Summary of Growing an Engaged Church by Albert Winseman

Growing an Engaged Church: How to Stop "Doing Church" and 
Start Being the Church Again by Albert Winseman, Gallup Press, 2012

In Growing an Engaged Church, Albert Winseman provides key measurements of engagement and strategies to improve it as ways to prepare the soil for the church to produce an abundant harvest.

The following are the key points I have taken from reading this book:

It is all about engagement!

Engagement “describes the degree of belonging an individual has in his or her congregation” (67). Whereas the old mentality was “believe then belong”, Winseman says that the best approach is “belong then believe”. Engagement is key because engaged members drive everything in their churches. They know that they are valued and that they are making a meaningful contribution of their greatest talents towards the mission and ministry of their churches.

The facts about engagement

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Winseman says that leaders must avoid putting energy into the actively disengaged (especially the “C.A.V.E. dwellers (Consistently Against Virtually Everything). Instead, leaders should focus their time and energy on moving people from the not-engaged category to the engaged category. In order to do this, we must first be able to measure engagement.

How to measure engagement

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This chart shows a concrete way to measure engagement in a hierarchy of 4 categories.

1: “What do I get?” 

It’s a simple fact of human nature that people are more willing to give their time and attention to – and become engaged in – organizations from which they feel they receive something valuable in return.

  1. I know what is expected of me in my parish – Clarifying expectations creates a sense of stability, assuring members that they are valued. Communicate how you want their lives to look like (behaviours, involvement, financial support, formation, etc).
  2. My spiritual needs are met in my parish – this is essential because your parish exists to spiritually transform individual lives.
2: “What Do I Give?”

Parishes are perfectly suited to meet the innate need of humans to give of themselves to help others. Once people value “what they get”, they will shift their focus towards “what they can give”.

  1. I regularly have the opportunity to do what I do best –  this creates a culture that values each person’s uniqueness and encourages members to maximize their talents in the contributions they make to their church.
  2. In the last month, I have received recognition or praise from someone in my parish – leaders must create a “culture of praise” within the parish based on the behaviours that they want to see in their members. Keep in mind that the praise should be appropriate to and valued by the person receiving it.
  3. The spiritual leaders in my parish seem to care about me as a person – leaders must set the tone for creating a climate in which members feel valued and safe to experiment, make mistakes, challenge, share information, support one another. You need to be sincere, tell people you care and get to know your people (ask about their hopes and dreams).
  4. There is someone in my parish who encourages my spiritual development – when leaders help parishioners grow, it affirms to those members that they are worth the effort. Leaders should challenge them (get involved), give constant feedback (allow them to see their talents & strengths), be creative in helping people find their callings. Ask 3 questions: 1) What are your talents and strengths? 2) What do you love to do? 3) If time and money were no object, what would you do for God?
3: “Do I belong?”

Agreement with the parish’s mission statement gives individuals a clear sign that they belong.

  1. As a member of my parish, my opinions seem to count – Wise leaders always have effective communication skills and get feedback from their parishioners.
  2. The mission or purpose of my parish makes me feel my participation is important – Effective leaders govern all they do around the mission statement, overcommunicate it so that every member has it memorized, and allow individuals to connect with it.
  3. The other members of my parish are committed to spiritual growth – Leaders make it clear that growth is a priority and are willing to follow up on their members’ progress.
  4. Aside from family members, I have a best friend in my parish – The best congregational environments are those in which there are many real, genuine friendships. Members need to feel they can trust the people around them. Tips include establishing small groups & parish events that focus on relationship building.
4: “How Can We Grow?”

Leaders must challenge their members to grow and help them find the best ways to do this. Leaders should follow up and ask members about their experiences in classes, small groups, workshops, and so on. Did they grow? What did they learn as a result of the experience? What difference did participating in the event make in their lives? 

  1. In the last 6 months, someone in my parish has talked to me about the progress of my spiritual growth – Leaders must ensure that the systems and processes are in place so that all members receive regular feedback from someone. Tips include 1) setting up regular meetings to discuss progress; 2) recording each person’s successes; 3) asking your people to track their own learning.
  2. In my parish, I have the opportunity to learn and grow – Leaders present a broad variety of ways for their members to have their needs and desires met to learn and grow.
3 “Quick” Strategies for Improving Engagement
  1. Clarify the expectations of membership: “Our members need the security that comes from knowing the rules of the game so that they can have confidence and assurance to step out and take risks in their faith. If they don’t know what’s expected, how can they grow in their faith?” (127). It’s also essential that leaders clarify expectations for big upcoming changes (leadership, worship times and styles) and communicate early and often and always ask feedback.
  2. Help your members discover what they do best: “People are most likely to be fully engaged when they are doing what they do best” (131). Start first with the person and ask 3 questions: 1) What are your talents and strengths? 2) What do you love to do? 3) If time and money were no object, what would you do for God?

    “Remember: Engaged members who are serving in roles they love – and in which they are bearing fruit – do not get burned out. They only get stronger and more energized” (144).  (* this was my favourite strategy from Winseman *)

  3. Create small groups: These groups are the place of real discipleship. Some possibilities include study groups, talent discovery and strengths development groups, accountability groups, support groups.

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