Understanding The 5 Levels Of Digital Engagement

Janine Dueck


Janine Dueck


January 6, 2021

Understanding The 5 Levels Of Digital Engagement

It seems as if “engagement” is the new buzzword in church culture. Church communities all around the world are seeking to figure out how they can get people engaged, keep them engaged, and encourage them to get others engaged too.

The path to building church engagement is not concrete — it varies from community to community and greatly depends on your church’s culture, vision, and mission.

The fact remains however that engagement is the future of the church. There was a time where simply having a cool church service that attracted a lot of people worked well. But in 2020, we see that just attracting people to our community is not enough. 

People won’t get involved in something just for the sake of the appeal anymore — they want a true community, a mission to believe in, and a place to belong.

The mindsets and value systems of our culture have changed and our culture simply cannot be reached in the same way anymore. So just as we have in centuries past, the church must be willing to change how we reach people. 

The future of church is not about how many people attend, it is about the people who are engaged.

What is Engagement?

A standard definition of engagement includes the following:

  • to offer (something, such as one's life or word) as backing to a cause or aim
  • to bind (someone, such as oneself) to do something
  • to induce to participate
  • to pledge oneself or make a guarantee

Being engaged in something means that you will willingly offer your life, time, and resources in support of a cause. 

Engagement goes beyond simply attending or enjoying something — when you are engaged in something, you are all in.

Engagement in the Church

Engagement is not something that often comes naturally in a church community. It is something that is built over time as more and more people in your community catch the passion for the mission.

Church engagement is driven by a person’s commitment to the mission and a willingness to do whatever it takes to further the mission and see it come to pass.

Think of it this way: when someone believes an organization’s mission and has a deep passion for it, they are very likely to back that mission by quantifiable means. That means they will take the necessary steps to get involved, whether it be financially, through volunteering, or by even spreading the word.

Engagement goes beyond passively consuming a message, dipping out before the offering plate is passed around, and only showing up to church one Sunday a month.

Engagement is whole-hearted support of the mission through action.

True engagement is not just checking off a religious box, it is choosing to offer your life for the advancement of the church’s mission and ultimately, the mission of Jesus.

Church Engagement in a Digital Age

Our current digital age of church has radically changed the way engagement occurs in the church. In the first century, engagement was as simple as Jesus saying “follow me” and you accepted His invitation. Nowadays, there are different levels of engagement for us to be aware of that are made possible through the Internet.

Church online has opened up a brand new avenue for people to get engaged in the church community. People who otherwise would never step foot in our physical churches have an opportunity to get involved in the community through our digital church experiences.

But engagement doesn’t just start and end at someone commenting “Amen!” on our latest Instagram post. Engagement is a cyclical process that flows through our design through our discipleship and beyond.

Throughout this month, we will be going into detail about the 5 levels of digital engagement and how we can leverage these steps to drive greater and deeper engagement in our church communities. 

These 5 levels of digital engagement include:

  1. Design

A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process. In layman terms, design is the result of a creative process with the purpose of yielding a result — whether it be a purchase, consumption, or even engagement. 

Your design matters because it stops the endless scroll, grabs the attention of your followers, and encourages them to get engaged. This first level of online engagement can make or break your ability to reach people online depending on the quality of your graphics, videos, and more. 

  1. Discussion

Discussion is the next level of engagement where your passive followers become active participants in the online conversation. This means that the people who are struck by your design make a decision to comment, like, or share your content.

This level of engagement is often the level where many churches stop at and gauge their success from. Discussion is often a sign that your design has yielded the desired result (i.e. likes, comments, etc.), but it is not the end of engagement. The discussion online should transform into a real-life habit of discovery.

  1. Discovery

Discovery is the level of engagement where passive consumption and posting a comment morph into a real-life pursuit of growing and going deeper. The discovery stage is where those engaged take in the messages and content your church has produced and take it into their own hands.

The discovery stage is by far one of the most difficult stages to get to in terms of engagement. Discovery is where people find out who they are and most importantly who they can be in Christ. Once someone has taken the path of discovery, it will hopefully lead them to a life of following Jesus.

  1. Discipleship

The ultimate goal of engagement is to see someone go from a passive consumer and learner to someone who actually follows Jesus. Discipleship is when things get real and growth and transformation are experienced.

Think of it this way: discovery is the free trial and discipleship is the paid subscription. Engagement at the discovery level is merely dipping your toe in the water to see what it's like, but discipleship is diving right in.

  1. Deployment

Once someone has engaged at the 4 previous levels, the ultimate goal is to get them engaged through deployment. This means that someone is no longer a passive consumer with no growth to be found — they have entered into a new level of leadership where they own what they do.

This stage is not the end all be all of engagement, but it is a place where the once unengaged person becomes a doer of the Word and invites people to get involved.

So what should you expect these next few weeks? We will be explaining the 5 levels of engagement in depth to give you a fuller understanding of what engagement looks like, how it affects your attendance, giving, and servant leadership, and what you can do to build engagement within each level. 

We will provide examples of how to encourage engagement within your community and how you can recognize which level of engagement each of your community members are at.

We pray that throughout this month we can help to equip your church community with the tools and wisdom to turn passive participants into passionate people, consumers into generous investors, and attendees into truly engaged followers of Jesus!

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