Using Data to Fuel Engagement and Ministry

Chris Kehayias recently joined us for a new episode of the Nurtured Church Podcast. CEO of Think Ministry (the creator of MinistryPlatform, a church management system), Chris has been working with churches for a long time. 

On this episode, he shares his thoughts about using a management platform to support your member journey, finding the balance between engagement and pushiness, and why it’s not actually about the data. 

First Things First: What Is MinistryPlatform? 

MinistryPlatform is a church management system that enables churches to accomplish tasks ranging from collecting online donations for mission trips to allowing newcomers to register their kids for youth camp. 

The founders of MinistryPlatform sought to give churches full access to all of their member data and not be hindered by the limitations of a particular system. 

So, what makes MinistryPlatform unique is that they have a very open data model. With this system any church can decide to make new fields and new types of data available inside the system, without actually writing any code. 

Consider this: Suppose your church suddenly needs to know the t-shirt size of everyone in your church. That’s something MinistryPlatform would allow you to do in five minutes without the help of a programmer. And if your church does have developers, they can pretty much do anything they can dream of with the system.  

But what are some specific ways it can help you facilitate engagement? 

Church Management Platforms Support Your Member Journey

Each church will have a different member journey.

But the process usually starts at the same place: Someone shows up. Church management platforms allow you to mine data to see who’s new to the church and where they came from. 

Are they new because they came from the website? Or because they checked their children in for the first time last weekend? Or are they simply a duplicate record and they’re really not new at all? All these different scenarios could funnel someone into the start of the membership process. 

Using a management platform helps you to track where they are in this journey, so you can facilitate engagement. 

“It’s not about data, it’s all about people.” -Chris Kehayias

The first step in the member journey is usually the same at every church. But, depending on the church, the second step could be anything from joining a small group to signing up for an informational class. 

That’s why MinistryPlatform has created a flexible system. Each church can interchange those steps in the journey, setting up the stages for next steps of engagement that make sense for their communities. 

Finding the Balance Between Engagement And Pushiness

We live in a day and time where people, on one hand, want anonymity. They want to show up and they don’t want anyone to bother them. 

But on the other hand, they want someone to reach out to them and they want someone to care about them. 

Churches are dealing with two very delicate tensions. Tension one is that they don’t want to be “pushy.” They don’t want to push someone so far that they end up leaving.

Tension two is that, if you don’t do anything, you’re leaving it up to someone else to decide whether or not they engage and re-engage with the church. 

A lot of churches struggle with these tensions.

So, what do you do when it isn’t easy to know what the logical next step is. 

Ultimately, it’s about getting to the place where we’re creating these moments and opportunities for a real, personal touch to happen. That has far more value than automated systems and sterile follow up emails. 

“If we really want to shepherd the people, we must have the data.” — Chris Kehayias

Think about it this way—technology fuels ministry, but it is not the ministry. 

Consider this example: Brentwood Baptist Church does a fantastic job at congregational care. They use MinistryPlatform technology to track each care case. A care case is filed when Susie breaks her leg and has to go to the hospital or Bill loses his job. It’s a way of tracking people’s progress through to resolution.

By using technology to track these cases, the church gets lots of information about the situation. But the technology is not the ministry. The information is assisting the team that’s actually doing the real-time ministry work. 

There’s a big difference between using the technology to fuel ministry as opposed to letting automated systems and processes do the ministry. 

It’s Not About the Data—It’s About the People

Churches can be hesitant to start looking at data. 

But it’s not about the data—it’s all about the people. 

If we really want to shepherd the people in this digital age, data is a necessary part of that.

We need to change our perspective. Don’t look at data as if it were, well, data. These are people. These are people’s lives. These are decisions for the Kingdom that are hanging in the balance. If church leaders shift the way they look at it, suddenly this data has eternal consequences. 

The larger the church, the more difficult it is for the staff and leadership to have a personal connection with each attendee. But each person is still coming, seeking authentic relationships. 

Data is foundational to outreach programs and membership opportunities. The data is the foundation on which you place other programs to make those connections and relationships. 

The data is the beginning, it’s not the end. 

“The ministry happens when hands and feet and data all come together and we can get out there and actually meet people where they are.” — Chris Kehayias

This post is based on a The Nurtured Church podcast with Chris Kehayias. To hear Chris’ full episode and discover how else data can fuel church engagement, click the button below to start listening.

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