4 Keys to Creating a Data-Driven Culture

Published by Leadership Network | July 23, 2019 | 3 min read

Many successful lead pastors have an intuitive sense of what their churches should be doing next. This strategy works very well…until it doesn’t. When the numbers stop going “up and to the right” the leadership team begins looking for answers that can be found in data and analytics. “Why are attendance and giving going down?” “Why are millennials less likely to recommend our church to their friends than Gen Xers?”

Wouldn’t we rather utilize data to be more effective not reactive?  Without a culture that supports data-informed decisions, your church will always be reactive.

Here are four keys to creating a data-driven culture that will help you move from being reactive to proactive.

Pick your systems and stick to them

There are a lot of systems to choose from as you navigate leading your church.  From multiple options in Church Management Systems, email services, project management systems and everything in between, you have a lot of choices.  We often spend more time on making the right choice than we do using the actual systems we choose. 

The right choice is the ONE you use.  Pick a system, hold everyone accountable for using it, and see your results maximized.  

Make decisions using good data and good judgment

Kevin Penry, former Ops Leaders at Life.church, gifts us with the illustration of the difference between flying by sight and flying by instruments. On a clear day, in calm weather, pilots do very well flying by sight. But when fog, darkness, clouds or inclement weather obscure our way forward, we need to rely on the dashboard. The dashboard informs the pilot, but it is still the pilot who makes the best flight decisions based on the data.

Data (like the dashboard) gives us the ability to see what we cannot see through observation alone. Like the pilot who uses the data, but knows how to fly his aircraft, you know your church.  Good data combined with good judgment is where we want to be.

Get data a seat at the table

It starts with leaders. In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, the authors say, “The success of almost any initiative depends on its leaders, and talent analytics is no exception. In fact, at the organizations we’ve researched and worked with, leaders’ commitment to this approach is the single most important factor in whether it succeeds.” For a data initiative to succeed, there must be buy-in from the Leadership or Executive Team.

Recently Christ Fellowship Church, Palm Beach Gardens codified their decision-making process in going “From Neighborhoods to Nations”—They would be “Spirit-led, Christ-centered, Data-informed.” That’s a great start. As leaders take responsibility for learning about data and analytics, the collective competency will grow, and culture will be slowly changed.

Build a team of data champions

Put together a group of staff members who are key influencers–either because of their position or their personality.  Invite them to an understanding of how the world around us is using Big Data and how they are personally impacted by it daily. Take them on a “Big Data Field Trip” in your local community, helping them understand how companies like Kroger, Starbucks, and Chick-Fil-A are utilizing Big Data and insights.  For example, Kroger uses Big Data to create personalized shopping experiences for each individual customer. 

Creating a data-driven culture is easier than you might think.  Once your teams can see the impact that maximizing your systems and data can have on your overall mission and vision, you will begin to have a self-enforcing culture.  The loud equals large mentality begins to crumble, and decisions begin to be based more on facts than just on feelings. 

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