Data Informed and Spirit-Led

For the last several years, Leadership Network has been engaged in helping churches understand the power of data in making ministry decisions related to evangelism outreach, personal engagement and discipleship. Through a partnership with, we are helping churches know their people and their needs better, and personalize their approach with the world’s first data solutions platform for personal growth.

Following are five steps to get you started in using data to improve your ministry.

1. Review a Data Dashboard Weekly.

As church leaders, you likely are making decisions on a weekly, if not daily basis. Determine what the critical metrics in your ministry are and then measure and review them frequently. Measuring areas of engagement like serving, small groups, attendance and giving are great places to start. If you are reviewing these weekly with your leadership team, you will be more prepared and equipped to make the decisions that come your way each week. The more you know about your people, the better you can match them to the next step God has for them.

2. Use Data Visualization.

There are a few gifted people who can look at a spreadsheet or a set of numbers and see the story the data is telling. The rest need to see a picture. According to an article on 

“When data is presented visually, it is easier to digest and find patterns. Business leaders need to be able to interpret data in real-time to effectively make highly informed decisions. One of the best forms of data visualization is utilizing a business intelligence (BI) solution. BI is a technology-driven process where users have the ability to analyze data and present actionable information.”

You need data to be actionable, not just interesting.

Check out Life.Church’s ChurchMetrics (it’s free) as a starting point to track and visualize your data.

3. Clean and Validate Your Data.

If you do not have clean and reliable data, you will lose credibility. Your staff and church need to trust the information they are receiving, and so do you. Whether this is assuring the information in your database is accurate or a consistent way of reporting and counting attendance, credibility in your data matters. Allowing it to become outdated or inaccurate over time impacts the quality of your decisions.

4. Do A/B Testing.

Web ads, mailers and social media posts either fail or succeed, but the real problem is when we never fully know why. Simple A/B testing allows you to understand what works, what doesn’t and the reasons behind it. A/B testing is essentially an experiment where two or more variants are shown to users at random to determine which one is more popular or effective. With this information in hand, you can use the more popular choice.

For example, if you are running an online ad for a church outreach, try two different images and see which one gets the most clicks. A church ran the exact same content in two ads, one with a graphic as the introduction and the other with the face of the senior pastor. The senior pastor’s face outperformed the graphic by a landslide. If the church had only used the graphic, they would have assumed it was the content that wasn’t successful, not the image.

5. Create a Culture of Data Use.

It is important to cultivate a culture that embraces data-informed decision-making. Creating a data-driven culture is easier than you might think. As leaders, you can lead by example and make effective data-informed decisions. Once your teams 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 on feelings.

These five steps will help you better know your people and your community, and as a result can increase your ministry impact. For more information on how your church can get better engaged with its data, go to

Denise McCleese
Denise McCleese

Denise McCleese gives direction to Leadership Network’s Engagement Accelerators initiative. She also serves on the senior leadership team for Connection Pointe Christian Church near Indianapolis, Indiana.