28 May 2010
In our new Family, we will no longer have any divisions of membership. Instead, Family membership will encompass all current Family members (FD/MM/FM/AM) who wish to transition into the future Family. (GMs will also be eligible if they wish to fulfill the membership requirements. More on that below. Details on how an AM transitions will be explained in a document coming soon.)
Our goal in implementing this change in membership structure and requirements is to foster an environment that is inclusive of all forms of commitment to the Lord’s service and participation in the mission, as explained in “Blueprint for the Future.”
While there will continue to be requirements and expectations for members—as listed in “TFI membership expectations” below—they will be much simpler than they are today. There will be no detailed lifestyle or spiritual requirements that Family members must adhere to, or that leadership will monitor and enforce.
Peter and Maria:
Although our former categories of membership were born of good intentions, served a purpose, and have had some positive outcomes, they have also resulted in some negative repercussions. For example, the MM category was created as a positive place of service, to allow those who needed to tend to family matters, or who no longer wanted to live communally, or who desired more autonomy, to be able to do so, and still be an active part of the Family. However, the MM category came to be perceived by many as somewhat of a negative or a lesser place of service.
Try as we did to promote camaraderie, a united Family spirit, and the enduring truth that the Lord looks at our hearts and doesn’t judge us by our category of membership, there have been some unfortunate consequences of having membership levels—such as judgmental attitudes, labeling, feelings of inferiority and superiority, exclusivity, condemnation, discouragement, self-righteousness, etc. Sadly, some of our Family members have felt separated or ostracized.
We’ve received heartrending letters over the years, in which Family members have expressed the hurt they have felt as a result of negative attitudes and perspectives connected to membership levels. Individuals have expressed to us that they have felt left out or misunderstood by others, or unloved by the Lord and others, or condemned because they have needed to move to a different category of membership. This has been very sad to hear.
Our culture and structure has encouraged the thinking that certain categories of membership are better than others. Judging and comparing has been the unfortunate result of the requirements and rules that governed the various membership levels. This was exacerbated by the fact that FD homes were moved to MM when they failed the FD Home review and MM homes were moved to FM when they failed the MM Home review.
We need to eliminate judgmentalism and exclusivity from our culture. We must all do our part to ensure that our culture will be inclusive, accommodating, and welcoming of all those who want to serve the Lord with us.
We must make this change if we’re to build stronger bonds of camaraderie with our existing members, welcome new members, become more inclusive of our friends and associates, and achieve greater success in the mission. We need to eradicate the negative mindsets that have stemmed in part from—or at least been fed by—the membership levels we have had.
We need to be more like Jesus, looking at people’s hearts and not at their status; celebrating their love for Him, their devotion to Him, their sincere desire to do their best to please the Lord. We need to manifest more Christlike attitudes. We want to make it easier for people—whether they are members or not—to become a part of us, to work alongside us, toward the furtherance of our mutual goals.
Removing the membership categories is a practical application of the counsel expressed in “Fresh New Mindsets” as well as “Backtracking Through TFI History” and “Blueprint for the Future,” regarding creating an inclusive culture. Although we have made progress over these past years, the hope is that this membership change will help us to fully embrace the mindsets we need in order to make this welcoming and supportive atmosphere a reality.
Here are excerpts of what Peter said in “Fresh New Mindsets.” You’ll see how it connects to the membership change today, and how it will help us to practically achieve some of these goals.
In order for us to have an expanded Family, we’re going to have to take on a much more inclusive, welcoming mindset. We need a culture change. We need to look at all [members] as important, and each person in the Family as the vital comrade in arms that they are. They are our friends, co-workers, and part of our team of the united, inclusive, welcoming, loving Family.
We need to be willing to embrace new disciples and welcome them … even if they haven’t had as much training as a long-time Family member, or maybe don’t know as much about the Word.
You long-time Family members need to reach out to our future new members and new disciples and bring them along. You need to make them feel a part, loved, needed, and truly on par with you, and able to do the job right alongside you. That’s the vision. That’s what we’re aiming for.
You can’t hold our new members or laborers at arm’s length, waiting for the day when you feel they're “deserving” enough to be brought into your circle of trust. You have to start by welcoming them into that circle of trust from day one, and treat them as a part of you, a part of your team, because they are. They are the ones who are going to help you to win the world.
I’m talking about more than being “friendly” or even “accepting.” We need to take it a whole lot further than that. The members of the future, or whatever other members or disciples you interact with, are going to be close to you; they’re going to be your friends and co-workers. Maybe you’ll even get married to one of them. I’m talking about truly embracing. This goes way beyond having “nice attitudes” or being a “good example.”
We have to break down the walls that we have built, whether subconsciously or consciously, and radically change things for the better.
We’ve got to wipe out any self-righteousness that exists, any criticalness, distrust, superiority or inferiority. We are one team, one Family. We are expanding the Family. We need to look at how we can create an atmosphere that draws people in rather than pushing them away—and the way to do that is to make sure our mindsets and attitudes are right, that we’re humble, that we’re welcoming, that we’re like Jesus.
We need more help, more manpower, more support, more assistance, not less. We aren’t the all-in-all. The Family of today is not doing the trick. We need a bigger, better, stronger, more expanded Family, and that means more members. In order to get them, some of us are going to have to get off our high horses and take on a bit more humility. Are we blowing up bridges or are we building them?
Our mindsets need to change to become much more like, “Thank you for joining forces with us. We need you. We are honored to have you here and fighting by our side.”—Rather than some kind of elitist attitude that makes people feel like we’re doing them a favor by allowing them to be a part of us. If we have that attitude, we’re never going to get the help we need, and I wouldn’t blame people for not wanting to join an exclusive, narrow-minded group.
Would you want to join a Christian group where you were segregated and made to feel that you weren’t part of the “elite” or the “in” crowd? Would you want to join the Family if you were made to feel like you were so far behind that it would take you years and years to prove yourself, to get to the point where you’d be trusted and given responsibility, and when you’d feel truly a part? I sure wouldn’t.
So we’ve got to kill any mindsets of rigidity, intolerance, condescension, and self-righteousness. We need the new members of the future! We ought to be getting down on our hands and knees and thanking them for being willing to help us in whatever way they can.
It’s a sacrifice. It’s hard. It’s tough. The least we can do is show them our respect and welcome them completely, wholeheartedly, and humbly. It boils down to love: giving others—our new members and laborers and supporters of the future, as well as Family members—the same kind of love and respect that we would want ourselves, if we were in their shoes.
We need a whole lot more good old-fashioned love! Basically, we all need to be more like Jesus, Who loves each person unconditionally, will use anyone to be His vessel, and wants us all to work together in cooperation, respect, and camaraderie.1
Within our egalitarian membership, we will celebrate all types of participation—those who have been selfless missionaries for years, and those who have more recently joined with us in our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. Every member is valued because each one has answered the call to serve.
Those who have given their lives in service to Jesus and others for many years are honored and esteemed for their sacrificial love and labors, and respected for their missionary experience and understanding of spiritual principles. Those who have recently chosen to serve the Lord with us—and any who join us in the future—contribute new blood to our organization. They are appreciated and respected for their energy and fresh perspective.
It is the personal responsibility of members to determine the life choices that are right for them, to decide how they will answer the Lord’s call to share His love and salvation with others, how they will engage in the mission. What we each give to the Lord and to others, what service options we choose, are personal choices that should be made according to what the Lord shows us He desires from us, according to our faith and according to the gifts God has given us. It is up to each of us to hear the Lord’s personal call in our hearts to serve Him in the way that He desires, and then to fulfill His call to the best of our ability.
The need for service to the Lord hasn’t diminished. The job of changing the world, one heart at a time, is as pressing as ever. Fulfilling the mission is our aim as a Family and is one of the main reasons for this change in membership categories. “We need many more laborers and co-workers to help us in disseminating the seeds of God’s Word and reaping the harvest. There’s no way that the Family population of today will be able to achieve this without many hundreds and thousands more working alongside us.”2
We are simplifying the membership requirements so that those who wish to be part of the Family can easily do so. We want to draw a broad circle around as many as we can, as many who wish to assist us in our mission. Family members will give their time and resources toward the mission to varying degrees, according to their personal faith, means and abilities; but we will all be working together for the common cause of fulfilling the mission, as we strive to create an inclusive and supportive environment.
We need to foster a spirit of appreciation and encouragement for whatever each person gives. All who are willing to give any of their time and resources to the mission should feel welcome; the Family should be a platform from which they can make their contribution, whether it’s large or small, to changing the world with God’s love. Everyone who serves Jesus and others should be valued and respected.
The goal is to be more like Jesus in the way that we view other Family members—willing to take people where they’re at, eager to value them and to work together with them. This same spirit of love and acceptance should be extended to nonmembers as well; there will be many that we will work or associate with who may never choose to be members.
The Lord’s arms are wide open, and His love is limitless and accepting of everyone right where they’re at. Let’s partake of and manifest more of His all-encompassing love that values the contributions of all.
The goals behind simplifying TFI membership
The main goals behind simplifying TFI membership requirements are: 1) to promote greater inclusiveness, so that people can more easily be a part of the Family and contribute to the mission; and 2) to provide Family members with more options and freedom to follow their faith in fulfilling the mission and the personal calling and burdens the Lord gives them. The aim is to open wide the doors of the Family, making it easier for others to start on the path of discipleship with us, and in doing so, to come to know the satisfaction that results from having a deeper personal relationship with Jesus and sharing that joy with others.
For Christians, spiritual growth, dedication, and discipleship form a lifelong path. Thus a person’s entry into Family membership can be considered a point from which they will grow spiritually and develop their relationship with the Lord and find His will for their life as they progress, whether they opt for a leisurely walk down the path, or immediately begin running, or anything in between.
If their aims, values, and beliefs align with ours, if they want to embrace or grow into our faith, and participate in and facilitate the mission in some way, and we have the means to help them grow in their spiritual life, then shouldn’t we welcome them and provide a respected place for them in our fellowship?
There are people in the world today who love the Lord, study His Word, and want to witness and be part of us, but perhaps would not be ready to forsake all their earthly possessions, or submit to a variety of spiritual or practical lifestyle requirements, or move into a structured communal home, or pledge to embrace every Family belief (as articulated in “Statement of Faith of the Family International”). But if they want to learn about and partake of our faith, be part of our fellowship, and help us change the world with Jesus’ love and message, then we want to make it possible for such people to join the Family as equal participants in our faith and work.
One of our goals is to have an ever-expanding network of both professional missionaries and contributors who are passionate about the mission, passionate in their love for the Lord, and willing to give some, or a lot, or all of their time, energy, and resources to fulfilling the mission and sharing His truth and love with others. We need many more people who will help us to witness, win, and teach others to do the same.
Even though we are letting go of many of our present membership requirements, we are by no means relinquishing our desire to teach and win disciples. Rather, we are enhancing our ability to do so. Broadening our perspective allows anyone who wants to follow Jesus—or, in other words, to be a disciple—with the Family to do so more easily.
Family membership is still for disciples and is made up of disciples—people who hear Jesus’ voice and are willing to follow Him, live His love, and share His Gospel with others. As new members begin to live their discipleship according to their personal faith, it’s our hope that this will be the start of greater dedication, commitment, and action for Jesus, which will be manifested over time.
The more people we join efforts with, whether they are Family members or part of an even larger network of acquaintances, friends, and supporters, the more we will gain and learn. The further we extend the circle of love, faith, and spiritual fellowship that draws others in, the more it will help them to grow spiritually, positively influence their lives, and motivate them to continue the ripple effect of reaching out. We’re not after numbers simply for numbers’ sake; but the greater our network, the greater our capacity will be, in terms of personnel and resources to work with and draw from—resulting, by God’s grace, in greater fruitfulness and success in our mission.
Simplifying our membership requirements is putting the cookies on a lower shelf so that more people can reach them. If more people are able to get to the cookies and see that they like them, with time our membership will broaden, and we will be advantaged by the assistance of more like-minded individuals banding together with us to bring Jesus’ message of love to this world.
Those members FD through AM are automatically part of the new Family membership. Those who are General members are also invited to transition into new Family membership if they choose to fulfill the new membership requirements. (The new membership requirements are greatly simplified compared to what has been required of FD through FM, but are still more extensive than the requirements for General membership.) Or, if they prefer to continue as friends, associates, or partners of the Family and your mission work, contributing and participating in whatever way they wish, we welcome them in that capacity as well.
Some General members might want to become a part of the new Family right away; others might want to in time, or not at all. Of course, if they choose to be Family members from this point onward, you would naturally continue to minister to them spiritually as you have been and help them to grow in faith.
(There will be an official explanation—coming after the reboot—available for your use if you need assistance in explaining the membership changes to your General members.)
TFI membership expectations
(Please see the Charter section on membership for the official wording on these points and further details.)
If people wish to become TFI members, prior to doing so they will:
- Receive Jesus as their Savior.
- Be of the minimum age for membership or older. The minimum age at which a person can be a member of the Family International is 16 with parental permission (from at least one parent), or 18 years of age.
- Acquire a basic understanding of what the Family is. While a prospective member doesn’t need to know each turn and detail of the Family’s history, there should be transparency on key points: They should be aware that we have unique and unorthodox aspects to our theology, a colorful, controversial history, and that we have experienced religious persecution. (This is covered in “Introducing the Family International,” an updated version of which you can expect to receive post-reboot.)
- Understand the responsibilities of members, as articulated in the Charter.
- Complete a short reading course that will introduce them to some of the fundamentals of our faith. This reading course is something a prospective member could read through within a few weeks or less, if that person's intention is to quickly become a Family member. People can study the material on their own, or it could be taught to them in classes. Prospective members would not be limited to only reading this short course before they become members; it’s simply the minimum expectation prior to membership. (Since the new pre-membership reading course is not yet ready, there will be an interim list of material that prospective members can read for this purpose.)
While the membership requirements are simplified, the means for new members to grow in faith and in the knowledge of Christian doctrine (covered in the 12 Foundation Stones) and Family beliefs (covered in Connexions, 12 Bridges, Rolled Gold, etc.) will be available. The importance of feeding those we’re ministering to has not changed, nor has the fact that people who become TFI members should strive to grow spiritually. We’re simply making it possible for people to become members at an earlier stage if they want to; from there they can (and will be encouraged to) continue on the path of spiritual development and progress at their own pace.
Until now, a lot of Word and training was given to people before they became members. This helped to ensure that all members were at least at a certain level of knowledge and understanding of the Word, were developing their relationship with the Lord, knew the basics of Family history, etc. Now it will be possible for people to become members at an earlier stage, and to get further Word and training, and grow more in their relationship with the Lord or their ability to participate in and facilitate the mission, after they become members. (Some prospective members may choose to become members fairly quickly, while others may prefer to be ministered to spiritually for some time before considering the option of membership.)
The 12 Foundation Stones course (and the other feeding materials and courses) remain available for use in feeding your flock and new members, to help to provide them with the basics in their spiritual growth, and to assist them in their understanding of the publications and materials for Family members. (We will be updating our training courses and documents for new members, in light of the changes that we’re undergoing now, but it will be some time before new versions are released. You can continue to use the current versions in the meantime.)
Following are TFI’s membership responsibilities/expectations:
- Accept the “Statement of Faith of the Family International” and the “Core Values of the Family International,” and commit to grow in belief and practice of the same.
Members are to be aware of and accept our Statement of Faith, but they will not lose their membership if they do not embrace or practice every doctrine listed therein; practicing every doctrine listed in the Statement of Faith is not a requirement for membership. (More on this below, in the section “TFI’s Statement of Faith.”)
- Participate in and facilitate the mission of the Family.
We will encourage and promote dedication to serving the Lord and participating in and facilitating the mission, accepting that members will give as much as they are willing or able to. But there are no minimums, measurements, or time requirements attached to how a person fulfills the mission. Any mission-related activities that TFI members engage in should be in keeping with the “Professional Standard for TFI Member Works.” (See “TFI Member Works.”)
- Strive to maintain a close connection with the Lord through reading the Word and communing with Him.
- Conduct oneself ethically and with integrity, avoiding activities that reflect negatively on the Family International or its mission.
- Tithe (give 10 percent of their income) monthly, or give a financial contribution monthly, either directly to WS, or to a member who tithes to WS (as in the case of those that you are ministering to who give/tithe to your work, who are formerly Active or General members, or who become members in the future).
16- or 17-year-olds who have received parental permission to be members would need to meet the same requirements as all other members, including giving/tithing, unless they have no personal income, in which case they would not be expected to tithe or give financially. (See more on this in “Tithing and Giving.”)
- Report monthly, either directly or by being accounted for on the report of another member. (See more on this in the “Reporting” section below.)
There will be position papers outlining TFI’s official views on various doctrinal, policy, and moral issues. These serve the purpose of making TFI’s stance on important issues clear to members and the public alike. These position papers will assist members, especially new members, in better understanding the values and principles that are important to the Family.
The Charter also outlines the responsibilities for parents and members in relation to the care and protection of children.
The Family as an organization will not bear responsibility for members’ choices and actions concerning their personal lives. As is the case for all members of society, Family members are subject to the laws of the land in which they live. (See the section on civic responsibilities in “Lifestyle,” where these responsibilities are explained more fully.)
Family members are encouraged to be sensitive and respectful of the customs and culture of the land in which they are living or serving, both in their mission-related actions and activities and in their lifestyle choices.
TFI's Statement of Faith
As stated in the section on core beliefs in “Blueprint for the Future,” the Family is a faith-based organization. We have doctrines that identify our Christian community and bond us together in a common faith. Understanding and accepting that we are a fellowship of believers is part of what it means to be a member of the Family. When people choose to become Family members, they are choosing to adopt the Family’s collective beliefs that define our faith.
The “Statement of Faith of the Family International” expresses our core beliefs. Members aren’t required to affirm or practice every belief listed. However, it’s understood that those who choose to be members of the Family have determined that the majority of the Family’s doctrines are ones that they also accept and feel an affinity with. Members might not fully understand or be prepared to practice every aspect of Christian theology or Family beliefs, yet they would be supportive of the Family’s faith and choose to practice, or to grow into understanding and practicing, the Family’s faith.
Some of the Family’s beliefs are basic and common to most Christians, such as salvation (and receiving salvation is a requirement for membership). Other beliefs, such as the keys of the Kingdom, are doctrines specific to the Family. There is flexibility for members to grow in understanding our beliefs in the Statement of Faith. This is part of making it possible for those at varying levels of faith and commitment to progress along the path of discipleship at their own pace.
If a Family member comes to a point where they find that their beliefs are not in accord with the Family’s beliefs, they are of course free to discontinue their Family membership and travel a path that they feel fits better with their personal faith, conviction, and belief system.
What’s important is that current (and future) Family members know where their personal faith lies, and that they nurture their faith, so that they can live an active Christian life, with an emphasis on sharing that faith with others as they’re able. (See more on this topic in the upcoming series addressing the Word.)
You’ll find more details on the specifics for the reporting process and timing in “Reporting and Statistics,” but here is some information in brief:
- TFI members will continue to report monthly. There is a new reporting procedure that is greatly simplified, automated, and online only.
- The reporting is conducted on a new reporting site; you’ll use your personal TFI member login to access it.
- The reporting structure is set up so that you will be able to report either individually or collectively (as a home or team).
- Present-day AMs (and GMs who choose to be part of the new Family membership) can sign up for a member’s account after September 1, 2010. Prior to that date, we will let you know the process for them to sign up for their account. In the meantime, they remain members of the Family, though they don’t yet have a member’s account.
- The first reporting period using this new method will be June 2010. (The use of the new reporting site will be optional for June through August—as the current reporting options will still be available until that point—and required in September.)
Loss of TFI membership
In situations where a member’s actions or conduct are harmful or damaging to Family members, TFI member works, or the organization of the Family International, he or she will be in jeopardy of losing his or her membership.
Loss of membership is not permanent. Once members have rectified the situation that warranted loss of membership, if they want to regain their membership, they may request reinstatement.
There are also certain offenses that would warrant excommunication. Excommunication from TFI membership will be permanent, as the offenses warranting excommunication are such that TFI would not allow that person membership at any time.
Actions that can result in loss of TFI membership include:
- Persistent contravention of the responsibilities of TFI members (as outlined in “The Charter of the Family International”).
- Engaging in conduct or activities damaging to TFI member works or communities, or TFI’s overall mission.
(See “Membership Accountability” for more on the topic of membership disqualifiers, actions that will result in excommunication from TFI, and other disciplinary points and related procedures.)
Children and teens of members
Children and teens of TFI members will be considered “children of members” rather than automatically being counted as members themselves. This will more accurately reflect our membership numbers.
This change does not minimize the importance that has been placed on raising and training our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That remains an important focus in parenting and childrearing. TFI, as an organization, will continue to provide spiritual feeding for members’ children and teenagers. Though we are not counting them as “TFI members” in our official statistics, we continue to consider our children and teens to be an important part of our community of love and faith, just as they always have been.
The intent of this change is to address the need for children and teens of TFI members to feel at liberty to personally determine, when they are of age, whether they would like to become Family members, and if so, when. This is preferable to children/teens of members automatically being considered “TFI members” while growing up, and then having to discontinue their membership or “leave the Family” if they choose not to be members.
When teenagers turn 16, if they obtain parental permission, they can determine whether they would like to be a Family member and begin fulfilling TFI membership requirements. They can also make this choice at a later age, as they wish. There would be no underlying expectation or pressure for them to do so. This choice belongs to the teenager/young adult.
In the future we would like to provide an option of recognition for teenagers (under age 16) who, of their own volition, would like to be self-declared “members of TFI’s faith,” but are not yet old enough to be Family members. This would provide an option through which teenagers can be recognized for their personal commitment to TFI’s faith.
We haven’t yet defined what this option for young teens would be, what could be provided for them, or how they could be officially recognized. When this is looked at, we hope to solicit your input regarding whether this option would be of benefit, what, if any, structure it should have, and what would make this a meaningful option for our teenagers.
All children/teens of members will continue to have access to the material, publications, and websites that TFI makes available for their age group. (See “New Sites and Online Services.”)
These changes in TFI membership take us another step forward in actualizing what was said in “The Mission”:
The Family is an equal opportunity organization when it comes to serving the Lord. Each Family member has equal opportunity to give as he “purposeth in his heart” (2Corinthians 9:7), according to what he considers before the Lord to be the best of his ability, or what he is willing to give.
If you want to serve full-time, whether as part of a communal Home, or living alone but working with other Family members; if you want to serve part-time; if you want to serve by supporting and aiding the Family through your tithe, donations of material goods, contributions of other resources, or influence in the community, we welcome you! We are glad to serve the Lord with you!
We accept whatever you want to give to the immediate and long-term success of the Family’s mission. Whether you want to primarily participate in the mission or facilitate the mission, there’s a place for you in the Family. The Lord knows your heart, your personal circumstances, and your capacity to give of yourself, and/or most or part of your time or resources, to His work.
All Family members, and many of the people you will meet, have the potential to contribute something to the mission. Some will be called to give their lives to the mission full-time, others will be called part-time, or as supporters or patrons. Our prayer and goal is that we will make room for and utilize the energy, potential, and abilities of anyone and everyone who is willing to help. We need each of you! Jesus needs—and will use—all that you want to give Him!3
Let’s personally determine to give Jesus whatever He is asking of us in His service. Let’s all work to make the Family an inclusive environment, where the gifts and talents of each person are valued, where contributions of all kinds are welcomed, and where every person feels that what they have to give is appreciated and can make a difference in the Family’s mission and in their part of the world.
Copyright © 2010 by The Family International