There are so many things vying for our attention these days.
- YouTube videos
- The latest binge-worthy Netflix series
- Our families, jobs, friends, responsibilities, etc. etc.
It is all too easy to get distracted when we have been pulled in so many different directions, both in the real world and in the digital world. These distractions are not just present for the average Joe, but they exist for everyone in your church too.
Like everyone else in the world, the people in your church have gone through a lot the past few months.
Some have lost their jobs, faced financial problems, dealt with fear and anxiety, and top it all off, they haven't been able to see their loved ones for months.
It is safe to say they are a bit distracted by the worries of life and the distractions that exist in the online world. It is no wonder their engagement and motivation have gone down the past few months.
Maintaining engagement seems to be the hot topic in the church right now, so we wanted to take a crack at it and give you a few tips to keep your church engaged and motivated during this season.
1) FIRST, RECOGNIZE THAT YOU CAN'T FORCE MOTIVATION OR ENGAGEMENT, BUT YOU CAN ENCOURAGE THEM.
Before we give you tips on practically maintaining engagement and increasing motivation in your church community, let's talk about the definitions of these words.
Motivation comes from an inner desire found deep within a person. You can't force someone to be motivated. Motivation can be stimulated, but you cannot force someone to want to do something.
For example, you can preach yourself silly about the importance of tithing and generosity. Still, if someone doesn't understand God's heart for generosity and believes it for themselves, they won't give. You can tell someone over and over again that they need to forgive, but until they truly experience the forgiveness Jesus has given them, they will have a hard time forgiving.
Motivation has a ton to do with the heart's position and a person's inner drive to do something.
Engagement goes hand in hand with motivation. When someone is motivated to do something or believe something, they will take action — i.e., they will get engaged.
Engagement is about people being involved in the livelihood and life of the church. They volunteer, give, are a part of small groups, and more. Generally, it is the people of God participating in the work of the ministry. When you're engaged, you're no longer a passive spectator in the congregation — you are an active participant sold out to the mission.
Engagement is the ultimate goal, but it is also not something that can be forced.
You can share a billion slides about the weekly small group, summer mission trip, or giving campaign, but you can't force anyone to participate. People need to want to be engaged, and just like being motivated, you can't force someone to get engaged.
You may feel discouraged and think, "Well, if people aren't engaged or motivated, what can I do?" But don't lose hope, there are many things you can practically do to encourage your church to stay (or even become) engaged and motivated.
2) CARE MORE ABOUT PEOPLE THAN NUMBERS
This may seem like a no brainer, but it needs to be said anyway.
In the early days of COVID-19, many churches reported huge spikes in their online church attendance. As the numbers began to decrease for many churches, many of us probably got a bit discouraged. Where were all of our loyal church attendees?
This point isn't meant to go into all of the theories of why church attendance went down, it is intended to dig into a more profound question:
“Do we gauge our success by numbers or people's lives?”
Numbers don't just represent a statistic — numbers represent the single mom who lost her job during the COVID-19 shutdown. They represent the man who doesn't know when he will see his elderly mother again.
Numbers matter because people matter.
While we should be wise in the usage of our resources, we cannot merely look at a low number on a stream or service feed and think of it as unsuccessful. Remember, Jesus came for the one. Even if our live stream results in just one person giving their life to Jesus, it is worth it.
3) MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE
In this continuing season of uncertainty, people are struggling. While many have decided to seek counsel from their pastors or even professional counselors, there are still likely many people in your church who need guidance.
When you decide to meet somewhere they are and embrace their mess, you will be floored by the response. Think of the way Jesus did things. He didn't beg and plead for people to join Him on His mission, He simply met people where they were.
- Jesus called the Apostle Peter to be a disciple while Peter was fishing.
- Jesus called the adulterous woman to sin no more as she laid naked in the street.
- Jesus regularly spent His time with people while they were in the midst of their struggle.
It wasn't Jesus' incredible knack for recruiting that motivated people, it was His devotion to "do life" with His followers kept them engaged. It was His uncanny ability to simply care about others that made Jesus so irresistible to want to follow.
4) UNDERSTAND THE PART EACH PERSON SHOULD PLAY, NOT WHAT THEY CAN PLAY
Once a person in your community has graduated from "motivated" to "engaged", the real challenge can set in. Sometimes when we view our volunteers, we see them more as parts in a system than organs in a body. They are easily replaceable and aren't necessarily vital to the way we run things.
Paul calls the Church the body for a reason. We are all one body, but with many different parts. Some of us are ears, some eyes, some hands. (Some sound techs, some creatives, some hospitality directors). But regardless of the part we play, we are all in it together.
When we operate under the model that volunteers are just parts in a system, we can find ourselves putting volunteers in a role that is not their natural function.
For example, if someone has the gift of hospitality and is an extreme extrovert, it may not be the best idea to stick them in the production booth. While they may kill it running lights, they may be better suited to operating in their gifts at the welcome or first-time guests table.
When we begin to place people in roles, they are passionate about and talented at, they will feel much less like just a position and more like a person. Putting this type of value on someone is a great way to keep them engaged in your community.
5) MISSION, MISSION, MISSION
As mentioned earlier, without the desire to do something, people just won't do it. If someone in your church doesn't have a passion for something in their heart, it is pretty unlikely they will be motivated, let alone engaged in your community.
That is why the mission matters.
The best way to keep your church engaged and motivated is by filling them with a mission mindset. People get behind a mission. That is why people will go out of their way to shop at a company whose mission they believe in.
The mission of your church, and precisely the mission of Jesus, should be the primary motivating factor behind everything your church does. When the mission is at the forefront of your mind (and you have a passion for it), you will do anything to realize it.
You can't force motivation or engagement, but when you meet your community where they are, care about their gifts, and live & breathe the mission, you can increase their passion even in the most challenging seasons.