This is the third in a series on the congregational engagement hierarchy.
In last week's column, I discussed the question, "What do I get?", which addresses the need of congregation members to receive something of value from their memberships (see Meeting Members' Needs: "What Do I Get?" in Related Items). Members must have a clear answer to this question in order to become engaged and grow in their faith. Satisfying that need also provides the foundation for the next level of the congregational engagement pyramid, which addresses the question, "What do I give?" A faith community can see how well it is answering this question by looking at engagement survey items three to six:
- In my congregation, I regularly have the opportunity to do what I do best.
- In the last month, I have received recognition or praise from someone in my congregation.
- The spiritual leaders in my congregation seem to care about me as a person.
- There is someone in my congregation who encourages my spiritual development.
Human beings have an innate need to give of themselves to help others. Congregations are ideally suited to meet this need, as reaching out in concern and service to others is a primary ethic for most faith communities. Engaged members feel that they make a valuable contribution to the effectiveness of their faith communities -- and also feel like they make a difference in the world. The four items described below will help leaders assess how effectively their congregations meet the "what do I give" needs of their members.
"In my congregation, I regularly have the opportunity to do what I do best." People are most likely to be fully engaged in doing what they do best. When they are asked to do something for which they do not have much talent or interest, they tend to go through the motions without feeling like they are making a significant contribution. Individuals who get to do what they do best in their congregations -- or whose congregations help them discover what they do best -- have a deep sense of being appreciated their specific contribution.
"In the last month, I have received recognition or praise from someone in my congregation." On the surface, this may seem like a "what do I get?" item since it refers to receiving something -- recognition. However, this item is really about feedback. Members know that they are making a positive contribution when they receive recognition or praise for that contribution. When it comes to leadership, the maxim "no news is good news" is just plain wrong. People need to be told explicitly that what they have to offer is valued.
"The spiritual leaders in my congregation seem to care about me as a person." A climate of caring is essential for effective leadership of a faith community. When people feel cared about, they tend to reciprocate that feeling -- and are thus more willing to give of themselves and to offer their best effort. They also feel more freedom to take risks in order to explore their talents and make a more significant contribution to the congregation.
"There is someone in my congregation who encourages my spiritual development." Successful leaders encourage the development of the people they lead. They help individuals discover their strengths -- thereby enabling them to make a positive contribution to the faith community -- and then find ways for them to further develop those strengths. Thus a positive cycle is generated: individuals who experience the joy of using their strengths to make a positive contribution are motivated to find even greater fulfillment in the development of those strengths, and consequently give more.
The inherent human need to give of oneself to a great cause is a driving factor behind all thriving congregations. Those that search for the most effective ways to help members fulfill that need will be most likely to experience healthy development and growth.
The SE25 are protected by copyright of The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, 2001.