Before walking in your door, people have researched you online, they know the face of your staff members, and they have watched the Sunday service at least once. The website may get them in the door but even with online information and registrations your website is not the key to growing active participation in the life of your church and community. This responsibility lands heavily on your shoulders and those of your leadership team.
Red Flags for Participants
You long to see people enjoy healthy and fulfilling faith community. You have vision for a caring church environment that mirrors the church in Acts—if only people would participate! If that vision feels ever out-of-reach, passion can turn to frustration and even desperation. No matter how hard you try to hide it, frustration and desperation show. And they are huge red flags.
Too many sermons have been preached that have been thinly veiled begging for people to volunteer, to come, to go, to join in! These sermons usher in a subtle shift that takes the focus off of Jesus and onto you.
People who respond may do so not because they see a way to use their gifts or because they are attracted to caring community—they respond for you. They see your frustration and they want to support you. That’s kind but it’s not a healthy or effective basis for transformation. Other people might miss the next week’s service. They also see your frustration and they sense something is off and they feel the need to put up a protective boundary. They may watch from afar but they aren’t enticed to join in active participation.
Coming from a Healthier Place
If you’re thinking, or worse saying, they “should” participate (or a version of it) imagine that “should” as a millstone weighing people down. This guilt-based approach misses the very heart of why God gave us spiritual gifts in the first place. Consider a joy based approach instead.
I love that the word for joy in Greek, chara, shares a root with grace, charis, and with the gift, charisma. It reminds me to connect the three. Especially when it comes to living together in community, serving others, and walking with people as they grow.
Joy is an inner gladness; a deep seated pleasure. It is a depth of assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful heart. It is a cheerful heart that leads to cheerful behavior. Joy is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances but is God’s gift to believers. Joy is a part of God’s very essence and as discussed below His Spirit manifests this supernatural joy in His children.
Great joy comes in understanding the grace of God. And great joy comes from living into and sharing the gifts that he has given you.
4 Steps to Growing Active Participation in Your Church
With joy in mind, there are healthy ways to increase engagement and active participation. Here is where you and your leadership team come in because they all require personal connection.
Here is what has worked for me:
I know you pray. You know the starting point is prayer. But sometimes, we fall into asking God to bless our plans and there is need to realign with what God is doing. Spend time intentionally praying for discernment.
The Holy Spirit is the one who has placed a responsive spirit within people, and he is the one who will guide you to them. Pray that God would guide you to those ready to dive in and get involved.
2. Start Talking
There is no substitute for a personal conversation with someone. If they didn’t come to church with a friend, you’ll need to invite them to a conversation like this. By asking them questions and really listening to the answers, you can find out where they’re at, what they need, and what kind of capacity and gifts they have.
While you want to get everyone plugged into the church community, some come in with the passion and energy to serve and lead. With these people you’ll want to take the extra step of not only connecting them with the community, but also of investing in them as potential leaders. Select these people and assign someone to follow up with them for additional leadership development. See what God has put on their hearts.
When you have people coming in who are responsive, and ready to invest, serve, and lead, see what God has put on their hearts. What do they sense him calling them to do? How does that align with the opportunities you have at your church?
Sometimes there is clear alignment; other times there is not. Even if they are called to something outside of your scope, God has brought them to you and your investment in them is contribution to the Kingdom. Engage honestly and transparently about how you can help and what your limitations are. Part of the calling of any church is to empower and develop people toward whatever God is calling them to do.
The Discipleship Difference- There are clear goals for Christian discipleship in scripture. However, people grow in different ways and at different paces. Discipleship Difference outlines a nonlinear pathway to growing in 8 areas that Christ taught his disciples.*
Leadership Skills Guides– For people who have leadership potential but are rough around the edges. These guides are a choose-your-own-adventure of essential leadership skills to help you meet people where they are at and help them where they need to grow.