Data As A Stewardship Issue
We Christians often talk about the “Five T’s of Stewardship” – Time, Talent, Treasure, Temple, and Testimony. These are the main areas of life in which we can very tangibly live out the call to be good stewards. Thinking of them as the foundation for stewardship, then we naturally want to know what the rest of the ‘building’ looks like. Preacher’s answer: everything else. The difficulty is that ‘everything else’ tends to be less tangible. However . . . that doesn’t make them any less an issue of stewardship. For example: car maintenance. That’s spiritual –right? Hint: yes. If I take care of my vehicle, there’s an upfront cost (cleaning supplies, parts, etc.) – but a longer term benefit: I won’t need to replace my vehicle as often. And that translates into stewardship of at least time and treasure. Data falls into the broad category of “everything else” . . . and we disregard it to our peril.
The first Church I served as a Pastor had no database. Coming from a Database Management position, it felt like someone was cutting my heart out with a spoon. If memory serves, the contact information for the congregation was kept in a MS Word document – not ideal if you are looking for patterns or need to rearrange information at the drop of a hat. The database options we found tended to fall into two categories: many extra features we didn’t need that put it out of our price range, or many reviews that suggested the product was not worthwhile. What to do?
We turned to a tool that we already owned, one that is very flexible, highly customizable, and relatively easy to learn: MS Excel. While it’s not in the strictest definition a database, it served our purposes. And I believe it can serve yours, as well. To that end, I’ve put together an Excel spreadsheet that should cover most of the data needs for a small to medium sized Church. Don’t know how to use Excel? I’ve written a set of directions that you can download as well. Nervous around technology? I’ve made the directions step by step. If you can read, type, and use a mouse – you can do this! Concerned that the spreadsheet won’t meet your exact needs? I’ll teach you how to customize it in the directions.
Why Data Is Crucial?
But first, several reasons why you should go this route:
- You’ll be organizing the information already at your disposal. This will allow you to find what you need faster. Since it’s digital (don’t get me started on handwritten notes), you can be sure the information will be consistent. This is stewardship of time – it’s also stewardship of finances, since your time is being used more effectively.
- As mentioned above, it’s flexible. You can sort (prioritize) different sets of information, which will help you to see trends – leading to steps you can take to make the most of how God has blessed your Church.
- It’s likely already on your computer, or can be purchased for a relatively low price.
- It is easy to learn!
- When the day comes for your Church to move to a formal database, you’ll be asked to provide a spreadsheet with data to upload into the system. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one already complete?
Some Important Questions
Some answers for related questions:
- What if I make a horrible mistake and delete a lot of information?
- Try using CTRL-Z (meaning you hold down the CTRL key, and simultaneously tap the Z key). This un-does the last action you took. The system records multiple steps, so you can un-do quite a bit.
- If that doesn’t work, then close the program without saving the file. This will go back to your last saved version.
- Use your backup. See #2 below.
- What if my system crashes and I can’t access the file?
- No need to worry – use your backup.
- Don’t know how to make a backup? Save the file to a thumb drive, or Google docs. If you’re not sure how to do either of those, then email the file to yourself. If you can access your email, you’ll have the file handy.
- As a side note, be sure to backup your file at least once every week.
Great Resources To Start!
I’ve created some resources to get you started!
We’re still living in the information age – let’s make the most of it for His glory!
Doug is a Pennsylvania-born and raised missionary and serial entrepreneur, currently working as a software engineer, and serving as the Director of Outreach for Citylife church in Philadelphia. When he’s not making and mentoring, he is loving on his beautiful family and climbing anything in sight!