Big Data. Analytics. They’re not just for corporations, health insurance companies, and advertising agencies anymore. In an era obsessed with return on investment and concrete measurements of success, churches, spiritual communities, and religious institutions are evaluating their own relationships to numbers.
Take the United Church of Christ, for example. It hosts not only The UCC Data Hub, but also a Center for Analytics, Research, and Data. And the UCC is by no means alone: denominations and organizations across the nation have jumped on the data analysis bandwagon. The United Methodist Church offers “Analytics 101 for Churches.” Religion Dispatches recently published an article entitled “Data-Mining the Denominations: The Southern Baptists in Four Charts.” Entities like Church Analytics and MonkDev promise to help faith communities strategically align data and mission. And let’s not forget the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), which tries to pull all of it together.
Of course, not everyone accepts that the twenty-first century’s love affair with statistics is a positive development. Some religious leaders bristle at the thought of running churches like corporations. For example, United Methodist pastor and blogger Jeremy Smith, the founder of Hacking Christianity, has questioned the “temptation of church analytics” and wondered whether “the seduction of the power of data and human behavior analysis might overcome prudence and reliance on our faith and the fidelity of God.”
Smith raises an excellent point. That said, we’re still contemplating numbers here at Bearings—and we like to think we’re doing so in a mindful, faithful way. Since our blog has just completed its first year of regular publication, we’ve been evaluating how things went. And as part of our evaluation process, we’ve engaged in some number-crunching of our own.
Using a variety of metrics, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular Bearings blog posts from the past year. In order to determine the pieces to include, we studied which pieces received the most views on the Bearings website; which pieces reached the most people on Facebook; which pieces garnered the most “likes,” comments, shares, and clicks on that social media platform; and which posts had the highest rates of Facebook engagement.
After spending lots of time with Microsoft Excel, we offer the following list of twelve Bearings posts for your relaxed summertime reading pleasure. In order to convey the breadth of the blog, we’ve included the voices of twelve different authors.
Taken as a collection, the pieces offer insight into where Bearings has been in its first year. They also highlight the themes, topics, and questions that have most resonated with our readers.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this recap of Bearings’s first year, and we look forward to sharing our next summer feature—a list of “must-reads” for twenty-first-century ministers suggested by our Bearings bloggers. We’ll publish that piece in a couple of weeks. Until then, take good care.