Welcome back to Part 5 of this six-part blog series on the Church Engagement model! Let’s recap our first four blogs before we begin! In the Church Engagement Model Part 1, we discussed the importance of meaningful and valuable member engagement to move members from Consumers (What’s in it for me?) to Contributors (How can I serve to multiply the Kingdom?). We introduced the Church Engagement Model and the five jobs every church does. We also pointed out how having an intentional measurable plan in place proves to be more successful. In Part 2 Church Engagement Model—Best Attract Strategies, we explored the first job of the Church Engagement Model—ATTRACT, and then we identified two key initiatives for ATTRACT: Positive Brand Awareness and SEO Metrics measured for current members. In the Best Get Strategies—Part 3, we discussed the importance of obtaining crucial data from those people interested in learning more about you. You move a person from ATTRACT to GET once you’ve actually gotten their name and contact information, and you can only get that precious data if you show that person it is in their best interest to stay connected! In Part 4—Best Retain Strategies, we presented ways to track and move people from one-time interactions to three or more recurring interactions.
For this blog, we are going to outline strategies for moving a person from RETAIN to GROW. The motivation behind this stage is “I want to grow…”. In this process, someone has been attracted to your church, has found value in sharing their contact information, and has been attending your congregation three or more times. It’s important to note that a person can stay at the RETAIN stage for several weeks, months, or even years before they are motivated to want to grow. We measure success in the GROW stage by the ability to grow disciples based on whichever growth model and outcomes your church has selected. We recommend that the church adopt a small number of discipleship activities in which EVERY member is encouraged to participate. Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer is a great starting point guide if you need to simplify your structure and nail down a few effective growth strategies.
Grow: Motivation: I want to grow…
As you develop your GROW strategy, here are a few questions your team should be asking:
How many people in your congregation are able to easily describe your discipleship process?
In which activities or “Next Steps” are we going to invite EVERY member to participate?
How will we validate the way in which participation in these activities is leading to the types of growth that participants and the church are seeking?
If you recall some of our questions in Part 1, we asked you to think about how you would rate the quality of member engagement in your congregation. We also asked you to think about how different your congregation might look if your members were highly engaged. With these questions in mind, we have found this short list of the most common discipleship activities. These activities or “Next Steps” seem to be the most effective ways to engage people and aid them in growing in faith, wisdom, and character.
Most churches will offer a combination of three to five of the following activities:
New member class
Time in God’s Word together
Tithing / Giving opportunities
Testimony / Prayer
Why only three to five? Remember, the goal is to keep things simple and universal. So if a church selects worship, Bible study, and serving opportunities, that means it literally wants ALL members to participate in these three activities, and it will constantly promote them as Next Steps. The more activities you pick, the harder it gets to explain and set as expectations for everyone.
Also, keep in mind that the above combination of Next Step activities is not always linear. For instance, it’s unlikely a new participant will always move from worship to Bible study, and then to serving opportunities. It is more likely that a participant will jump around to different opportunities, possibly circle back on a few and stay in certain areas for a period of time before moving to another. The goal here is to see movement, no matter how small. You may even have had members in the worship stage for months or years before you see them move to serve opportunities. Or maybe someone has been connected through a small group for years before finally deciding to check out a new member class. Someone may have no problem giving up their treasures for years but is reluctant to move to Bible studies. Once someone makes a commitment to move to another area, you have been successful at GROW.
It’s important to note at this point that you need to have a great system for tracking the movement of all of your congregation participants. As we stated in Part 3, unless you are able to record this progress, it isn’t intentional progress. How are you recording the movement of each of your congregation members? Does your online database allow you to track and run reports on the growth of your members? Are you recording attendance at each new member's class or Bible study? If not, you are failing to capture crucial information.
Turning Growth into Validated Wins for the Church and the Member:
Let’s recall our final question to consider when developing your Next Steps ministry: How will we validate the way in which participation in these activities is leading to the types of growth that participants and the church are seeking?
If you ask a typical confessional pastor what it means for a believer to “grow,” they will probably tell you that the most important forms of growth include the following:
Increasing confidence in Christ as your true Lord and Savior
Increasing knowledge and wisdom about Christ and the gospel as informed by Scripture
Increasing joy, peace, courage, love, humility, and generosity that is formed from a penitent and regenerated heart
Increasingly strong Christ-centered relationships that provide encouragement, trust, and accountability towards faithfulness
Helping people understand their calling in life
I believe these are absolutely the correct answers, and you could say these are the most important “types” of growth the Church is seeking. However, these are not necessarily the only answers to consider. We have an opportunity to think more broadly about what it means to succeed and provide value according to felt human needs, while also helping people to grow in their faith. One option is to use the Harvard Human Flourishing Program which measures human flourishing on six dimensions:
Happiness and life satisfaction
Physical and mental health
Meaning and purpose
Character and virtue
Close social relationships
Financial and material stability
Many in the church may believe that focusing on these types of dimensions should not be the role of the church because they exist more in the secular realm. This is mostly true, however, they are legitimate felt needs, and the people of your community expect the church to speak into them. Can the church answer the call to speak into these needs through a biblical lens while also challenging people to grow in their faith? I pray you agree the answer is “yes.” If you feel the answer is “no,” then just keep in mind that people will find their answers elsewhere, and you may not like the motivations or worldviews embraced by those alternative organizations (Yes, I’m thinking of you Disney!).
Once you have tackled “how” you want people to grow, it’s time to validate success. The best way to validate is with surveys. We recommend you regularly validate your Next Steps ministries with net promoter score (NPS) surveys to measure the value and brand of these programs. Along with the NPS, ask specific questions to validate faith growth and human flourishing. You can compare these answers to “control groups” that do not participate. This will show you whether or not these programs have a real impact.
Think about this. If people who participate in small groups report thirty percent higher satisfaction with their marriages versus people who are not in small groups, it tells a very powerful and encouraging story. The same would be true if fifty percent more people said: “I understand God’s calling for me in life.” These stories are called “wins” and you can share these “wins” with the community to increase participation in your program. Conversely, if there is no difference in outcomes, perhaps there is an opportunity to provide more valuable and targeted content that moves the needle in these programs.
As we wrap up, let us provide some final words of encouragement. The Church is not a building. It is a community of believers, which means it’s entirely the people. The Church will grow when God’s people grow in faith, character, and maturity. But our Lord expects more than growth for His Kingdom. So stay connected for our next article where we dive into leadership development and the exciting job of MULTIPLY. If you ever want to dive deeper into these conversations in context with your ministry, reach out to the Unite Leadership collective at firstname.lastname@example.org