Multiplication Center

Big Data and the Church: Better Data Means Better Fishing

July 23, 2018

By Eric Swanson and Matt Engel

 “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

John Wanamaker

Jesus, Big Data and the Church

Is there something we can learn from Jesus about today’s use of big data and the church? Jesus knew something about how good data works. Having access to more and better data, if acted upon, can yield great results.

Peter was in the fishing business. He knew fishing. He was trained to be a fisherman. He wanted to catch fish. What he didn’t know was where the fish were at any point in time or the necessary methodology to catch them. That’s where Jesus’ access to better data comes in.

big data and the church - better data means better fishingEarly in his ministry (Luke 5:4-6) Jesus gives Peter access to the data he had about the location of receptive fish. “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Though Peter argued, “But Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything,” Jesus gave him the time, location and methodology of catching fish. And Peter caught two boatloads of fish. That was a pretty good payday.

After his resurrection (John 21:5-14) when Jesus found out that Peter again hadn’t caught any fish, he said to Peter, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat.” Sure enough, Peter caught 153 fish. Cha-ching! Time to go to the fish market.

In another incident (Matthew:17:25-27) Jesus told Peter to “go to the lake and throw in a hook. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

All three situations were different—deep water…right side of the boat…nets…a hook…day fishing…night fishing. But all resulted in catching fish.

Jesus calls us to be fishers of men. That’s what we want to do…its what we were trained to do. But much of the time our efforts yield little. Too bad Jesus isn’t around to tell us where the fish are biting.

Big Data and the Church Truth: Better Data Means Better Fishing

But that’s where data comes in. Data simply gives us access to more reality so we can actually match what we do well to people in the community who want what we have to offer or to people in our congregations who want to take their next step of engagement.  It’s all about knowing and matching. The more we know the better we can match.

Something to think about:

What data do you think might be helpful in accomplishing your mission as a church? Think about it in these categories:

  • Attract: What data might be helpful to have to help you know who may be interested in what your church has to offer?
  • Get: What data might be helpful in understanding how to get interested people in the front door of your church?
  • Keep: What data might be helpful to understand what makes people want to stay and be engaged?
  • Grow: What data might be helpful in knowing who wants to grow as a disciple?
  • Multiply: What data might be helpful in knowing who wants to multiply their impact through giving, serving, leading, evangelizing, discipling or advocacy?

How We Can Help: Bringing Big Data and the Church Together

Our new Accelerator experiences are built around helping churches leverage big data, analytics, and precision messaging to accomplish their goals. We help you get clarity on what you’re solving for, and provide you with the resources, tools, and connections to get the work done. Accelerators present a next-level approach to learning, planning, and implementation that challenges church leaders to see, think, and do in more effective ways. Accelerators equip teams through:

  • Leveraging targeted data, analytics, and insights
  • Peer learning experiences, team collaboration, face-to-face mentoring from trusted church and corporate leaders, and online coaching
  • Evaluating multiple models across various industries
  • Rapid prototyping and experimenting
  • Entrepreneurial “future-casting”
  • Implementing several build, measure, learn cycles in “sprints”

To learn more about Accelerators, visit


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