesus wherever we live, work, and play,” Thomas said. Through the class, leaders and participants will be able to answer the question: How do we live that out? What does it mean to be that kind of community?
“We don’t give values or words, or things to espouse to. We give behaviors; we give habits and patterns,” he explained. “There are three biblical patterns and behaviors that every one of us needs to be following. The first is the habit and behavior of solitude. What does it mean to be still and know God? Number two is the habit of community, of life-giving community. We talk about what it means to do life together in a community, not just be part of a crowd.”
The third behavior Explore Membership participants will learn about is service. Thomas said, “We are called to be part of the bigger thing that God is doing in the world.”
Thomas used the analogy of a three-legged stool. “All of us need each one of these practices for the stool to be stable. That’s how we’re formed,” he said.
Explore Membership is structured to dive into each of these three practices of solitude, community and service. Amy said, “Each week, one of the Covenant pastors joins the group to discuss a practice. We also have our fun, speed-dating activity where class participants get to see some different ways that they can connect at Covenant. And our small group time at the end of each class really helps participants get to know each other.”
Through speed dating, small groups of new members meet for about five minutes with each of 10 different veteran members who are instrumental in key programs and ministries.
“Participants love speed dating,” Amy said. “They leave knowing more about service and participation opportunities at Covenant and around Austin, and they get to meet the people at Covenant who are involved. It’s an all-around win for everyone!”
Amy said those who took the Explore Membership class virtually will be invited to join the speed-dating activity.
Small group time is also valuable. “Small groups are key for making connections,” Amy said. “We had the best small group leaders helping with our class — Laura Tuma, Kathryn Sedberry, Whitney Bell, and Pansy and Elliot Flick. They have such a beautiful way of making everyone feel comfortable. These small group leaders become friends and mentors to our class participants during class and beyond. Covenant is so lucky that they are always willing to jump in and share their gifts.”
Kathryn has helped with the class many times. “Amy's genuine excitement and commitment to providing a meaningful experience for each participant sets the stage beautifully for a comfortable and meaningful time together. The first half of each evening provides participants the opportunity to hear from one of our pastors in a relaxed, interactive setting, followed by small group time,” she said.
“When leaving the class, our new members have friendly faces to check in with on Sunday morning and sometimes during the week as well,” Amy said. “That’s my favorite thing about Explore Membership — the relationships that are made within the class.
“I think new members share that perspective. They leave feeling like they have made connections at Covenant as well as having ways in which they can jump in and serve. And with our emphasis on our key practices, attendees are also leaving with a sense of what it means to encourage one another to follow Jesus wherever they live, work, and play.”
There’s no standard Explore Membership participant. Class members are intergenerational; Amy loves that. “Relationships that have developed in the class between the different generations have been so rewarding to witness,” she said.
Amy added, “I am always sad when our class session comes to an end because it is easy for me to get attached to each group. I love how everyone is so different, but we are all trying to deepen our relationship with God.”
Explore Membership starts Sunday, Sept. 12, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Participants will have the option to join after the final class on Oct. 3. Childcare and Sunday school are available during class time. Sign up and learn more here.