Technology Conference: Data can inform ministry of churches

By Johanna Willett | Feb 22, 2022

Data specialist Matt Engel shares how data can inform ministry at a conference at Mountain Ridge Church on Feb 8.

The biblical leader Nehemiah knew that data mattered — and now, so do the 30-plus church leaders who attended a technology innovation conference online and in person at Mountain Ridge Church in Glendale on Feb. 8.

During the event, data specialist Matt Engel shared how data and technology can inform ministry — how it informed Nehemiah as he set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

“Tell me about my people and tell me about the city” — that’s the question Nehemiah posed in the first chapter of the book, Engel said at the conference. And the answer to that question — “our people are beaten, battered and bruised and the gates are all burning down” — compelled him onward.

Engel is a former Gilbert pastor who now works with Gloo, a company that helps churches utilize data to better understand the demographics and needs of those in their areas.

“That was data back then for (Nehemiah) to do what he did next,” Engel said at the conference. “He wept, he mourned, he prayed and he fasted. But then chapter two verse one rolls right around and he gets stuff done. And what I’m seeing across the landscape of church is that people are [not only] starting to think through data and being data-informed, but they’re actually beginning to do something with it.”

During the conference organized by the Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network’s Technology Targeted to Evangelize Team, Engel shared how churches can approach this pandemic era by being “Spirit-led, Christ-centered and data-informed.”

Data specialist Matt Engel (left) speaks as Charles Scheffe, pastor of The Church at Estrella in Goodyear, facilitates a Q&A time.

What once worked no longer will as churches strive to attract new members and help them grow spiritually. People want to contribute, not just consume, Engel said.

Looking at data and identifying patterns “should inform our worship and preaching and teaching and conversations in the community…” said Eddy Pearson, evangelism and discipleship facilitator with the Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network. “It helps me have better conversations with people because I know what’s going on.”

Alex Dennis, a member of the technology evangelism team and lead pastor of Asante Church in Surprise, experienced this firsthand when launching a church in the midst of the pandemic.

“We based our church plant off of the data we found and the demographics of our area,” Dennis said. “It showed us our needs and the needs our church needed to meet in the community, and everything we do is based off of that.”

For Richard Felton, administrative and worship pastor at First Southern Baptist Church in Kingman, the conference provided focus.

“We have to look at technology as we move forward,” Felton said. “Jesus was meeting people where they were, and we have to meet people where they are. And technology is where they are.”

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