Organizations are typically great at gathering data. We love to conduct surveys and build spreadsheets and print out charts. What we’re not so great at, typically, is listening to what that data tells us. It’s a lot easier to build another spreadsheet than to make big changes to the ways we’ve always done things.
If you’re operating in a church with some pretty firmly established ministry silos, you’re likely spending most of your time gathering the data and assessing what’s accurate and what’s not. What you’re likely not doing, while you’re gathering all that data, is looking at how to break down the silos and create holistic strategies, processes, and tools that work across your whole organization. But when you have those things in place, the data coming out of them is infinitely more valuable and easier to learn from.
When you gather data holistically and devote serious time and energy to listening to it, you’ll be able to look at your data and see the questions you should be asking:
- What does someone’s giving pattern tell you about their commitment to your ministry? Is it changing? For better or for worse?
- What do your retention rates say about your followup strategy with visitors? Who’s coming back and who’s not? How are you communicating with people at different points in their assimilation process?
- What do your small group attendance rates say about the effectiveness of your small group leaders (dangerous ground there, I know — but it’s a question that needs to be asked)?
- Do your sermon topics have a measurable impact on your key indicators? Do giving, serving, and attending increase or decrease when you preach on certain topics? Why?
Gathering data can be fun. Asking the questions your data is prompting is significantly harder. But it’s only by asking those questions, and being brave enough to face the complicated answers, that you are really going to see your ministry efforts make a measurable difference.
What questions do you need to ask of your data? What will you do with the answers?