Ninja or network: Which is the best way to manage church data?


At Church Community Builder, we have the privilege of working with literally thousands of church leaders in nearly 20 different countries. It's an amazing blessing and learning opportunity! As you might imagine, we observe a variety of philosophies around church management software, but they typically funnel into one of two buckets:

The Ninja Approach: These are the churches that rely on one primary staff member to manage and report on the information gathered with their church management software. This database guru holds the keys to the kingdom and everyone knows it. Whenever a staff member or volunteer needs information, they rely on the 'ninja' to give it to them. They don’t really understand their church management software.

The Network Approach: These are churches that take a shared approach to managing information within their church management software. There is no single database guru. Everyone has access to the information. The entire staff and key ministry leaders can update information, leverage it, and learn from it.

Which philosophy do you think is more effective when it comes to making better ministry decisions and cultivating community within your church?

Ninja vs. Network — Advantages and Disadvantages

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both.

The Ninja Approach


  • You don’t have to worry about it.
  • People can’t 'mess up the data'.
  • The processes needed to manage are simple and straightforward.


  • The guru has all the access and power.
  • You can’t easily access data that helps you serve people.
  • The data is often out of date or inaccurate.
  • The database is irrelevant to almost all of your leaders.
  • Leaders are not empowered or well informed.
  • If the guru leaves, you’re hosed!

The Network Approach


  • Data can be accessed by all the right people at the moment it’s needed.
  • The power of a network makes the data more accurate and relevant.
  • More people using the database leads to richer, more actionable data.
  • Leaders are empowered and informed about strategy, people, and outcomes.
  • The workload of data management and ministry is distributed.
  • Momentum can be maintained even when people leave or change jobs.


  • It requires greater clarity and vision for why we manage church data and how.
  • It requires more leadership involvement and support.
  • It requires more complex processes to manage it well.

What’s the best way?

When you take time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches, I believe the answer is clear. Sharing the responsibility of managing your church data is far more beneficial than having one person control all of the information.

This is one of the key reasons we encourage church leaders to make the commitment to involve others to gain buy-in and momentum when implementing their church management software. If you want to get the most out of your investment, your church should encourage and equip everyone to share the responsibility of leveraging your church management software to improve your ministry.

What approach does your church take? Have you ever made the transition from ninja to network? What were some things you noticed after the change?

Photo Credit: Duncan WJ Palmer via Compfight cc

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Posted by Steve Caton on March 19, 2014