In our current digital era, it often seems like data is being collected from us with every move we make. From websites we visit to ads that continue to follow us throughout our day, data is constantly gathered in an effort to make our lives as simple and convenient as possible— even if at times it seems a bit overbearing. However, have you ever stopped to think about how data collected can positively impact the church-going experience?
In the most recent episode of Playback, Grant hosted Aaron Westerman, the Director of IT at Cross Point Church. Cross Point was founded in 2002 and is a multi-site church in the Nashville area. The church spans five campuses, located in towns like Bellevue, Dickson, Franklin, and Mt. Juliet. In 2013, Outreach Magazine recognized Cross Point as the fastest growing church in the nation, and they currently serve almost 7,500 people every Sunday.
Aaron spearheads all technological efforts at Cross Point—specializing in networks, database, Google Apps, MacOS, iOS, and all things Apple, Sys Admin, tech, and technological decision making. After being on the Cross Point team for over ten years, Aaron has a lot of experience with the evolution of technology and the ways it can enhance the church experience. One way, in particular, is through utilizing data collected from the community.
“Mining data [can help us] to see how we can help our church, to see how we can help with teaching or with events that we offer or ministries, or just new avenues that we haven’t even thought about using,” said Aaron.
While he recognizes why some may be hesitant about data collection, he emphasizes how it can truly enhance the church-going experience for the entire community. All it takes is opening up to the idea that data can be used for good and recognizing the positive things that could come from it.
“Everything you select and do gives us more opportunity to learn about how we can improve and how we can improve your walk with Christ and your relationship.”
This data gathering extends beyond simply looking at streaming traffic for the weekly sermon, kids ministry attendance, or recorded giving. It is about digging deeper and gaining a better understanding of the church community and its patterns.
For instance, some of this information could be gathered through a simple form consisting of demographic information like age, gender, zip code, etc. While that provides a good starting point, Aaron urges us to go deeper and learn even more about the congregation.
What service projects are people involved in? What small groups do they attend? How do they like to be notified of church opportunities?
Aaron believes that the utilization of this data is key to positively impacting the church experience from the pastor to the congregation and everybody in between. If this is something you are interested in implementing in your church, Aaron recommends first connecting with various members of the community and asking deep, probing questions.
“Go and talk to the volunteers in your ministry, go and talk to the leaders that don't get to say as much and just see what kinds of nuggets of wisdom that they can give you. Because it's all data and I think there's something good that you can do with it. And there's probably stuff that you never even thought of that's going to give you even better insight.”
Gathering and applying this information in an appropriate way can make church attendance more purposeful.
“Sometimes when you go to church, you just meet the right person at the right time that really helps you. Or you hear the right thing. And simply what I believe this data, and utilizing this data is doing, is creating more of those moments.”