From Engagement to Involvement
What does engagement look like to you? What about involvement? For many churches, the differences between these two terms may seem a bit murky, however the intention behind both could not be more distinct. This week, Resi sat down with Gloo’s Director of Innovation Matt Engel to discuss the shift in focus from engagement to involvement and how this transition will be vital for churches as a “new normal” approaches.
Matt Engel, a former pastor in Phoenix, explained how some church leaders fear that expanding their online presence may result in less attendance to the physical building or services. He stated that in order to move forward with many organizations, he had to encourage them to shift their focus from “engagement” to “involvement” when measuring the success of their church.
But what exactly does “engagement” look like? Matt explained prior to COVID, “engagement” was already an upcoming buzzword churches liked to use when trying to play down their focus on attendance—”we don’t measure attendance, we measure engagement.” Matt continued, clarifying that especially once COVID began, churches used this term to try and communicate their concern for the people in their church, rather than what filled the physical building.
While “engagement” does sound much more people-centric, he said that unfortunately, the metrics used to measure engagement communicated a different story. “In reality, it’s about the ‘4 B’s’. Butts, budgets, baptisms, and buildings,” he recounted. These metrics illustrate that while churches did care deeply for the well-being of their people, all they had ever known was measuring attendance or other “4-wall” elements, making their new focus a bit obscure. “‘Engagement’, to me, is organizational-centric,” he continued, “‘engagement’ means I want you to do my thing, at my time.”
While this clarification is important to understand when moving forward, this then begs the question, if ‘engagement’ is org-centric, what exactly is people-centric?Being people-centric means shifting your focus from sterile metrics, to the involvement of your community in the work of the ministry.
While some churches are absorbed in trying to get people in the door, they often forget their true purpose is to equip people to foster relationships in their community and then with Jesus. “Organizations don’t grow people, people grow people,” Matt explains. Weekly attendance by the same groups will not help your church succeed, your church will succeed when people go out and heal their community in the name of the ministry. However at this point you may be asking, “but how will churches measure their success as an organization?” The answer is in the term “involvement.” When churches begin looking at the involvement of their people and the value of their contribution, rather than the level of their consumption, they will notice their organization has a much farther reach.
So where did the idea that physical attendance was the most important factor for churches come from? Well, after the Industrial Revolution, churches began using the “manufacturing paradigm” to their advantage by creating big pipelines of brand awareness around their organization. Big buildings, billboards, and signs led people to flock to churches they thought were the most popular. This often left smaller churches abandoned, people cemented in organizations they didn’t feel connected to, and churches believing unless they had success in attendance or control over their congregation, they were doomed to be forgotten. Over the years, people have begun noticing these issues and have cried out for change amongst their church leaders. There is a major yearning for community in churches, and with COVID keeping people at home, sometimes that community cannot be built off being physically together.
Luckily, with the explosion of digital tools allowing organizations to keep communities afloat, “involvement” in ministry has become a much more important detail. Matt explained how Thryve helps churches shift their focus from “engagement” by introducing them to the possibilities provided by the digital age. Tools such as text messages, video calls, and a greater understanding of their community allow people to stay connected through gaps of face-to-face experiences. Plus, by continuing discussion and connectedness digitally, churches are able to regularly encourage their members to become involved in the work of the ministry. This leaves communities engaged with their organization and people committed to spreading the word even when outside the confines of their church. In other words, by transitioning your focus from “engagement” to “involvement”, you’ll begin to notice that true abundance doesn’t necessarily involve physical attendance.