Just Exactly When Does Engagement Happen?

Part 2 of a series on the book The Shape of Engagement by Scott Gould, with particular emphasis on Guest Experience. Read Part 1 here.

As an introduction to the second “shape” of Engagement, author Scott Gould poses an interesting question and thought:

At what point can we say something is engagement, and what point is something not engagement?

In the realm of social media, for example, the danger of treating a click as an engagement is that it creates the illusion that engagement has happened when it hasn’t. Worse still, by lumping everything into one pot we lose our strategic discernment to treat different activities differently.


To define the units of engagement, Gould introduces the second “shape” of engagement – Engage-Vent, represented by a V.

The V shape shows how relationship has different building blocks, from the sharp point at the bottom (which is the precise moment of action), to the broad, open-ended top (which is the potential of the relationship).

On the left of the V are the units of relationship, the smallest at the bottom, and the largest at the top. On the right is what the unit needs to go from and to, i.e. from coincidental interaction to consistent interaction.

Here’s a quick overview:

  • Interaction is the moment of relationship, the smallest, most tangible unit of engagement
  • Participation is the action of relationship, created by a series of moments of interaction
  • Engagement is the process of relationship, not an end in itself
  • Connection is the state of relationship, outlasting time and periods of interaction
  • Intention the purpose of relationship, the thread running through every part of the relationship

Consider these questions/applications for your Guest Experience:


  • Are the interactions you have with Guests consistent, or more coincidental?
  • How can you become more consistent?
  • Are you calling things “engagement” when they are really interactions?


  • Is the participation in your organization more passive or active? Why?
  • Choose one specific area of your Guest Experience, say Greeting at the exterior doors to your building. How many interactions fit into that one act of participation?


  • Engagement cannot happen when there is inactivity over too long a period of time. What actions are you taking from weekend to weekend to make sure a connection is built that transcends the inaction in between?
  • Think about the three broad categories of people walking into your building this weekend: members, participants, and Guests. Do they engage with you because they have a reason to, or because they have a relationship with you?
  • In those two categories (reason and relationship), what is the difference in terms of effort to provide value to them?


  • Think of a friend who you are connected to, but haven’t engaged recently. Why does your connection transcend the lack of regular engagement?
  • Take that same train of through to your church: are there people who have an enduring connection with your church? How did that happen?
  • In both cases above, but particularly for your church, what messages, moments, means, and meaning are involved in that connection?


  • Recall a time when you as a leader had to motivate an unengaged team member. Compare this with a team member who was fully engaged and therefore intrinsically motivated. What was the difference in outcome?
  • Intention points toward the true purpose of a relationship. What is your church’s intention toward Guests?

Next: The 3-E Maturity Model

inspired by and adapted from The Shape of Engagement, by Scott Gould

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