Growing an Engaged Church

Helping church members invite their friends is one of the side effects of an engaged church, as Albert Winesman wrote Growing an Engaged Church.

The basic question of his  book is addressed on the jacket:

What would a church look like if members of its congregation were 13 times more likely to have invited someone to participate in the church in the past month?

Or if they were three times as satisfied with their lives, or spent two hours per week serving the community?

Based on solid research by The Gallup Organization, Growing an Engaged Church appeals to both Protestant and Catholic clergy and lay leaders who are looking to create this kind of change — a way to be the church instead of just “doing church.”

Winesman states the engagement problem from the perspective of a church visitor:

“People with God-sized holes in their lives show up, hoping beyond hope to get just a portion of that hole filled. But many of them walk away still carrying the void, and are more discouraged than when they first came.”

In his opening chapter, he tells the fictional story of a couple that has moved from one town to another.  In this case, they used to be involved in a congregation in their home town, but now have to find a new church due to a relocation.  He describes their struggle to connect with a church and get re-engaged again.

At the end of the day, this couple simply settles for a church, rather than find one that gets them excited.

What does it take to increase the sense of engagement?

Here are some of his findings:

  1. Feeling welcomed – “Am I valued?” and “Can I make a meaningful contribution?”
  2. The value of membership – Does the commitment required for membership reflect the value placed on membership?
  3. Emotions do matter – Engagement is  how one feels about their church.  For the bond to have optimum strength, it must go beyond just the worship service or Mass.

Wisemann spends time discussing various ways to increase these and 9 other factors in Growing an Engaged Church.  You’ll need to get your copy to find ways grow these 12 factors of an engaged church.  There are too many to list here and is not quite the point of this post.

How does engagement affect invitations to church?

“Those who are engaged are more than 10 times (64% to 6%) more likely than those who are actively disengaged to strongly agree that they have invited someone to participate in their congregation in the previous month.”  (Tweet this)

Not-engaged congregants are part of the “crowd,” those who attend regularly but are perhaps more socially connected to the community rather than emotionally and rationally committed.

The disengaged “give less, serve less, and invite less” (p 68) and are often very satisfied with their church simply for what it does
provide to them.

Put simply, members who are feel engaged with the church are more likely to invite their friends.

Our own temporary situation

As I read Growing an Engaged Church, I found myself saying “yes” a whole lot to his assertions and discoveries.

We are on a temporary assignment for four months that requires us live away from our home and church planting ministry.

We picked a local church and want to get involved, but we have found it hard to get connected or engaged two months into the process.

Our kids are doing fine connecting with the youth group.  In fact, they’ve already started inviting their new school mates to their youth group.

But as adults, we are still struggling with engagement –

  • Where can we fit?
  • Is there a place for us?
  • Where can we serve?
  • Where can we do something meaningful during our short time here?

Since we are not really engaged in the life of this church yet, our desire to invite others to join us at this church is not quite strong enough.

There is no compelling reason for me to invite friends or family to this church yet – we ourselves don’t have a place or enough emotional connection to the church.

Don’t misunderstand me however.  I am sure the church has great programs and people have deep relationships.  The church is growing at a steady pace.

My point here is that we are not yet sufficiently engaged with the life of this congregation to feel enthusiastic about inviting people to join us.

Suppose I am asked:

“Why should I go to church with you?  What’s the point of giving up what I normally do on Sunday?”

I don’t have an answer to that question yet.

Get your own copy of Growing an Engaged Church from Amazon (affiliate link).

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