Maybe you’ve heard the old joke about the news reporter who asks the CEO, “How many people work in your company?” The CEO responds, “About half of them.”

We laugh because most of us recognize the sad truth here. Sadder still, the latest research shows the CEO’s answer is quite optimistic! Those who study commitment in the work place categorize employees as engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged:

  • Engaged workers have a deep commitment to their organization’s mission. They work with zeal and provide the innovation and energy that move the organization forward. Recent data from Gallup shows that about 29% of workers fit this description. They are at least 20% more productive than their disengaged counterparts!
  • Disengaged workers put in their time, but they withhold most of their energy from their tasks. They live for the weekend, having checked out mentally from the organization’s processes and, most important, its mission. The same Gallup study reveals that about 56% of workers fall into this category.
  • Actively disengaged workers poison the atmosphere around them. They gripe, snipe, and undermine what their co-workers accomplish. In worst-case scenarios, they actually sabotage the efforts and contributions of others! According to Gallup, nearly 15% of employees can be categorized as “actively disengaged.”

Interestingly, the data does not change much from the US to Thailand to Japan. World-wide, companies face important challenges in engaging workers more fully.

How about churches? If you were to evaluate your volunteers, how do you suppose the numbers would stack up? How many of them are “engaged”? How many are “disengaged”? Does your ministry suffer because you have even a few members who fit into the “actively disengaged” category?

Christ’s Mission, Our Passion

If you have even one actively disengaged volunteer in any one of your programs, you need to address the issue head-on—and you need to do it quickly. Like the Pandemic Flu of the future we’ve all come to fear, active disengagement is especially contagious. Don’t let it fester! It won’t fix itself. If the Lord Jesus has entrusted you with a leadership role in your congregation, you need to figure out what’s happening and act to address it.

In general, groups that focus on meaningful goals and individuals who feel empowered to contribute toward meeting those goals share a sense of engagement. Leaders who find ways to “enlarge the shadow of the future,” as someone has phrased it, will usually engage the cooperation of followers. That future needs to fire imagination and ignite the passion of the entire organization in the here and now.

What better place to do this than in Christ’s Church, among the members of his body!? Scripture consistently teaches that we’re here to reach out with the Good News of the Savior, crucified and risen. We do this as we…

These purposes aren’t foreign; they are not some alien concept your members have never heard about before. They make up part of each true believer’s spiritual DNA! Those who know Jesus know instinctively that we cannot keep the Gospel to ourselves. Our hearts burst to share it. Those who know Jesus know instinctively that we cannot remain spiritual babies. We “crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it [we] may grow up in [our] salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

January, February, March, April—Maximize the Opportunities

Still, the apostle Paul had to encourage Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). As leaders, we all need this same encouragement from time to time so that we don’t grow weary and give in to the temptation to “go through the motions” instead of straining “on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

And as leaders, we look for ways to stir up in others the same passion for the mission our Lord Jesus has given us. This need not involve adding more events to an already packed calendar. Rather, we can look for ways to maximize the potential of what we’re already doing.

Take out your calendar. Ask yourself, “What are we already doing?” Then ask, “How could we optimize these events for reaching out to those in our community who need to know Jesus?” In January, for example, you might plan to follow up on the visitors who worshiped with you at Christmas. Consider this: a decade ago, around 20 percent of all Americans were unaffiliated with any local church. Today, that number has risen to nearly 35 percent.

But research by Barna and others has indicated that one in ten adults in America say they want to be more deeply involved in a church. Could it be that they are waiting for us to ask them to join an active and positive worshiping congregation!

Or think about the fact that half of all Christians in the US came to faith before age 13. In light of that, how might your church in the year ahead capitalize on Valentine’s Day or a Halloween Alternative event to introduce children to their Savior? Could you plan a weekend party with games and treats? Could you distribute door hanger invitations to homes clustered within 20 blocks of your building? Could you deliver gift bags to families with children who have visited your worship services in the past year?

Or consider this: when researchers asked, slightly more than half of all adults said they would like to grow spiritually—if only they knew how to do it. What an opportunity for your congregation! For 20 centuries Christians have dedicated the weeks before Easter to spiritual growth. Some observe six weeks of Lent leading up to Holy Week. Others approach the season less formally, but they nonetheless focus in intentional ways on Scripture reading, prayer, and worship. What could you plan that would capture people’s attention?

Year by year, month by month, CTA provides materials designed to help you reach out to your community—women’s retreats, Valentine’s party planning materials for ministry with kids, J-Team materials perfect for use on Super Bowl Sunday, attractive items for your visitor’s packet… Much of it is even free, instantly downloadable, and designed to save busy pastors and other workers time—your most precious resource! 

How many members work in your church?  Wouldn’t it be great if you could answer, “Nearly all of them!” Cast a riveting, uplifting vision. Provide materials to support your people as they work toward it. Intercede for them and encourage them. Then, get out of the way. Your best guess at what God will do won’t come close to the wonderful outcomes he will ultimately bring about!


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. 
© 2014 CTA, Inc. No duplication of this article is allowed without the express written consent of CTA, PO Box 1205, Fenton, MO 63026-1205. 
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