The concept of workplace or employee engagement has been talked about and studied for a long time. In simple terms, engagement means a genuine commitment to an organization that goes beyond a simple transactional (or “membership”) relationship. My wife, once when talking to me about a task that she hoped I would undertake at home, described the engagement she hoped I would have for it by encouraging me to “put my heart in into it.” That’s a pretty good summary of what we mean by engagement. I have yet to encounter any minister or lay leader in a congregation who did not yearn for more of this in their congregation. So how does it happen? How do we help church members become more engaged with the work of the Kingdom?
Kevin Kruse, on the Forbes website, provides a helpful overview of what engagement is and is not—from a business perspective. Clergy will be able to translate his language and concepts easily enough to the context of our work.
In recent years, the Gallup organization has also conducted some research about engagement at church. In this article by Frank Newport, the author describes some of that research and points out that clergy themselves likely play an important role when it comes to the engagement of lay members.
A 2009 publication from the RGK Center for Philanthropy & Community Service, Strategic Volunteer Engagement A Guide for Nonprofit and Public Sector Leaders, is available for free. Although not specifically aimed at congregations, it provides some great insights that can be applied to helping congregations members (a.k.a. “volunteers”) become more engaged.
Does your church have a strategic engagement plan for your church members? If you do, you are a rare congregation. This article from volunteerhub.com, presents the case for having one. This quote from the website says it powerfully: “Volunteers are the backbone for most nonprofits and can fill vital roles. The average volunteer hour is worth an estimated $24.00. Not engaging volunteers can cost a nonprofit money and a loss of valuable resources.”
May God bless you, and your congregation’s volunteers as you live out your calling in 2020.
Rev. Christopher R. Gambill, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Congregational Health