Understanding Your Parish Data

March 29, 2018  •   LPi

What percentage of parishioners are involved in an established ministry?

Who in the parish is safe environment certified?

Religious education enrollment is in decline, but baptism numbers are increasing. What’s going on?

Parish life is unfolding all around you. Families join the parish. Visitors come and go. Ministries thrive or founder. Donations ebb and flow. Behind each of these movements are hundreds, even thousands of data points. Behind each data point is a story.

Many decisions – big and small – are oftentimes based in an analysis that is intuition-based, or at least anecdotal. These perspectives based on personal observation are critical, but they only tell part of the story. A wealth of information lives in your spreadsheets, databases, and collective staff memories. Too often that information goes no further than the platform it lives on. When you know how to read that data, you’ve acquired a powerful too for making smart decisions for your church. In order to maximize your data’s possibilities for your parish, there are some important things you need to understand.

Understand What You Have

Throughout their life, the average parishioner connects with most areas of your parish office. Information about their family structure, church involvement, and giving habits is distributed across a broad swath of people. Taken individually and together, this parishioner data points tell a story – the story of the life of your parish.

  • Family relationships, birthdays, and contact information
  • Attendance at parish events
  • Involvement in ministry groups, councils, and volunteer opportunities
  • Religious education registration history
  • Giving patterns and history
  • Sacramental records, safe environment status, and certifications

Comprehensive data understanding is critical to being able to use the information properly. Know what platforms your data lives on, and know which data points live where. Your parish may want to examine financial data, but in order to see how it connects to actual parishioners, there’s another spreadsheet to cross-reference. While some data is on a need-to-know basis, make sure the entire team knows where to find the databases they need. When you know where to find what you’re looking for, you’re that much closer to using your data efficiently.


Know Its Accuracy

Make sure it’s clear how frequently data is updated on each platform – does it require manual entry or does information auto-populate on the backend? Data quality can vary from platform to platform, depending on the margin left for human error and time constraints. When you go mining for data, know how frequently it’s updated.


Find What You’re Looking For

When you have access to a parishioner’s data profile or a spreadsheet of financial information, objective alignment becomes all the more necessary. Determine which data is most necessary to your solution and target your search accordingly. This also requires a level of proactivity. Consider implementing data fields that are relevant to information you want to know. If tracking the transition of newly registered parishioners into consistent donors is important to you, make sure you have a field for “registration date” in your database.

Understanding what data you have, knowing it’s accuracy, and being able to specifically target what you’re looking for brings you that much closer to leveraging your data for mission engagement. Data doesn’t hide people behind a spreadsheet. Recognizing your parishioners needs, interests, and current situation is essential to engaging them effectively. Data helps you gather people strategically, in a way that maximizes your church’s disciple-making capabilities. How do you use your parish data?

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