Multiplication Center

Big Data and the Church: What Are You Solving For?

March 9, 2018

By Eric Swanson and Matt Engel

“If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.”
Zig Ziglar


Big data does not help a church that has no compelling vision, unreached goals or vexing problem they are trying to solve.

As you begin your journey into big data, predictive analytics and precision messaging its important to define:

  • The goals you want to reach
  • The problems you want to solve
  • The vision you want to accomplish

We’ve found that those churches who are waiting for big data to do something for them are still waiting. The small print says that journeying into big data will actually create more work…but it’s a good work for you. And if you follow the process of a scientist who practices validated learning the rewards of growth and health more than compensate for the required effort. The more specific you can define the problem or challenge the better your experiments will be. Take a look at the chart below which is a general summary of what all churches are trying to do. Maybe jot down what you are currently doing in each of these categories. e.g. What are you doing to attract young families, grow millennials, etc?


  • Attract is simply making people aware that your church exists
  • Get is about getting people in the door for the first time—whether for a weekend service or a special event
  • Keep is about our ability to keep people coming back. Keeping is about closing the back door. One multisite church we work with recently noted that they have as many people leave the church each year as they have join their church. Ouch! Another church discovered they had a 40% turnover rate of their small group leaders.
  • Grow is about engaging people in your growth model whatever that might be. For many churches the critical growth decision is to be part of a small group.
  • Multiply is about people emotionally invested in the mission of the church. They are inviting people, sharing their faith, leading others, helping to pay the bills and are being an advocate for the church. We usually call these congregants “engaged.”

So what is it you are trying to accomplish? Are you trying to attract more people, get more people, keep more people, grow more people or multiply more people? And what kind of people? Children, millennials, young families? What hypothesis is behind your goal? Don Wilson at Christ Church of the Valley in Arizona targets “the 40-year old male” believing, with good evidence, that if the husband/father is in church the family will follow. Others like Dewey Finn (Jack Black) and our friends from Orange believe “children are the future.” Others might make the case for growing millennials. What do you say?

How We Can Help

Our new Accelerator experiences are built around helping churches leverage 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

[1] Validated learning is a unit of progress process and describes learnings generated by trying out an initial idea and then measuring it against potential customers to validate the effect. Each test of an idea is a single iteration in a larger process of many iterations whereby something is learnt and then applied to succeeding tests. The term coined in the lean startup scene, but it can be applied universally

[2] “If a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow? If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow. But if the father is first, there is a 93 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.” (

[3] “I believe…that the children are the future. Now listen, you can teach them well, but buddy, you have got to let them lead the way. And let the children’s laughter…just remind us of how we used to be. That’s what I decided long ago.”

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