Churches all over are trying to crack the engagement code. We all want to figure out how to do what engagement exists to do: establish meaningful connections with others.
We must first understand the two distinct pieces to engagement before we step into the “hows” of engagement. These faces are personal engagement and digital engagement.
Personal engagement is “connection” in the classic sense. It is in-person, physical engagement with another person or persons. This can be done through everything from casual mingling to an intentional conversation. The main indicator of personal engagement is spending quality time with someone in the real world. This type of engagement is less empirical in nature.
Digital engagement is a connection done exclusively online, which is measurable and empirical. Engagement online, just like in-person engagement, has many different modes. The current “measurements of engagement” online are found through several action steps people take on social media and other websites. Like, comments, shares, and saves are a few of the metrics (particularly on social media) that help us measure engagement.
There is a lot of crossover between these two types of engagement, and both are equally important. But regardless of the type, conversation and relationship building are interwoven in the structure of all healthy engagement.
We must keep in mind that no type of engagement is better than the other.
Both serve important purposes and help establish relationships with the people we literally see face-to-face and those we figuratively “see” digitally
This reality of two co-existing types of engagement further solidifies our transition to The Hybrid Church. This is the church that gathers together both in-person and online for services. This model will help the Church to reach a much broader and diverse audience. This is what our future holds as the community of faith.
Holistic engagement is key in the maintenance and health of the Hybrid Church. These two types have a symbiotic relationship too. Both types influence each other and work perfectly together. For example, that interaction that began in the comment section on Instagram could lead to an in-person meeting and vice versa.
Digital engagement and personal engagement are not in competition but are rather complementary. This is precisely what we must keep in mind when going about the “hows” of engaging new church visitors.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s be real, we all do. In this scenario, the book cover is your church website, and the inside story is your church itself. Engaging new visitors through your website is our first example of digital engagement.
Nowadays, first-time visitors at a church rarely set your church’s physical address as their first destination. Do you know where they go first? You guessed it: they visit your church’s website!
Imagine wanting to try a Thai restaurant in a city you’re visiting for the weekend. Although you could take a little drive and drop in at one, you’d probably be a bit of an anomaly. The majority of people would first do a quick Google search of Thai restaurants and choose one from there. If they’re really interested in knowing more, they may even check out the restaurant’s website, peruse their menu, and check out customer reviews.
If people do this type of research for a delicious bowl of mango curry, you had better believe they would do the same when trying a new church!
Websites allow you to analyze metrics that give you a clearer picture of your engagement success. You can check out which web pages are the most popular, how long people spend on your site, and other analytics. Looking at these numbers will help you to see just how successful your website is at engaging visitors.
This method of engagement may seem like a no-brainer, but it is quite necessary to mention. While you can assume that many of your visitors have at least been acquainted with your church online, you should still make sure you give them a warm welcome when visiting your physical location.
In-person greetings are key for furthering the already existing connections and starting brand new ones.
The best way to do this? Strike up a meaningful conversation! You can begin these conversations in the parking lot, at the front door, in the lobby, and after service too.
It is a nerve-wracking thing to visit a place you have never been before, especially if you are alone. Making this new visitor feel welcome and comfortable is vital to establishing a healthy relationship.
This new visitor is searching for something, whether it’s a solid community, a place to meet other families, or even to discover God tangibly. Your greeting can make or break their experience and level of engagement.
This does not mean you contrive some sort of phony, extra-bubbly greeting; it simply means meeting this new visitor with authenticity and care. Engaging them is more than saying hello. It is getting to know them on a deeper and more genuine level.
Engaging with your new church visitors can be as simple as an act of kindness… or a free t-shirt! A unique and fun way of engaging with your new visitors can be through offering a gift during their visit.
One of the best things about going to a hotel room are those wonderful little chocolates they leave on your pillow (well, at least we think so!) This little gesture isn’t a bribe or something you pay for. It is a simple gesture to show the guest how appreciative the hotel is for their stay.
Offering a token of your appreciation to your new church visitors is a great way to stimulate initial contact and bring about even further engagement. This simple gesture opens the door for the giver of the gift (a volunteer or pastor) to engage in conversation with the new guest.
This free gift almost serves as a double whammy in engagement. It can not only bring about in-person connection but also lead to digital engagement as well! They may begin to further interact with you online through your website, social media, and online church services and resources
If a new visitor managed to dodge the free merch and pre-service interactions, there is still hope yet to reach them before church even begins.
Pre-service slides are those slides that loop on screen before the beginning of service. These slides can be used quite intentionally to provide helpful church information and also encourage engagement. These slides can serve as road signs for your visitors to learn about different ways of engaging at the church.
In these slides, you should include the following information:
These slides will primarily serve to point your visitor in the right direction, whether that be to your website, a staff member, or a gathering opportunity. They can be simple and concise and a wonderful way to passively engage your new visitor.
Last but certainly not least, we can engage with your new church visitors through social media. This engagement method is unique because it is vital throughout your entire engagement process – from pre-attendance the whole way through full-on church commitment and beyond!
Social media is one of the most easily measurable forms of engagement we have, yet there is still an aspect of personal engagement. Social media nourishes online conversations and invites followers to join in-person conversations.
Engaging with new church visitors on social media involves a beautiful concoction of great design, stellar video, superb copy, and intentional conversation.
In this blog, we lay out the five levels of digital engagement and the importance of each distinct level. We demonstrate how each level builds upon the previous one and how there is an evolution from digital engagement toward personal engagement.
The first level of digital engagement, design, is the catalyst to the other levels. This emphasis on quality design is what stops the scroll online and paves the way for further engagement. The second level, discussion, is still in the realm of digital engagement, but we are having meaningful conversations online with our followers.
These two levels are where social media is vital. Through social media, we can captivate our audience through design and keep them through intentional online conversations. As you continue to step through each level (discovery, discipleship, and deployment), you begin to see how social media forms the foundation for our in-person engagement.
Engaging people through social media can be done through sharing inspiring and thought-provoking content, engaging in the comment section, disseminating “shareable” content, and so much more.
Whatever social media channel you use or whatever method you employ, consider that social media is meant to be social. Treating social media as a town hall or bulletin board is not the best method of stirring up engagement. Keep the conversation open always!
Engaging new visitors can be a bit of a daunting task, but when done well, you can create lifelong members who truly thrive in your community. Never forget: engagement is both in-person and online. Employing multiple types of engagement tactics is a great way to cover your bases and provide opportunities for involvement.
Above all else, being intentional about your engagement methods will make your new visitor feel seen, known, and loved. And that is what matters most!
Our team at Pro WebFire can bring a spark to your website, our design team can provide stellar merch, sermon series, and in-person content, and our social media team can set your social presence on fire!
Community is greater than competition every single time. How can you emphasize community in your church?
Church volunteering is slowly decreasing. What can we do to solve the volunteer epidemic?