Taking another look at your engagement pathway?
As churches step into what's next, some are recognizing that the world changed in 2020 and preexisting engagement pathways were built for a time and place that no longer exists.
Can you relate? Are you having those thoughts?
Build your new engagement pathway with three things in mind.
I want to suggest that as you reimagine your engagement pathway, you must build the new version with three things in mind.
1. Belonging should be the centerpiece of every aspect of your pathway.
Pre-COVID-19 it was common practice in the engagement world to design in a baby step (think Guest Central) that preceded a first step (attend Next Steps) that led to a next step (join a group, volunteer to serve or be baptized).
Keep in mind that belonging is a higher need than becoming or having an impact and according to Maslow is only less important than physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest) or safety needs (security).
This understanding should inform the sequence of your engagement pathway and the pace in which steps on the pathway are offered.
For most churches, Guest Central had the feel of an information kiosk, like you would find in a shopping mall or a large airport. There was often a bank of flyers and pamphlets. There was a video playing on a monitor. And there was a team, ready in place to greet anyone who came to Guest Central and get them the info they needed and answer the questions they asked.
Intended or not, Guest Central functioned as a wayfinder; ideally pointing visitors to the best first step (Next Steps) but more often than not, pointing them to the next step of their choice.
Reimagine Step One: Belonging must be the centerpiece of every aspect of your pathway. That means Guest Central must be staffed by connectors and includers.
Connectors, (according to Malcom Gladwell) are people who who knows large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions.
Includers make it easy to feel like you belong. They make the impermeable membrane between you and us permeable.
Imagine if your Guest Central was staffed by connectors and includers?
Next Steps Class
For most churches, the next stop on their engagement pathway was a class that highlighted the most important or most likely next steps.
The class was almost invariably informational and instructive. "This is why groups are important and this is how you join a group here."
Some churches built table hosts into their strategy, but most did not. Some of the table hosts were connectors and includers. Some were not.
Reimagine Step Two: Belonging must be the centerpiece of every aspect of your pathway. That means your Next Step class must be staffed by connectors and includers.
2. Frequency is more important than critical mass.
Pre-COVID-19 it was our practice to develop an annual small group calendar that offered a variety of upcoming opportunities to connect to a group. Theoretically, an unconnected person would never be further away than 60 days from a connecting opportunity. Our theory was most of the people who asked about how to join a group could be signed up for the next event and then would be fine waiting the few weeks prior to the event.
This was a time-tested practice developed over many years. Several key assumptions were built into our practice. First, we assumed a few weeks would not be too much of an issue since most unconnected people had never tried a group before. Second, we assumed a set critical mass was required for every connecting strategy (church-wide campaigns, life group connections, short-term on-campus experiences, and book clubs) and achieving critical mass would often require several weeks of weekend promotion to build.
Unconnected attendees of your weekend service (on-campus or online) have always been one tough thing away from never being at your church again. With even the slightest connection to anyone taken away (as a result of COVID-19), it is more important than ever that we offer first steps and next steps more frequently and in a form less dependent on critical mass.
Unconnected attendees of your weekend service (on-campus or online) have always been one tough thing away from never being at your church again. With even the slightest connection to anyone taken away (as a result of COVID-19), it is… Click To Tweet
Reimagine Step One: Consider forming a team of short-term guides. Providing a four week "curriculum" and offering a weekly check-in with a "guide" can be a bridge to the next short-term group or connecting event.
Reimagine Step Two: Offer short-term opportunities to connect on a more frequent basis. These short-term opportunities can work with as few as two or three members for 3 to 5 weeks and can be a bridge to the next connecting event.
3. Digital cannot be an afterthought.
As I mentioned previously, we must be thinking about digital first. Digital cannot be an afterthought.
What does that mean? Digital first means before you spend a lot of time planning on-campus connecting opportunities (or even in-home opportunities) for your congregation and crowd, you should be asking "how can we offer first steps into community for our online crowd and community?"
Everything you're thinking about making belonging the easy, obvious and strategic first step on your campus should be true digitally.
Reimagine Step One: As you think about your virtual baby step, it should be staffed by connectors and includers.
Reimagine Step Two: As you think about your virtual first step, it should be staffed by connectors and includers.
There has never been a more heightened desire for belonging. Whatever the level was pre-COVID-19, it has escalated dramatically in the last 6 months.
If engagement is the new attendance and if belonging is the centerpiece of engagement, reimagining your engagement pathway must feature the presence of connectors and includers.
Note: If you haven't read 10 Practices You Need to Adopt Going Forward (post-Covid-19), subscribe below and I'll send you a free copy.