Engagement Over Attendance: Part 1

“…in the future church, only the engaged will attend because only the engaged will remain.” – Carrie Niewhof in  Disruptive Church Trends that Will Rule 2017.

We read about it. We know it. We see it. We experience it. Church attendance patterns are changing rapidly. Most of our ministries have not fully adapted to new realities. Deep in our Christian educator bones we know that attendance isn’t the only or best measure of how the Spirit is moving in the lives of children, youth, and families. And yet. It is the number many of us use most often. It is the number that the church council reads first in the report. Can the numbers narrative can be transformed in 2019?

Recently I began creating a list of ways, in addition to attendance, to measure engagement.  I am hoping to identify ways that get to the heart of what we are called to do: nurture disciples of Jesus Christ. As I brainstormed, I realized that these measures were based on particular assumptions about how faith is formed:

  1. Discipleship is a way of life that includes specific practices: worship, prayer, sabbath keeping, Bible reading/study, service, e This list was developed using the UMC (Wesley’s) General Rule of Discipleship and the PCUSA Book of Order.
  2. Growing as a disciple is possible only by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefor, our discipleship ministries must be surrounded by prayer.
  3. Home is the primary place where children and youth are formed in faith. See Vibrant Faith for information on the “ecology” of faith formation.
  4. Worship is formational and primary in our communal ministries of discipleship. See this Lifelong Faith article for more information.
  5. Engagement is a combination of both presence and practice. Caring relationships at home and church are vital to faith development. See Fuller Youth Institute for more information on relationship and “sticky faith.”
  6. Connection and collaboration between and among faith formation leaders is vital to envisioning future ministries of Christian education. See how Christians Engaged in Faith Formation is moving to a new model of “accessible, affordable, relevant peer learning.”

Over the next 5 weeks I will share a beginning list of engagement measures organized around these assumptions.  In January, I will host an online conversation open to 10 other Christian educators to collaborate and discuss some new best practices of discipleship measurement. Complete this sign-up form to be invited to the conversation (limited to the first 10 people).

My hope is that this will inspire additional practices in the new year. Be sure to subscribe to email updates to receive future blog posts in your inbox.

Thank you for exploring this important topic with me in the weeks to come.

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