Religion and Social Trends

Spotlight on Engagement in the Lone Star State, Part III

This is the third in a three-part case study on congregational engagement at Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas. In the spring of 2002, the church assigned Gallup to measure and improve its congregation's level of engagement, using Gallup's SE25 survey.

Broadway Church of Christ has made significant progress in increasing congregational engagement in the past year. As noted last week, the percentage of engaged members increased from 27% in the spring of 2002 to 36% in the spring of 2003. Looking at members' scores on individual survey items illustrates some of the reasons for this growth:

  • The percentage of members who "strongly agree" that the mission or purpose of their congregation makes them feel their participation is important has risen substantially, from 20% to 27%. This may be a direct result of Broadway's yearlong emphasis on redefining its mission.

  • The percentage of members who "strongly agree" that there is someone who encourages their spiritual development has risen from 33% to 40%. This is very likely a result of the renewal of both the men's and the women's ministries. It may also be related to the increase in participation in Broadway's ministry with college students.

  • The percentage of members who "strongly agree" that someone has talked to them about the progress of their spiritual growth in the last six months has increased significantly, from 13% to 20%. Again, this is attributable, at least in part, to the renewal of the men's, women's, and college ministries, as well as a heightened emphasis on the need for spiritual growth within several of the adult Sunday school classes.

These are just a few of the indicators demonstrating that Broadway has made important progress in improving engagement. The steps that this congregation has taken will create lasting, positive change -- not just a temporary spike in engagement scores -- as long as Broadway's leaders continue to give attention to the dynamics that drive members' levels of engagement.

The Next Challenge: Clarifying Expectations

While Broadway has made substantial improvement with regard to some aspects of engagement, there is one critical component that needs immediate attention: the downward trend in the percentage of members who say they know what is expected of them. In the spring of 2002, 31% of Broadway's members "strongly agreed" with this item; one year later, that percentage had fallen to 27%.

Some of this decline is to be expected. Whenever organizations go through major changes -- even positive ones -- members of those organizations tend to be unclear about expectations. In a way, members are saying, "Before all these changes, I knew what to expect. Now, I'm not quite sure what to expect or what I'm expected to do."

Broadway Church of Christ has been through some major changes in the last year, including changes in worship times and style, changes in men's and women's ministries, changes in staff, and the change that resulted from implementing Gallup's SE25 process itself. It is not surprising, then, that members are a little uncertain of expectations.

At the planning seminar following the most recent SE25 survey, Broadway's leadership decided to pursue two courses of action to address the issue of expectations:

  • Implement a process to better educate members about the SE25 and other changes that have occurred during the past year, as well as those that will occur in the future.
  • Appoint a task force to clarify the expectations of membership at Broadway.

If Broadway's leadership pursues these courses of action with the same diligence with which it carried out previous action plans, members will have a much clearer understanding of the expectations of membership, and engagement will be further enhanced.

Conclusion

Broadway Church of Christ has a rich tradition of innovation and leadership, both within the Lubbock community and within the national denomination of the Church of Christ. Broadway has been revitalized through the leadership of Dr. Rodney Plunket (Broadway's senior pastor) and the board of elders. This leadership has focused on the underlying conditions that lead to an engaged membership. As that engagement level continues to improve, Broadway will become more and more effective in transforming the lives of its members.

As Global Practice Leader for Faith Communities, Dr. Winseman leads Gallup's research and consulting services that assist faith communities in helping their members become more engaged. He is a co-author of the new book, Living Your Strengths, written to help members discover and use their talents and strengths in their congregations. Before joining The Gallup Organization, he was a pastor in the United Methodist Church for 15 years.
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