Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What's With the #s?

Advertising and marketing firms have always used numbers for the purpose of "knowing their target audience". For example, when one goes to the supermarket and makes a purchase, the bar codes on the items are recorded. Although there are various reasons, some include 1) minimizing the work at the time of inventory; and 2) determining who is purchasing what items for the purpose of marketing those items in creative/better ways.

I worked in radio for sometime. Part of the job included calling people at random and determining what radio station they listened to, at what times of the day, for what reason, etc. The radio stations would then compare their findings with that of a national survey company and then provide the #s to those in sells positions. After all, those buying advertising could then determine where, when, and how often to advertise.

One might think the church is immune to some of the #s. However, they would be wrong. Consider the work of George Barna, Christian researcher. Every few months, Barna provides those in ministry with #s, in an attempt to better equip them for their ministries. Ed Stetzer, church growth "guru", also has something to say about Christian research. Although the post is lengthy, you might benefit from reading what Stetzer has to say about Christian research. The link is here.

I've always been a bit skeptical about the validity of #s. In other words, who's doing the survey, what's their motive, and who are they talking to? For example, I could do a survey on the importance of dairy in one's life and use the Dairy Farmers of America to provide my data. Chances are, the farmers would assure me they have "happy cows" and dairy is a necessity in one's diet. Those reading the compiled #s might not question the farmer's integrity or honesty, but would do well to learn why I chose to survey 1000 farmers in Wisconsin.

So what are your thoughts? Should we rely on #s? After all, it's an election year. And I've been told, "The numbers don't lie." Should we do away with surveys altogether? Anyone else a bit skeptical?


preacherman said...

Numbers have always had and will always have meaning. looking at how numbers is viewed in biblical terms. #7 perfect, #3 unity, number of tribes, number of the beast....and on and on....

I think God wants us to take interest in people. Individuals. I think it is easy for us focus on how many we have at church and neglect the real need and desires of God's people.

Wonderful topic.
Keep up the great work you do with your blog.

Crowm said...

Hey Kinney!

I hear ya with the #s in Scripture. My question is one regarding surveys. Can we trust the data or those "independent pollsters" doing the surveys?

Thanks for the good words.


Cheryl Russell said...

I don't trust number counting, for the most part. I do think there is something to probability and averages, my math loving husband would rake me over the coals for denying it! However, I do think that numbers are often skewed to align with the viewpoint of the one counting the numbers.

As for counting in ministry, we can over think the specifics of this. I have been a part of a church that set the goal to win 98 in 98'. It was a catchy phrase and a worthy goal, but I am more inclined to think we should try to "win as many as possible."