Why Use Data in Strategic Planning?

A while back I was talking with another consultant about some of the tools that FaithX offers for working with congregations, judicatories and denominations.  She was quite impressed with the scope of our toolbox with tools ranging from free to thousands of dollars, out of the box to custom, and narrative to objective.  It turned out that this particular consultant only used self-assessment narrative types of information when working with congregations and had no sources for objective information.

First, let me say that self-assessment is important.  Congregations need to be able to identify who they think they are, what their strengths are, and where they could use some help.  They need to take a good look at themselves and understand gifts and liabilities.  Narrative information is helpful and is only part of the picture. When we rely too heavily on narrative or self-assessment, we only see a picture of the world as the congregation views it from within the church.  We all tend to live in our own bubbles often remaining disconnected from other parts of the community that are not relevant to us.  Retirees may not have a great grasp of the need for playgrounds or soccer fields.  Parents of young children may not appreciate the need for safe walking paths for seniors, and on it goes.  We tend to drive the same streets, shop at the same stores, and buy the same groceries.  

So, second, let me say that objective data helps round out the picture.  What do we mean when we talk about objective data?  We are talking about demographic reports that help to show who is in the community, key generational groups, the presence or lack of diversity, economic factors, housing, education, poverty, and more.  When looking at data with members of a congregation, I always like to compare their congregation’s demographics with the community demographics.  How are they similar?  How are they different?  Often congregational leaders say they want more families with young children.  Demographics help us to see if those families are actually in the neighborhood or not.  

While both narrative and data are important, you still need the third leg of the stool in order to make it all work.  The third leg is relationship.  Both narrative and data need to be tested out in the community in order to verify their veracity.  Do our hunches play out once we start talking with neighbors, community leaders, and business owners? 

A good consultant can help you pull all the information together to create a plan that makes sense for your congregation.  Are you interested in gathering data for your congregation?  Email us [email protected]