The UMC is getting on the bandwagon of big data. The church has always collected data such as number of people in worship and the number of people who transfer out of a congregation, but these numbers have always been kept on paper. Recently the UMC has shifted to keeping track of these and other numbers through computer programs. But it has only been the past couple of years that the UMC is beginning to make big data a conversation point.
Each week every United Methodist local church is to log into a system and upload a series of numbers. Some of these numbers are easy to track, such as worship attendance or dollars given to mission. Other numbers, such as mission outreach and small group participation are a little harder to report. In the beginning there were about 5 numbers, now there are 8.
Once that data is loaded up, we are then given visual representations of the data. (You can see SUMC's data here)
While the debate rages on about how these numbers and data will be used, I wonder about Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty.
This quantum physics concept says that you can either know the position or the speed of an object, but you cannot know both at the same time.
And so I wonder, while we are measuring the current position of the church, we are not able to see the direction the church is headed.
It is easier to measure the current position of the church, I am much more interested in measuring the momentum the church is moving in and if/how that can be changed if needed.
It is like in a basketball game. You can look at the scoreboard and see it is 85-95 and know the current position of the game. But you cannot know which team has the momentum. It only takes a three shots for the team down by 10 to be right back in the game, but the scoreboard cannot tell you who has the momentum of the game.
The UMC has built a nice scoreboard, but frankly that is not the part of the game that gets me motivated to watch the game.