A few years ago the Gallup Company introduced ME25, a Member Engagement Survey consisting of 25 questions chosen to measure church engagement among members. Churches can buy this tool, send it out to their members, and have Gallup interpret the results. The good news for us is that Gallup compiled the data from a nationwide sampling of churches using ME25, which provides us with lots of insights.
Gallup's report included a "Member Engagement Index," a macro-level indicator of a church's health that allows church leaders to track engagement levels. This analysis identifies the percentage of members who are engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged:
- Engaged: These members are loyal and have a strong psychological connection to their church. They are more spiritually committed, more likely to invite friends, family members, coworkers to church events, and give more both financially and in time. (Hint, if you're reading this newsletter, you're probably in this camp!).
- Not Engaged: These members may attend regularly, but they are not psychologically connected to their church. Their connection to the church may be more social than spiritual. They give moderately but not sacrificially, and they may do a minimal amount of volunteering in the community. They are less likely to invite others and more likely to leave.
- Actively Disengaged: These members usually show up only once or twice a year, if at all. They are on the membership rolls, and can tell you what church they belong to — but may not be able to name the clergy. Some may be regular in their attendance but psychologically absent.
While you can only know your church's official ME25 "score" by using the actual tool, you can probably make a pretty good guess by looking at your own church's members and their overall behavior. What percentage of your actual members might fall into each category? "Engaged," is probably between 15-30% of your total membership, the next circle out, the "Not Engaged," around 35-50%, and the last circle, the Actively Disengaged, maybe 20-35%.
Why is this important? Because engagement is everything. What Gallup found was that engagement drives spiritual commitment. They found that Engaged church members are:
- Ten times as likely to invite someone to participate in their church
- Three times as likely to say they are extremely satisfied with their lives
- Likely to spend more than two hours per week serving and helping others in their communities
- Likely to give at least three times more to their faith communities annually.
This matters a lot now. If you're like many of our churches, you've seen a core group of people stick with some form of worship and church involvement over the past pandemic. You may have seen new people who've come along--after all, online worship has opened the door to people who may have never otherwise been able to join you. Core folks and new folks: that's great!
But, what about the second group--the 35-50% of people who consider themselves members of your church but who view it as more of a social relationship than spiritual? What about the people who were regular or semi-regular before the pandemic and who you haven't seen? What about them?
Again, engagement is everything. If you don't know how those less involved people are feeling about the church, then one thing to do is to talk to them. Set up phone calls, one-to-one (or email exchanges if necessary). Could a team of lay leaders split up a list of members and commit to reaching out to individual who have been "less engaged"? Reach out with the mission of truly connecting. People want to be listened to. They want to know that their church cares.
Some additional ways to help boost engagement:
- Use this calling campaign to share news and upcoming dates for church activities - add a personal invitation, "Joe, I hope you'll join us..."
- Have you established a small group ministry? This is a great way to build engagement! Click here for information on the "faith groups" diocesan program.
- Match up members with discrete volunteer tasks to support an existing ministry--focus on jobs that can be accomplished fairly easily and that have a social aspect.
- Organize a parish-wide gifts assessment program. We can help facilitate this! Asset mapping can be another way to build engagement among folks outside the "core."
I and other members of the Stewardship Teaching Team would be happy to chat with you about these and other engagement strategies. Just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's discuss.