Health and Growth

Should Churches Collect Their Members’ Data?

Learn how church leaders can use data to increase the efficiency of their teams and the effectiveness of their pastoral care.

Should Churches Collect Their Members’ Data?

Frank Barry

Should your church be collecting as much digital data as possible? 

It's an interesting topic, right? If you take one quick second to just think about that and think about what's happening just in the world on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Amazon, Google, Bing, Microsoft, and all of these companies, they are creating products that live on mobile phones.

People are on their mobile devices hours and hours a day, checking out social media, using email, using Slack, and all of these products. By virtue of that, these companies are collecting digital data on people all day long. Your church members are known by these companies in some way, right? Google, Facebook, and probably many others, but Google and Facebook come to mind right away when we think of people who have data on your church members. We hear privacy updates in the news. They have so much data on us. If your church members have a Google account, a Facebook account, and other stuff that are connected to those entities, big companies have massive amounts of your church members’ data because they want to know and understand your church members.

Those companies are collecting a lot of data on us. We're walking around with our phones, we're signed into our accounts, they're asking us: “Can I have access to your photos, access to your contacts, access to your location, access to everything?” Most of the time, the answer is a resounding: “I agree!”  

Their data is being collected already. So when you kind of come from that perspective, people are getting more comfortable with sharing personal data. They're doing banking on their phones and they're taking cabs or Ubers on their phone. They're buying products on their phone. They're getting more and more comfortable with things about them being known by all these companies because it creates convenience, right? People love convenience.

If I can just open my phone and get in an Uber and it takes all of two minutes, I'll put my credit card in there, my name, my email, my address, I'll let you track my location because it gets me from my house to the airport. It's just about convenience. If I can connect with my friends on Facebook or Instagram, and having my location turned on helps make that a better experience, or in Google using Google Maps because I want to map myself to the restaurant we're having dinner at tonight, then I’m going to give that company access to my private information because it affords me convenience. 

Your church members are already into the game of convenience. As a church, should you be collecting digital data and using that to create better experiences for them? My take is: Absolutely. You do it with respect. You do it by asking. You do it by making sure they know. But think about it for a second. If you collected attendance data, if you collected kids check-in data, small group attendance data, financial giving data, serving data, and engagement data, you would massively understand the health and opportunities in your church.

So if you were collecting all that data on a person and their family and you had it all in one central system and it was all tied to the mobile device somehow, that would be a powerful tool for your outreach. It’s all happening right on your computer screen. You'd be able to do so much if you had a system behind all of that data giving you things, right?

What if you knew and tracked all of this and then you were able to kind of pull out information such as: "John Smith hasn't checked in their kids for three months.” If you have a church over 200 people, as a pastor, it's hard to know what's going on with everybody at that point. 

You're going to see them on the weekend, but when you're at 200 members, all of a sudden you can't know what's going on with everybody. Having a system that tells you: "John hasn't checked in the kids for two weeks. What's going on?" Maybe in a month, you should check in on him. Or: “The Barry family hasn't given in a month. And they were consistent givers for five years and all of a sudden they haven't been giving for a month.” You probably want to know that as a pastor. You probably want to know they haven't been checking in their kids as a pastor. Or the opposite of that: “Sally and her family have been serving as ushers for a year straight, every Sunday. For 52 Sundays they've been serving as ushers.” Or: “Somebody just gave over $1,000.” 

You would want to know that stuff because as a pastor and as a church leader, knowing who's not showing up or who's not in small groups or who hasn't checked in their kids, that could be a pastoral care issue where you want to find a way to check in with them or give them a call or stop by the house or maybe call the small group leader whose small group they're in and see what's going on. 

Maybe they're sick. Maybe they're vacationing. Maybe there's something else going on in the family that you want to go help out with. If somebody has given a certain amount or they've ushered for a number of months in a row, you want to go give them a big thank you and make sure you go up and give them a hug.

Systems and data help you to be a better pastor and church leader. With data, you can surface more insights on your people that size eventually makes impossible. When you're over 2-300 people, you just can't pastor that many people at scale like you could when it was 50 people.

Use systems well. Collect all the data to be a better pastor and church leader, not to be intrusive but because it all comes back to people. It's all about loving people, caring for people, and using technology to aid in that mission.

Show Notes

Read the full blog of this episode here:

Today on Modern Church Leader, our COO Frank Barry explains how church leaders can use data to increase the efficiency of their teams and the effectiveness of their pastoral care.

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Should Churches Collect Their Members’ Data?