Q: Which is more important: Creating groups specifically formed to address engagement issues, or simply getting more members involved in small-group activities?
A: This is kind of a "chicken or the egg" question, because the answer is that both are important. In order for congregation members to own the process of increasing engagement in their congregation, they need to be involved in making decisions, planning strategy and implementing action plans. This would involve creating various task forces for engagement strategies, taking into account members' interests, talents and strengths. By its very nature, the process of increasing engagement will have the natural effect of increasing the engagement level of most of those involved in implementing the process.
But not everyone is a planner, strategizer or activator. We also know from Gallup's research on healthy congregations that one of the most effective means of increasing engagement and spiritual commitment is through small groups, and this movement has exploded across the country in the past 20 years. The deep and powerful sharing, along with the commitment and accountability, that are part of small groups makes the experience a crucial part of many congregation members' lives. One of the ways to improve accountability, meet spiritual needs and deepen relationships (all important factors of engagement) in your congregation is to make small groups a priority.
Both of these approaches are important to the success of any engagement initiative; which one you pursue first depends greatly upon the character of your congregation.