Pastor Your Data

Businesses use data well, even if it’s sometimes creepy. It’s time the church followed suit—minus the creepiness. Churches need to pastor the data!

The typical church is not good at tracking data. We keep track of how big the offering is. We keep good track of attendance. But we honestly don’t use other data well.

More recently, many church leaders have rejected attendance and offering numbers as the scorecard of success, and that can be good, because there is more to success then those numbers. However, what has happened is we have gone so far into the “numbers don’t matter” realm that we don’t have enough helpful data.

One of the best pieces of data is from Ed Stetzer’s stat from Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age:

  • Churches under 3 years of age win an average of 10 people to Christ per year for every 100 church members.
  • Churches more than 15 years of age win an average of 3 people to Christ per year for every 100 church members.
  • That kind of data tells a story!
    Most pastors typically don’t spend much time on data and that’s a mistake, because data tells a story.

Here are two areas where data has answered some big questions for us recently:

  1. Our church’s growth had slowed slightly. I thought we weren’t attracting enough guests, but when I looked at the percentage of first-time guests who came back for a second time, I discovered we didn’t have an inviting problem, we had a retaining problem.
  2. One of our core practices is connecting people to groups. Because we keep data of how many people actually attend their group more than they miss (instead of just tracking how many people sign up for a group), we learned that we had a lower percentage of people in groups this spring compared to the last several years.

If we didn’t keep track of things like second-time guest numbers, and how many people are attending groups, we couldn’t make adjustments to live out our values. Or if we did make an adjustment, it would be based on guesswork.

So here are some questions we’ve been asking ourselves lately:

  • What are we not tracking that we could be tracking?
  • What is measureable that we are not measuring?
  • Likewise, what is not measureable and we need to acknowledge that?
  • What numbers tell a story, and what is just white noise?

Data tells a story. Pastor your data.

We encourage you to have someone on your team who is into numbers track everything you can think of so that you can make adjustments to your ministry to reach people.

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