Spotlight on Engagement in the Lone Star State

by Albert L. Winseman, D. Min.
Religion and Social Trends Editor

First in a three-part case study on congregational engagement at Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas

Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, is one of the leading churches in its denomination. With more than 1,000 members and a 110-year history, it remains a progressive and growing congregation. Broadway has been around almost longer than Lubbock itself; the congregation first met in a hotel on Broadway Street, and even after two relocations remains on the street from which it took its name.

Broadway is located in a changing neighborhood, in the middle of the largest privately funded urban development project in the United States. When the project is completed, the neighborhood will be transformed from low-income housing and downtown businesses into upscale housing and a new retail, dining, and business district. Through all the changes Broadway has seen, it remains committed to being a vibrant spiritual community that draws members from all over the city. The Broadway congregation also has a commitment to the poor (both locally and globally), supports higher education, and provides leadership in the community.

In February 2002, Dr. Rodney Plunket, the congregation's senior pastor, attended the first Gallup Summit on Congregational Engagement. Knowing the transition that Broadway was going through and desiring to better understand the dynamics of his congregation, Plunket came looking for ways to better manage and lead his congregation. After learning about the role of members' engagement levels in driving all aspects of congregational life, Plunket and his board of elders decided to work with Gallup to measure congregational engagement at Broadway Church of Christ.

In March and April 2002, data were gathered from Broadway's members using Gallup's SE25 survey. The SE25 measures individual spiritual commitment, as well as the congregational engagement level of the church as a whole. It also correlates strongly with four desired outcomes among congregation members: life satisfaction, inviting, serving, and giving. Once the survey was completed, Gallup prepared and delivered a "scorecard" to Broadway. The scorecard reported on responses to each of the questions, provided an analysis of the data, and laid the groundwork for action plans to address issues raised by the survey results.

How Did Broadway Do?

In May 2002, Plunket and a team of leaders from Broadway attended a seminar in Washington, D.C., along with other leaders of congregations participating in the SE25 survey, to learn more about the breakdown of their engagement scores and begin devising action plans to improve engagement. In their first SE25 survey scorecard, Broadway had a mean score of 4.29 on the spiritual commitment items, which put them in the top 50% in comparison with other religious institutions in Gallup's database. Broadway's congregational engagement mean score of 3.44, however, fell in the bottom half of the database. This suggested that the members of Broadway had a high degree of spiritual commitment, but had a hard time finding ways to live out their commitment through their church.

The data also indicated that there was a slightly higher percentage of actively disengaged members than engaged members at Broadway -- 29% vs. 27%. Looking at the data, it was evident that Broadway had been doing a good job of nurturing members' individual spirituality. However, that spirituality was not increasing members' connection and sense of belonging to their congregation. The challenge for Broadway was to convert individual spirituality into a shared sense of belonging.

Next week: Broadway's plan of action and results

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