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When the Pews Are Empty, Data Can Help

Meaningful insights into your congregants and community can empower your ministry.

When the Pews Are Empty, Data Can Help

Meaningful insights into your congregants and community can empower your ministry.

This article offers a preview of the data Barna Group has conducted. They will be discussing insights like this (and so much more) during their free State of Your Church event on March 1. Save your seat today.

“So, are people coming back?”

A group of pastors stares into their coffee as silence follows the question. For each of them, the answer was a resounding no. No, because the chairs are still sparsely filled. No, because a trickle of visitors has dried up to nothing. No, because even Sunday regulars are struggling with regular attendance.

Virtual touchpoints seemed to work for a while, but congregations are growing increasingly tired. Burnt out. Disinterested. Emails are piling up, and after being tethered to their screens for work or school, everyone seems eager to unplug. Neither physical nor digital gatherings seem to be meeting people’s needs.

According to Barna Group, one of the leading research organizations focused on the intersection of faith and culture, data can help revive flagging pastors and churches. Because of advancements made during the pandemic, church leaders have tools to gain meaningful insights into the lives of their congregants and community members.

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

Data, for instance, tells us that many people, especially those in their twenties and thirties, are interested in churches that care about their whole lives. From emotional wellbeing to financial health, people want churches that will speak to the many aspects of the human experience, places that tear down the dividing wall between sacred and secular. Churches can creatively and strategically serve their communities by engaging with their whole lives.

The Department of Labor reported that 4.5 million Americans–a record high number– quit their jobs in November 2021. Their reasons for exiting the workforce were many. Over half of workers surveyed by ZipRecruiter said they wanted a job that allowed them to work remotely. Nearly 20 percent said they were not pleased with how their employers treated them during the pandemic, and a similar percentage quit their jobs to set out on new career paths or pursue their passions.

How might those statistics inform the way you minister to your congregation and community?

New polling from Barna offers massive ministry opportunities. In South Florida, 44 percent of unchurched people said that they would be interested in attending Christian churches in their community if they offered preaching and programs that could help them achieve vocational or career wellbeing. For churched Floridians, that number jumped to 77 percent.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, 30 percent of surveyed working adults said that they were dissatisfied with the amount of stress they felt at work, and 26 percent noted dissatisfaction with advancement opportunities—and similar numbers were reflected in other regions as well.

For most people, work consumes their week and is a significant factor in financial health, career satisfaction, and long-term life plans and goals. What would it look like for churches and the pastors who lead them to serve their communities in this key area of human flourishing?

Love Thy Worker as Thyself

David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna Group, highlights how a single data point provides a chance to connect and disciple.

“Vocational discipleship is a massive opportunity for the church today,” says Kinnaman. “How could you step into ministering in real and tangible ways to people who are facing challenges related to work and calling?”

Kinnaman suggests that data on vocation, church, and career could inspire several different approaches that churches can take toward offering vocation-focused programming, including vocation camps, conducting gifts and skills assessments, and inviting members to share their stories with vocation on a Sunday morning.

This knowledge also shapes your congregational efforts. Perhaps a month of Sunday morning messages on faith and work might draw some of your slow-to-return congregants back to the pews. A 6-week Bible study on living in light of your God-given abilities could encourage the unchurched who are disheartened about their careers to see if the church can help them. Even hosting free job fairs, résumé workshops, or financial literacy seminars can provide valuable assistance to your community.

This Is Just the Beginning

Data helps churches implement programs that meet their communities’ needs. Ultimately, this information equips ministers to create an effective strategy that cares for congregants and community members alike.

Interested in learning more about your community in order to meet them where they are?

On March 1st at 1:00pm EST (10am PST) Barna will present the State of Your Church webcast. This 90-minute session will provide tools for measuring what matters in your church ministry. In this free event, your chuch can learn how to become more data-informed, resulting in better care for your congregants and community.

The event will be hosted by Barna Group’s David Kinnaman, bestselling author Carey Nieuwhof, and Meta’s director of global faith-based partnerships Nona Jones.

Featured speakers include Andy Stanley, Bishop Claude Alexander, Ed Stetzer, Tara Beth Leach, Glenn Packiam, and Scott Sauls.

Learn how to care for the people in the pews, invite the reluctant to return, and meet the needs of the unchurched on Tuesday, March 1st, at 1:00pm ET. Save your seat today.