Membership in the RCA

As Christians, we primarily belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1). We can also belong to a local church, a community of faith where we worship, take part in the sacraments of communion and baptism, hear God’s Word, and serve each other and our neighbors. When that local church is part of a larger body, like the Reformed Church in America, joining one means being part of the other.

How to join a local church

The Reformed Church in America is a fellowship of congregations, essentially a family of churches. People join the denomination by becoming members of a local RCA church (or, in the case of ministers of Word and sacrament, by becoming ordained; their membership is held at a classis rather than a church).

Find an RCA church in your area

There are a few categories of membership:

Baptized members

The RCA believes in infant baptism, so there’s a special category of membership for people who are baptized but have not yet publicly claimed Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Confessing members

Confessing members have been baptized and have professed or reaffirmed their faith before a board of elders. If they’ve done this at another church, they can also transfer their membership to an RCA congregation. They are active in the church, including hearing God’s Word and participating in the Lord’s Supper.

Adherents

Adherents are the people who participate in the life, work, and worship of the church, but are not members.

What the RCA believes

The RCA is shaped by Reformed theology. Four Standards of Unity outline specific beliefs: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Belhar Confession.

How your church joins the RCA

According to our Book of Church Order, a congregation is “a body of baptized Christians meeting regularly in a particular place of worship.” It’s governed by a consistory, or board of elders, deacons, and pastors of the church.

If your church is interested in joining the Reformed Church in America, let’s get to know each other. Committing to a denomination is like joining a family—it’s a big deal. This suggested process guide helps you get to know us and determine if we’re a good fit for each other. 

Suggested process guide of adoption for new churches

New church plants aren’t yet organized as official congregations of the RCA, so their governance is different—their governing body is appointed by the classis, rather than elected from within the congregation. Before organizing, church plants declare their affiliation with the RCA by filing a New Congregation Plan. If you’re interested in starting a brand new church plant in partnership with the RCA, check out our church planting page.

Classes, if you’re welcoming new churches through adoption, we’ve got a guide for you, too. 

Suggestions for welcoming new churches

If you have any questions about your church joining the RCA, email multiply@rca.org.

What’s the value of a denomination? 

The RCA is a group of churches that are growing disciples, equipping leaders, and following Christ in mission. As a member of the RCA, you and your church have direct access to resources for ministry leaders in areas of discipleship, leadership development, outreach, volunteering, mission trips, global mission, church planting, next generation engagement, women’s leadership, and education around disability concerns. 

Beyond resources for ministry, being a member of the RCA provides resources for the administration and financial aspects of running a church. These benefits include the Board of Benefits Services’ management of the RCA retirement fund; loans and savings options offered by the RCA Church Growth Fund; the denominational support provided through the offices of the archives, finance, and legal counsel; use of the RCA website; and the office of ministry support services for help during transitions in leadership.

As a member, you’re also contributing to the training of pastors and providing for church governance at the broadest level.

The RCA has an historic and lasting presence in the U.S. and Canada as a group of churches that possess a Reformed Christian worldview and is committed to extending God’s mission to the world. As members of the RCA, we share in a rich heritage that demonstrates the gospel in action. Ideas are circulated and shared among a wide group of believers who share in common tradition. That rich, shared heritage has had an impact around the world; everyone who belongs to the denomination owns that heritage and keeps adding to it.