Four kinds of Engagement

Seems like the blog is sponsored by the letter E this week. Lots of Engagement-type items crossing the virtual desk at present.

P/E/O–Participation/Engagement/Ownership is the discipleship backbone of Transformational Giving and thus a regular topic on this blog. (Here’s a blog post on P/E/O containing a chart from Mission Increase Foundation’s Matt Bates that nicely fleshes things out.)

Typically we talk about the P to E move by saying that it’s the shift from Participation in a project to Engagement with a cause, noting that at the Engagement level there is a prominent lifestyle element involved.

I like that distinction, but without a doubt it needs further fleshing out.

That’s why I really like what Mel Lawrenz does with the word Engagement in his book Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.(There’s a nice PDF of Chapter 1 of Mel’s book on the Wiley website, by the way.)

Mel’s not writing about TG, but what he writes is really causing me to ruminate about Engagement in TG, and I think there’s a lot of carryover.

For example, Mel notes four kinds of engagement:

  1. Engaging with God
  2. Engaging with God’ s people
  3. Engaging with your community
  4. Engaging with the world

This is a fascinating list in that one primary application in coaching champions would be helping a champion at the P (Participation) level–someone who’s doing a Signature Participation Project (SPP) with the ministry, for instance–to reflect on the project in each of these four dimensions.

Good news is, this could only happen if the project was synecdochic (that is, if in doing the project the participant could ‘taste’ the fullness of your ministry, with the SPP serving as like the little tasting spoon that they give you at Cold Stone Creamery), so that’s a good way to make sure you’re staying on the synecdochic straight and narrow. If you are, then developing a reflection piece/study guide/devotional that holds up that SPP in light of these four dimensions of Engagement might be a stellar P to E coaching move.

Also, a number of ministries report that they’re struggling as they try to flesh out what it means for a champion to Engage with the cause. I’m not so sure Mel’s list doesn’t give us a nice template for exploring that.

Another aspect of what Mel wrote that excites me: He talks about how these four dimensions of Engagement have a cumulative, exponential effect. Thus, he cautions against creating projects that seal these dimensions into four distinct compartments. He’s writing with specific reference to the church, of course, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how his thoughts might apply to nonprofits as well:

If a church tries to get one hundred more people involved
in small groups each year, that’ s a good thing. But if the energy of small groups is brought into the worship of the church, and global engagement is featured through storytelling in the worship time, and personal devotional life (engagement with God) is directed to community engagement, then the energy of each of these dynamics builds on each other. In other words, the Whole Church that mixes and matches and blends engagement with God, with God’ s people, with the community, and with the world will build a fire that feeds itself. A fire is never sustained when the logs fueling it are spread out and separated from each other. But that is our instinct in church leadership: to put spiritual life into categories and its own special rooms in the church.

The reference to ‘spreading out logs’ and ‘special rooms’ ought to ring bells with reference to the way we separate out volunteering, giving time, and giving stuff into three different functions in the majority of nonprofits. And when we do so, we rarely equip champions to grow from Participation to Engagement.

Thus, Mel’s writing helps me put my finger on one of the key differences between P and E:

When a champion does a P-level project over and over, or participates in the project to a greater and greater degree (like doing 500 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child instead of 5), it’s rare to see a cumulative or exponential effect resulting across the four dimensions Mel identifies. There’s not much of an increase in maturity, in other words.

Maturity (and the transition from P to E for the champion) results from the champion being able to trace (often with our coaching) the logical or extended impact of involvement of the project in each of the four dimensions Mel charts.

You might be able to engage with God’s people and only grow in the number of shoeboxes you were filling at your church. But it would be hard to engage with God, the community, and the world without brushing up against the Transformational door that leads from Participation to Engagement.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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