John Farquhar Plake on How Data Science Can Transform Americans’ Bible Engagement and Spriitual Lives

American Bible Society

Big data has made tremendous breakthroughs in how we see, understand and live in the world. Thanks to data science – the ability to analyze massive sets of data – drivers can use apps like Waze to avoid traffic and road construction; track their steps and sleep with Fitbit to optimize their health and fitness; and customize treatments for diseases through precision medicine and pharmacogenetics.    

Big data has helped solve some of our most significant challenges, so why isn’t every faith leader engaging with data to solve their unique challenges and directly address the spiritual needs of their community?

According to the 2019 State of the Bible, nearly half of all adults are Bible users, either reading, listening to or using the Bible at least three times a year outside of a church service, which isn’t surprising, considering the average American household owns at least three Bibles. But more than half of adults (56%) express a desire to use the Bible more often.

What this incongruity shows is that Bible access isn’t a problem for most Americans. Still, many people yearn for more from the Bible and guidance on how to apply the Bible to their lives. More than three out of five adults (63%) believe that the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life. At the same time, four out of five say the values and morals of America are declining, but only 28% turn to their Bible for comfort during a crisis.

The problem is that people don’t know where to look for answers. Those who are curious about the Bible and looking for guidance on what to read aren’t going to their pastors. They’re going to the internet. Google has become the de facto guide for the spiritual formation of the developed world today.

But Google is not a spiritual guide. Google’s search results are ranked based on popularity, advertising and relevance to a user’s past searches. To help people grow in their journey with God, especially younger Americans, faith leaders must rely on new and innovative tools and techniques specifically geared toward faith and very intentionally built on integrity, truth and wise counsel.

The good news is, big data on the spiritual lives of churchgoing adults are available. At American Bible Society, we are using surveys and other research techniques to gauge the strengths and growth opportunities for various churches, cities and communities. Typically, churches assess their effectiveness through attendance and donations. But now we are using tools to gain objective, reliable data that can help churches lead their congregations on a more effective transformative journey and strengthen their engagement with the Bible.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christian Post, John Farquhar Plake

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