This blog was originally written by Amber Smart and featured on the Smart Metrix blog: More than a Wish and Prayer: How Data and Curiosity Can Find Your Church’s Momentum Amber Smart is the founder of the 153 Effect and SmartMetrix. Amber also created the data strategy and formed the analytics team at Life.Church. Prior to that, she was the Operations Leader for Digerati and helped launch the Bible App. When she's not helping make the complex more simple, you can find her playing with her grandbabies.
You’re on a mission to help people know Jesus, experience transformative love, and share that love in the world. And, you know ministry outcomes are measured by much more than attendance numbers or volunteer slots filled.
Attendance has always been an important data point for churches because it was predictive of engagement. However, in today’s model of church, attendance has become more of a lagging indicator, informing us how well we are creating engagement. Life change is now the leading indicator.
But how do you gauge that kind of life change? Is there a way to quantifiably know if you’re making a difference?
We believe the answer is yes.
First, what do we mean by “data”?
Data has been a controversial topic in the church because a lot of people see it as intrusive. However, here is something very important to understand:
Data is neutral. It has no intent or motive.
How we use data is the important thing, and there are many positive ways to use data to create relevance, impact, and life change.
Secondly, some leaders in the Church are of the opinion that data is intended to draw conclusions, removing the spiritual or human element from the equation. But this is not the case.
The purpose of data is not to provide answers to our questions. It is to help form the questions that inform our decisions.
The leaders who ask the best questions are the ones who end up arriving at the best conclusions. So where do we start in the process of getting better at using data?
Curiosity.Begin with curiosity.
Data - especially data gathered well and with a purpose - matters.
But data is just numbers until you get curious enough to find trends and identify momentum.
Start with what you want to learn. Do people give first or serve first? For those who give first, how long before they start volunteering? Who participated in one service event, but not another?
Look at trends in the data to start answering those questions. You can find who’s attending and when they started giving. Notice discrepancies between events and get curious. What changed? What was the same? Curiosity provides actionable insights for your stewardship.
Understand the behaviors.
Seeing the behaviors of your guests and members is the first step to understanding their behaviors and stewarding your resources to best serve them.
When you see an uptick in baptisms, perhaps that’s an opportunity for additional mentorship or Bible studies. When volunteer slots for a ministry are filled quickly time and again, maybe it’s time for an additional service day. If one small group is particularly popular, what can you do to capture that energy and apply it to other groups?
A sustainable ministry is one where you are aware of how your guests engage with your church, anticipate and predict their future needs, and then adjust accordingly.
Together, we can leverage data to better understand how your efforts are working. We can also leverage your data to find where momentum is happening in your church so you can direct your resources and effort to where they’ll have the most impact.
The meaning behind data is to see more than just numbers. We use data to give you the confidence for the faithful next step in building your God-given vision. Meaningful data is fuel for your growing church.
We have been fortunate to learn from some of the largest and most innovative churches in America about what is working and creating growth, so we have put together an assessment to help you and your team identify where you are in four very important areas: Organizational alignment, measuring impact, engagement strategies, and building use.