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Church Engagement Model - Part 1

When we talk specifically about Member Engagement, a good definition is “the ongoing interaction between a member and an organization in exchange for meaningful value.” What it means to be an engaged member may differ from church to church. Some may define it clearly, and others may have a more vague notion of what this means. Regardless of denominational affiliation, it could be said that every church struggles with the desire to be effective at fully engaging its members. In this next six-part blog series, we are going to discuss how every church can successfully engage each member in their congregation, no matter if they are a church of 20 or 20,000.

The Church Engagement Model helps clarify the “5 Jobs” every church is already doing to engage their members, whether they are doing these jobs intentionally or unintentionally (or “organically”). When you do them with intention as part of a planned system, you will get better and more reliable results. The key to developing an intentional and reliable system is measuring your results and making the necessary changes quickly. If you recall our blog on Build Measure Learn, you’ll remember that the key to success is identifying issues quickly and making the appropriate adjustments. This blog series will help you to identify those key areas.

Before we begin, I’d like you to think about how would you rate the quality of Member Engagement in your congregation? How do you think your congregation would look differently if your members were highly engaged? How would you explain the importance of engagement to someone who fears consumeristic Christianity? Keep these questions in mind throughout this series as we explore ways to address them all.

The first thing to know about Member Engagement is that the engagement must be meaningful. Remember our definition of Member Engagement from before: “the ongoing interaction between a member and an organization in exchange for meaningful value.” What is meaningful value? The answer depends very much on the person and the community. Some engage because they are seeking salvation, and others engage because they desperately need to be connected to a healthy community. Others still are looking to improve their marriage, family or finances, and they see the church as a trusted institution that can help them out. And then there are those who are suffering through grief, loss and other forms of existential fear.

We call these things “felt needs.” When people come to you with their felt needs, they are coming to you as a type of “customer.” If the church does not meet peoples’ felt needs, they will go somewhere else, and that somewhere else may be an institution that leads them deeper and deeper into unbelief. The church needs to understand it has the responsibility to provide services to their customers that meets these felt needs. Delivering on these felt needs is very often the beginning (but not the end) of Member Engagement. It starts out as a very “consumeristic” relationship. This may offend some people, but keep in mind that “consumeristic” does not mean “shallow.”

Think about this. In America, the sad fact is that we live in a post-Christian society. There are many people out there who are not interested in an invitation to attend church. But they may be VERY interested in fixing their broken marriage. Going through a well-structured marriage class means getting vulnerable and building trust with a leader. When the felt needs are met, there is greater trust, credibility and appreciation. An invitation to worship on Sunday or other discipleship activities will now take on a very different meaning and value for this family. This relational trust means they are much more likely to say yes to suggested next steps.

What is the ultimate goal of the Church Engagement Model? It’s to move our engaged congregation members from Consumers to Contributors. Christians are transformed by faith

and in faith. We become a new creation, holy and set apart. When we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to fully trust God’s promises, we then grow in humility, love, courage and passion for others. If we can trust God’s promise and provision, there is no reason why faith should not also compel us to give our lives away. This faith-driven transformation changes the nature of Member Engagement. Our felt needs are fundamentally changed. Instead of being Consumers, we are transformed into Contributors toward others. A contributor is an engaged member who actively seeks to live out their calling to serve God and their neighbors. This calling comes to maturity through an intentional faith and character development process that we call discipleship. In its ultimate form, this calling results in the development and deployment of new ministry leaders who join in Christ’s mission to capture the hearts of the lost, resulting in Kingdom multiplication.

Next, let’s briefly identify the five jobs and the motivation for each. In the upcoming series, we will dive deeper into each area to give you a simple understanding and practical application of each area. They are:

Attract - Motivation: I want to know more…

Get - Motivation: I want to try it out…

Retain - Motivation: I want to stay…

Grow / Disciple - Motivation: I want to grow…

Multiply - Motivation: I want to contribute…

I hope this blog has piqued your interest in engaging your congregation, and I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments on what has helped you in the past or where you might still struggle. The Unite Leadership Collective is dedicated to supporting those in ministry, whether through culture, systems, and structure or to care for the hearts of ministry leaders. Join us next week for part two of this six-part series!

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