In the church world, analytics may have negative connotations. Some feel analytics hinders the spirit of God by limiting the actions of faith communities. This is, however, not the only perspective, in fact others would argue that proper use of data collection and analytics could be the key to providing a deeper faith life for people (Gutzler, 2014). Analytics can be used to move those who are outside of the church into a healthy spiritual life inside the church, and grow into healthy Christ-following leaders in an efficient and intentional way (Gutzler, 2014).
Implementing the use of analytics in a church setting is not going to be without its challenges, though. Spiritually-minded individuals tend to be more in tune with their social cognition, while scientifically-minded individuals tend to be more in tune with their analytical thinking (Jack, Friedman, Boyatzis, & Taylor, 2016). The research shows there is validity to this idea, revealing that analytic thinking and social cognition not only have opposing effects on religious and spiritual belief, but may in fact be in competition with one another (Robbins & Jack, 2006). It is for this reason church attenders do not always embrace the use of analytics, but often have an adverse reaction to it. In fact, evidence shows analytic thinking discourages acceptance of religious and spiritual beliefs (Zuckerman et al., 2013). This is because analytic thinking encourages individuals to carefully evaluate data and information which can lead to overriding intuitively appealing beliefs (Norenzayan & Gervais, 2013).
This does not have to be the reality though. Ministry leaders must find a way to incorporate analytics into the life of the church, while appealing to the balance of analytical thinking and social cognition. Leaders who are capable of accomplishing this have a special kind of leadership (Davenport et al., 2010).
Davenport, T. H., Harris, J. G., & Morison, R. (2010). Analytics at work: smarter decisions, better results. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press.
Gutzler, M. D. (2014). Big data and the 21st century church. Dialog, 53(1), 23–29.
Jack, A. I., Friedman, J. P., Boyatzis, R. E., & Taylor, S. N. (2016). Why Do You Believe in God? Relationships between Religious Belief, Analytic Thinking, Mentalizing and Moral Concern. PLoS ONE, 11(3), 1–21. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0149989
Norenzayan, A., & Gervais, W. M. (2013). The origins of religious disbelief. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, (1), 20.
Robbins, P., & Jack, A. I. (2006). The Phenomenal Stance. Philosophical Studies, 127(1), 59–85. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-005-1730-x
Zuckerman, M., Silberman, J., & Hall, J. A. (2013). The relation between intelligence and religiosity: a meta-analysis and some proposed explanations. Personality and Social Psychology Review: An Official Journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc, 17(4), 325–354. http://doi.org/10.1177/1088868313497266