Podcast: Five Keys to Using Data in Making Decisions

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I’m a statistic junky. You should be, too. Facts are our friends.


A movement that is overtaking Major League Baseball right now is something called “sabermetrics.” Brad Pitt even starred in an awesome movie about it called “Moneyball.”


The premise of sabermetrics is for baseball general managers to make leadership decisions based upon applying statistical data to baseball records, especially in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players.


I love the idea of developing statistical ways to make leadership decisions in areas besides baseball . . . including in local church ministry.


When I make leadership decisions, I seek to do so based upon answering several key questions:


  • Does the Bible address this?
  • Does this help us work toward our vision and goals?
  • What do wise people around me say about this decision?
  • What do I sense from the Holy Spirit?
  • Will this cost me much leadership capital?
  • Can the organization afford it?
  • What data can I compile to assist me?
  • If this decision doesn’t work out well, what are the ramifications?
  • What are the action steps involved?
  • How will this impact the organization in the coming months and years?


In this post, I want to analyze the concept of making decisions based upon data. More specifically, how to make church leadership decisions based upon data.


1) Know the demographics of your community and of the church.


In order to know the demographics of your community, that’s pretty simple. Just click here to go to the North American Mission Board’s free demographics page. All you have to do is fill out a brief form online and they email you the demographics within 24-48 hours.


If you’d like to see what the demographics look like where I pastor, you can click here.


Knowing the demographics of your church requires more work. Firstly, you need to clean your membership roll to know who is actually attending. Then, conduct a thorough survey. ChurchSurveys.org gives tons of various types of surveys that church leaders give to their congregations.


SurveyMonkey.com is such an easy tool to conduct surveys. You can print off the surveys and give them to people who are not very computer savvy.


This process will help you to see if your congregation is older or younger than your community, richer or poorer, more or less educated, etc.


2) Know as many attendance details about the church as possible.


Besides knowing small group and worship service numbers, what else should you try to know?


  • Learn the number of cars in the parking lots at the time the preaching begins in the services. Then, divide your attendance by your number of cars, and you have an interesting stat of how many people attend per vehicle.
  • How often do various percentages of the church attend weekend services?
  • What percentage of people attend small groups, in comparison to worship service attendance?


3) Know as many financial details as possible.


  • What is the giving rate per capita in the church?
  • What percentage of people is estimated to be tithers?
  • What percentage of givers donates via check, cash, or online?
  • How many people automate their giving?
  • What percentage of your budget goes toward various key areas like personnel, utilities, missions, age-graded ministries, marketing, etc.?


4) Know as many details about volunteer ratios as possible.


  • What is the exact percentage of church members who volunteer at least once? Twice? Thrice? Etc.
  • Are the same people who give also the same people who volunteer?


5) Track all of your metrics with intentionality.


ChurchMetrics.com is a phenomenal resource, and it’s free!


After you track all of your necessary data, analyze what adjustments need to be made, and where. This is something my staff team and I do on occasion. We look at all of the data, determine where we need to more heavily emphasize things, tweak ideas, blow up plans, create new strategies, etc.


Remember: Facts are our friends. Don’t mistake the need to receive guidance initially from the Holy Spirit, particularly speaking to you through the Bible. In addition to that, know everything you can to help you become the best leader you can be for God’s glory!

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