Perspectives on Congregational Engagement

Spiritual engagement of congregants has always been central to the mission and ministry of churches.  Welcoming guests, incorporating newcomers into the life and ministry of a congregation, nurture of spiritual growth, and equipping congregants to develop and use their gifts in service have always been keys to congregational vitality.    Some congregations excel at this; some less so.

Congregational engagement is all about the spiritual vitality of your congregants.  It is about the connection of newcomers with your congregation.  It is about the spiritual growth of your congregants on their journey of faith.  It is about the discovery and development of their God-given talents.  It is about sharing their gifts and abilities to make a difference in the lives of others.  It’s about developing leaders in your congregation.

Rick Warren, in the Purpose-Driven Church, describes the famous Saddleback Church in Southern California as concentric circles. The outer circle is the community (unchurched in the area), next is the crowd (regular attenders), then the congregation (members), followed by the committed (maturing members), and finally the inner circle, the core, who are dedicated to church ministries.

Every church has free-riders; every church has nominal members, and every church has a faithful core. All are important.  I once heard Rick Warren say that the core at Saddleback is about 15% of the overall congregation.  He said, “If I were to drop dead, Saddleback would continue to grow because of this base of lay ministers.”   The goal of engagement is the spiritual growth of congregants. This will grow the core.

Congregational engagement has been described as more than increased involvement in a church; it is an increased sense of belonging.  Psychologist Brene’ Brown describes engagement as wholeheartedness; it’s about being all in.  Ultimately, congregational engagement is individual ownership of the church’s mission. 

In the words of Jesus, this is a call to be and make disciples.  In short, it’s about being a vibrant congregation that’s a place to grow and a place to give.

Principles of Congregational Engagement

  1. Engagement is defined as wholeheartedness and “being all in.” It is personal ownership of a church’s mission by its congregants.
  2. Clarity of a congregation’s values, culture, and mission is foundational to a shared understanding that leads to widespread ownership of the church’s mission by its congregants.
  3. Individual congregants are in various stages of their own spiritual journey. Effective engagement affirms where they are and nurtures their next steps.
  4. Relationships and community are at the heart of congregational engagement. As newcomers make connections and congregants develop friendships, spiritual engagement is supported.
  5. Engaging in meaningful spiritual practices offers paths to personal growth. This will inspire congregants to discover and develop their talents, deepen their faith, and strengthen their relationships. It will equip them for ways of service to make a difference in the lives of others.
  6. The most enduring results of spiritual engagement will arise from the development of transformational leaders within a congregation. Equipping leaders is the goal of discipleship. This is the ultimate measure of a truly engaged congregation.

©Copyright 2017 by Don Eastman

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