Having members of your church is just one factor in having a successful, meaningful experience. While attendance is important, the crucial part of any place of worship is engagement. With it, your church will flourish and have loyal members who invite others to join them.
Here is how to foster church engagement and have members who listen to what is being said and who want to participate.
What is Church Engagement?
Many church officials keep up with attendance. This is important to know what seems to be the most interesting and why attendance is up or down. But that is only a portion of the metrics needed to create a church membership that fosters church engagement.
Church engagement is simple – you want members who are engaged in what is going on in the church. Whether it's weekly attendance, special events, or even the ability to gauge what key things are attractive to the members.
For example, one of the busiest times of the year is Christmas. Why? People want to participate in what interests them and Christmas is the one time of the year where people show up who may not go the rest of the year.
According to Pew Forum, even those numbers are declining:
Currently, 55% of U.S. adults say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, including 46% who see it as more of a religious holiday than a cultural holiday and 9% who celebrate Christmas as both a religious and a cultural occasion. In 2013, 59% of Americans said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 51% who saw it as more religious than cultural and 7% who marked the day as both a religious and a cultural holiday.
So what can a church do to ensure that members are not only engaged but enough so that they drive new membership?
How to Foster Engagement
Attendance is mentioned quite a bit in this article but that is not the main goal. If you have thousands who attend your church but are not engaged in what is going on, is it really successful in spreading the word? In the New Testament, Jesus said to follow him. People back then didn't attend Jesus. Instead, they were engaged in what he was about and they followed him.
What you have to do is offer an alternative to the norm, to the consumerism, to the “by the numbers” approach. For instance, choosing pretty lights and the best sound equipment may sound like the best idea but the focus should also be on what keeps interest. And if you're looking at the millennial demographic, a lot of consumerism may be a turn-off. This doesn't mean you have to have a dirt floor and a wood building with no air conditioning. It simply means that your focus doesn't have to be on money.
Instead, create events that people will find interest in. Choose sermons that keep people on the edge of their seat. If you offer something different and creative, you have a good start in drawing in members who will want to return again and again. Many of the great leaders of the world had a different approach – and that is what may be in your best interest.
Offer Community and Fellowship
Being a part of something bigger is attractive to many. Does your church have things that people can participate in? Whether it's a food drive or a mission trip to a foreign country – people like being a part of something that is bigger than them. Consider things that all ages can participate in. Choose activities that are family-friendly as well as perfect for singles.
As mentioned in our article on Giving Tuesday,
Some people love participating in an actual in-person event and this can bring in donations from other people as well. Have a walk-a-thon where people donate. This allows members to share the event and get donations from their friends and family who may not even go to church at all.
Also mentioned is how to create campaigns that get people talking such as a viral Facebook or Instagram post(s) about your campaign. This allows people to participate and feel that they are part of something bigger. And that creates engagement, interest, and increases the chance of them bringing others onboard.
Use Metrics to Measure Engagement
It may seem difficult to measure church engagement but without an idea of what is working, you cannot build upon that. There are specific metrics that allow you to focus on what people are participating in. For instance, here are a few to consider:
- What part of your congregation participates in mission trips or shows interest?
- What part or percentage serves in outreach ministry?
- How many people volunteer on a regular basis?
- Percentage of the congregation participating in small groups
- What part of the church actively follows your sermons or devotional plan?
- Percentage of the congregation that regularly give
By looking at these numbers, this gives you an idea of who is doing what and where the interest lies. Let's say that only 5 percent of your congregation is interested in mission trips. Why is that? Shouldn't there be more who wish to participate? If you can answer why that number is low, you can reach more people and get them interested. Perhaps the location is not feasible. Maybe some members feel it's not affordable or they do not feel comfortable with the same members who always go. Regardless of the answer, it gives you insight on what makes people want to participate.
Engagement and Giving
What communication needs or gaps does your church need to fill? Do you need easier communication with your church? Or are you looking for ways to encourage engagement through giving? Using New Fire Giving focuses largely on saving leaders time and helping them grow church attendance and that all-important engagement.
Engagement Equals Membership
If your church fosters engagement, the membership numbers will naturally increase. A simple way of looking at it is that church attendance does not create engagement but engagement creates attendance. Engagement fuels involvement. Involvement fuels passion. Passion fuels invitation.