A rough hacking/breathless/congested sick day. I'll keep this brief.
For years now, I've heard about high-commitment church membership: how it builds better and more dedicated members, stronger churches and unicorns for everybody. It takes long classes, introspection, personal participation and financial giving that is both "sacrificial" and "feels good" -- a rather specialized kink to be sure.
Jeeze-louise, I'm glad I didn't run into that in churches early-on or I would have run from them, and I imagine that's even more true with social expectations today. (Think Facebook.) Just attending a church is a huge act of faith and placing too many barriers can fairly be read as "you don't really belong here, do you?"
I'd just as soon welcome people as they come and make membership an easy and transparent process. Â To allay an organized takeover threat, I'd probably limit decision making power by instituting minimum membership length for voting and higher supermajorities for big decisions (property sales, say) -- and then make membership periodic rather than lifelong. Let commitment grow if it will, but it needs to be an organic process.
The good news it that this high-commitment membership model is still a minority practice in Unitarian Universalist circles, and I would be just as happy to see it go away.