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Stats and data are powerful tools to support our desire for change. But what happens when the information we use is bad?


It can be an incredibly powerful tool for ministry. Social analytics and website data give us helpful insights to make better decisions and reach more people.

Data is also helpful when recommending a change or improvement. We come up with a new idea but don’t have our analytics to support our argument.

So we turn to Google. Within a few clicks, we find dozens of studies and surveys that support our case.

That’s what I did earlier this week, and I almost made a big mistake.

While doing research for an article on Instagram, I wanted to know the amount of money spent last year in social media marketing. So I Googled “amount of money spent on social media marketing.”

I got 13.9 million hits. Since I don’t have the time, focus, or desire to sort through those, I looked at the first few articles.

One of the first articles I read was called “All the Social Media Advertising Stats You Need to Know.” It was from a prominent, and often reliable source, so I read it.

It seemed like their first stat supported my article: they declared $31.9 BILLION was spent last year on social media marketing.

In case you’re wondering, that’s about 1/3 of Dr. Evil’s ransom demands. But I digress.

The stat was hyperlinked, so I clicked it. I quickly realized information from this site was cited in a large number of other sites. This, then, was the primary data source.

The information on this page was different than what I read elsewhere. It said social media ad spending was projected to be a certain number in 2016, but other sites said that amount had been spent.

Projections and realities are not the same. You can project Easter attendance before Easter, but it means nothing compared to actual numbers.

I decided to use data discovered elsewhere to support my article. Why? Because the difference I find in the first source was inaccurate and misleading. And I didn’t want my work to suffer because I misrepresented information.

If you’re advocating change in your church, solid data helps prove your point. And the senior leadership appreciates the work you put in to explain and prove your case.

Yet bad or incorrect data is far more damaging than it is helpful. Here are 3 ways this impacts what you do:

  1. It damages your work. When you work using bad data, your thinking is flawed. Potentially great work is reduced to mediocre work.
  2. It damages your credibility. Once you produce mediocre work, people lose respect for you. People perceive it as an integrity issue. And damaged integrity is difficult to recover.
  3. It damages your influence. This is the greatest damage of all. As your work and credibility suffer, so will your influence. While you may have the greatest ideas in the world, you need the influence to initiate change.

Yes, use relevant studies to support your ideas. But diligently do your homework. Read carefully and make wise decisions. You’ll be glad you did.

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