Do you do a better job of keeping track of people than Myspace? 6 tips to improve your follow through.

You’ve got fail

I got this email from myspace yesterday saying that they had missed me.

which is nice I guess.. there is nothing wrong with the sentiment, but the timing was what kinda made me laugh.

I can’t remember the last time I logged into myspace and interacted with it. and certainly not on the daily or weekly basis like I did in say 2007 or something.

and certainly I am not the only one. but it got me to thinking… do we do any better of keeping track of people in our church than myspace has been doing for the past 3 years.

Does the church do better?

in the very interesting study (linked below) from 2008. Th answer I think is a clear ‘NO’…

The average for mainline protestant demoninations.. is less than 40% definitely contact people who have lapsed attendance.

Another dimension of attentiveness probed in FACT 2008

is how likely it is that a congregation would contact an active member who stopped attending to find out why. A little over half of congregations responded that they would definitely contact the person in this situation and another quarter said they probably would. 

Surprisingly, the practice of contacting members who stop attending is not consistently related to worship attendance growth across our denominational families (Figure 7.5). It is within Oldline Protestantism and our Catholic/Orthodox family. But it is not within our Evangelical Protestant family nor our World Religions family. The practice of contacting members who stop attending is not consistently related to size. But there is a consistency in the inconsistency. There is no relationship found for any of our size categories under 300 attendees. But there is a positive relationship for all of our size categories over 300 attendees.

So if we never contact people, and then suddently do.. well then we end up looking like the email from myspace. hoeplessly out of touch. The problem is especially common in churches over 300 people. 


But WHY is it so? I dont know that I have an answer here, but it seems clear that when people join a church there is at least a formal recognition, and maybe public event. But when people “quit the church” or put it on hold for a while, there is not a coresponding “pausing of the membership”. And the church doesnt want to cross them off, I guess, just in case. So the end result, and this has been true of every church I have ever been a part of.. the roles of “members” are filled with names that NO ONE has any idea who they are or what they look like. Their name has been on the list for 5 years, and no one has ever seen them.

I am not sure which is more sad, that we have lost touch of these people, and they are in who knows what condition.. or that we desperately cling to the hope that, just maybe someday they will walk right back in the door.

Is this about numbers then?

Another factor that might keep people from being proactive in reaching out to people is the idea that “we don’t want to make it about the numbers”. which is great. You dont. You dont want to make people a souless number in a Jesus themed game of pokemon. (gotta catch em all, and put em on the scoreboard).  let’s call those “blurry numbers” ones that mask who the real people behind them are.

BUT.. consider this, take a moment and count how many stories in the Bible are about going out to find what is lost? How many stories are about the sheppard knowing each person in his flock, and they know him? How many instances are we called to care for each other?

I have taken to saying this. The good sheppard doesn’t want the world’s biggest flock, but he does want to make sure that he knows where all of the ones that are his are. So our challenge is to make sure that we know what is going on with the people we have taken responsibility for, and not let them become lost.

So it’s not about the numbers then?

That is not entirely correct, you have to track SOMETHING in order to manage it. However, It is not about getting the largest “blurry number”, or getting a larger “blurry number” than someone else. It is about taking care of business in your appointed field.

So the number is not is it 50 or 100 or 10. because that has no context. If you have a really large church maybe 100 is a bad number. If you have a really small church maybe 10 is fantastic.

The other factor to take into account is that, not all numbers reflect what we want to know.

consider the following hypothetical but realistic “blurry numbers” math:

Sat night event: 25 people
Sunday morning: 35 people
Sunday night: 24 people 

Total weekend: 35 people

That actually does a horrible job telling the story for that weekend.

It could be true that we had 35 people for one event.. and the other events were not as popular, but served the same people.

However what happens if I tell you the truth of the weekend that the “blurry numbers” miss is this. There were only three people that attended all three events. The total number of different people that were seen over the two days was 75. And the number of people that were in attendance for the first time in over 3 weeks was about 10. and they were all at the Saturday event. and there were at least 10 first time guest that we saw this weekend.

The story of the weekend is very different if you dont see the full picture. So bad blurry numbers where everyone is lumped in is a bad deal. So what do you track. how do you track people in a way that keeps them individuals and keeps your focus on serving them in a meaningful way?

The other danger about only using lump sum numbers.. is they dont tell you what to do to improve. If you have a drop off and you only have aggregate numbers you cant say why. It could be that all the 7th graders went on a trip to San Antonio with school. Or that there was a playoff game.. or.. any number of scenarios that affect only part of your group.. that you cannot see if you dont have good detailed numbers

Better data, Numbers

1. Track each person seperately. This should be a no brainer by now, but you need to track people by name. If you take care of the individuals the totals will follow and be where they need to be.

2. Get a detail person to keep the data. And if you are not a detail person, allow me to politely suggest you find a volunteer that is and work with them to come up with some great metrics.

3. Measure who is not there. not just who is there. Celebrate the people that are there and be present for them. but make sure that at somepoint you keep track of the people who are missing.

4. Schedule regular time to digest the information. it does no good to let the data gather and not do anything with it. Make sure to set up a regular time to meet with everyone involved in your team and review the data. Make sure to let it impact you.

5. Dont forget your volunteers. Dont take them or their engagement for granted.

6. View the data in ways that help you to understand it. I personally like Venn Diagram generator it is a quick way to sort out visually how much overlap you have in the blurry number weekend example above. it also pretty clearly highlights who your core people are for each type of event you may offer.