Ministry is interdependent at its core. It takes every area of ministry working together to grow a community of believers and achieve the overarching mission of your church. When that doesn’t happen, it can be costly. Some of the side effects of ministry silos and disconnected systems are more obvious. There’s a lack of unity. Poor communication between ministries wastes time and frustrates leaders.
While these are common frustrations, there’s a hidden cost of ministry silos that is equally impactful. A few weeks ago, I ran across this excellent post from Seth Godin in which he highlights Metcalf's law on the power of a single network. I started to think about how this same principle can be leveraged to address the persistent habit churches have of allowing multiple data silos to emerge within their ministry.
The hidden cost of ministry silos
Church leaders can learn a lot from Metcalf’s Law when it comes to the hidden cost of ministry silos. The more silos you have, the less powerful your 'network' becomes. As a result, everything you’re investing to reach people in your community is crippled.
The hidden cost of ministry silos is missed ministry opportunity. When the information we share amongst ministries is disconnected, you can’t know for sure if you’re effectively stewarding the people who come through your doors every Sunday.
Data silos cripple your ability to plug people into community. They prevent the new member who needs to get connected into a particular small group from ever getting involved. They obstruct the non-serving member who has a passion for the next generation from ever getting the opportunity to serve in the youth ministry. They inhibit your church administrators or executive pastors from ever cultivating generosity in those who have the capacity to give more, but have never been approached about giving.
Data silos also prevent ministry leaders from connecting and building up people. In the same way they affect your church’s ability to connect people to a particular area of ministry, they also lead to wasted labor. When a ministry leader has to correct the problems caused by data silos, they’re not able to spend time doing ministry. They’re too involved in updating their databases and processes.
Here's the one that really hurts: data silos allow lives to fall through the cracks. When a touchpoint occurs in one ministry (think children or students) that is missed by another (think connections or assimilation), the chances of someone feeling valued or getting connected drop exponentially. I've personally witnessed Kingdom loss as a result of this problem and it bothers me — greatly!
If you don’t take time to identify the data silos in your church, you can’t see the time that’s being wasted and you can’t see the areas in your church with the most potential for improvement. Most of all, however, you can't be truly effective at stewarding the people God entrusts to your church.
What type of impact would it have on your ministry if your leaders were able to stop fighting against the data silos?