Here’s something we can all agree on. We all want our churches to grow.
Some of us are audacious enough to admit that we want more people coming to our church. We want lots and lots of people to find Jesus!
Others of us would say that we don’t care about numbers. We simply want our church to grow in depth. We’re after disciples.
What I’ve come to believe is that these two strategies for growth are intertwined. You really can’t have one without the other.
Personally, I believe that the era of the seeker-sensitive church is ending. Attempting to attract non-Christians to your church through advertising or compelling events just doesn’t work anymore.
In an increasingly post-Christian America, people come to faith through other people. Because of this, our best growth strategy is to develop and mature our own people (here's an article sharing our discipleship strategy).
You might say that we will reach outsiders through invested insiders. Quite simply, if you want to grow your church, you must drive engagement. The more engaged our people are with the mission of the church, the more they will invest in others and invite them to our churches.
[tweetthis]We will reach outsiders through invested insiders.[/tweetthis]
So, how do you drive engagement in your congregation? I have a few thoughts.
1. Clarify and Simplify
What do you want your people to engage? That’s the million dollar question. Until there is clarity around this question, engagement will be difficult. Are there competing missions in your church or is there unity around the clarity of the one mission?
Why is this important? Because people naturally become passionate about what they are pouring themselves into. If the mission of the student ministry is different than the mission of the overall church, then volunteers within the student ministry will naturally gravitate toward the mission of the student ministry and downplay or ignore the mission of the church.
My advice would be to first clarify and then simplify. Once there is clarity around the mission then simplify by aligning every ministry and program around the mission and jettison anything that doesn’t fit.
2. Define It
Once you have clarified your mission and simplified your practices around that mission, it’s time to define what engagement with your mission looks like. In other words, what does a person look like who is engaged with the mission?
Let me share how we’ve done this.
Here’s our mission: To lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ that transforms them to Christlikeness.
What does it look like when a person is engaged with this mission? Well, we could make a really long list but we’ve decided to define it like this.
People who are being transformed to Christlikeness:
- Pursue Generosity
- Pursue Healthy Relationships
- Serve Others
- Share Jesus
The point is that we’ve defined what engagement looks like in our church. You have your own mission and you should have your own definition of engagement. But, once you do, you can leverage this clear strategy. You can focus.
If you want to go next level with this thing, create a clear next step around each character trait. For us it looks like this:
|Character Trait||Engagement Strategy|
|Pursue Healthy Relationships||Small Groups|
|Share Jesus||Invest and Invite|
Giving to our church isn’t the only way to pursue generosity but in our simple strategy of engagement, it’s the next step we offer as a clear pathway. Small Groups aren’t the only way to pursue healthy relationships but they are the way we’ve chosen to focus. You get the idea.
Let’s dream a little here. How much would our churches grow if our people were becoming more and more generous? If they were becoming more and more healthy in their relationships? If they were serving others more and more and if they were sharing Jesus more and more? Our churches would grow! It would be absolutely magnetic!
3. Elevate Serving
Of the four traits I shared as part of our definition of engagement, there is one that I believe acts as a gateway to the others and therefore should be focused on first.
When it comes to engagement, serving is the catalyst. I’ve seen this play out so many times in my church. I regularly hear things like:
“I never really felt like I fit until I started serving.”
“When I started serving, I discovered my purpose!”
“Through serving, I found my people!”
“I really started growing in my faith when I started serving.”
If there is one avenue of engagement to emphasize, it is serving. People who step up and serve on a regular basis think differently about their church. It morphs from “them” to “us.” They are more likely to attend regularly, more likely to give regularly and more likely to invite their friends.
So, here are a few important question regarding serving.
- If I started coming to your church, how would I start serving?
- How would I know that serving is an option?
- How would you connect me to the right fit for me?
- How would you train me to serve?
- How would you encourage me and appreciate me?
- Would I have fun serving in your church?
You see, what I experience as I serve in your church is crucial because it determines whether or not I will continue serving, whether or not I will serve well and whether or not I will invite others to serve.
Again, serving is the catalyst for engagement so if there is one thing you could focus on in your church to encourage growth, it would be to transform serving into an incredibly positive experience.
Here’s a quick suggestion to get you moving in the right direction: Survey all of your volunteers about their experience. Do they feel it’s meaningful? Do they feel equipped, appreciated and cared for? Do they invite others to serve? The answers to these questions may bring clarity to what needs to be improved in your volunteer experience.
To dig deeper, check out this article on creating great volunteer experiences at your church.
So there you have it. We all want our churches to grow and engagement is the catalyst for that growth. Define your mission and simplify your practices. Define engagement and start with the first step of creating a fantastic serving experience.
If you have ideas, thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear them - go ahead and leave us a line in the comments below.