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How does church database management systems enable better pastoral care? First of all, most of the time pastors are very big picture, big vision, top-down, and don't want to get too much in the weeds. I was a little guilty of that when I was a pastor. But as things progress from the basics of church life, the more detail you have on what's going on inside the church—in any different department, on any different subject—the more data you have, the better.
Outside of the church world, let's just talk about data. It is a massive thing right now. If you're paying any attention to the world of business, you'll know that companies—not just social media, but all companies—are collecting all kinds of data. Now forget about the fact that sometimes there are data breaches and people don't always use the data correctly. Let's put that aside for the moment. There's a reason why companies are collecting this data. It's so they know their customer better. If they know their customer better, they can target that customer with products and services that they might not think they need them. That data is knowing that they need those products.
You might say: "Dean, this is so big brother, I don't want anything to do with this." I get it. But as a church leader, you are called to know your flock. There's an incredible verse here in Proverbs: "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds, for riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secured for all generations” (Proverbs 27:23).
Why do you want data? The first reason that you want to know what's going on in your church is that you want to be informed. You want to have a really great snapshot of what's actually going on in the church. It's all about having that information to make great decisions. If you don't understand what's going on in your church, it's very difficult to pastor your church. You can have all the goals you want. You can be as excited as you like about starting this department and doing this outreach. But if you don't know what's going on in the life of the church, it's very hard to set that roadmap—to set those goals and hit those targets—if you don't have real facts.
As a pastor, I understood this, but I understand it even more running a business. Running a business and making decisions, I have to rely on real month-by-month, quarter-by-quarter data. If I neglect that, I'm going to make the wrong executive decisions. It's exactly the same for you. I need data because I need to understand what's going on in the life of my church.
The main calling of the church, beyond preaching the gospel and leading people to Christ, is to care. The word “pastor” in the New Testament comes from the very noble and awesome profession of shepherding sheep. The whole idea of ministry is to care for the people, and we do that in many different ways. We teach them the Word. We create great worship experiences for them. We counsel them and give them advice when they're going through tough times. We provide a safe harbor for Christians to be able to come and worship and grow in their faith. Understanding what's going on in people's lives, and using technology to help you do that, is extremely powerful.
I don't have time to get into the weeds of how that can happen. All I can tell you is this: as a church leader, you can't be afraid of data. What you want to sometimes do, especially if your churches are growing, is you want to put your head in the sand and preach another sermon and think everything's okay. Sometimes that works, but sometimes that doesn't work. Most of the time it doesn't work. You must know what's going on in the life of your church so that you can actually speak into what's needed and that's going to ultimately bring a level of health that you wouldn’t be able to get unless you know what's going on in the life of your church. That's why you need a church database management system.
My favorite metaphor that illustrates the power and necessity of collecting data in your church is going to the doctor. When you go to the doctor, the first thing they do is stick a thermometer in your mouth, thy take your blood pressure, check your pulse, and do the basics. They want to get a quick read on your health in a few minutes. That's very top line. That's not going to tell them if you've got some issues going on in your blood, or your liver, or your kidneys. The doctor then comes in and they put a stethoscope on your heart, they checking around, and they make sure the vital signs are okay. They make sure your blood pressure's not off the Richter scale.
Data allows church leaders to get those top-line vital signs so that you can get a feel of the health of each individual church member and the health of the church in general. Think of gathering data in your church as giving you that dashboard to read the vital signs of your church so that you can cultivate a healthy, thriving church culture that people can’t help but want to be a part of.
Today on Modern Church Leader, our Tithe.ly CEO Dean Sweetman discusses how data-driven church management software helps church leaders to shepherd their flocks more effectively.
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