Congregational Care: how do you know?
Netflix knows what kind of movies I watch and like and recommends next ones. Amazon knows the kinds of books I purchase and recommends similar ones. Orbitz knows my traveling preferences and sends me teasing updates. All sorts of stores have me entered in their complex data bases to recognize me quickly and help me spend my money on them. These businesses turn and twist their data so they can anticipate trend-lines and shelf-life. Grocery stores know what shelves generate what dollars.
This afternoon over coffee we sat around talking about a tried and true (yawn!) topic of congregational care. Usually those conversations degenerate into guilt-producing discussions about how we (pastors) need to go out and do a lot more. So off we go to the next conference or order the next books/dvds on the latest and greatest program. Been there...done that.
My problem is that we do not know our community (attending members and friends) beyond a visual body count and voluntary registration cards. Since there is not scanning transaction and giving records are kept confidential (as they should), how can we know who's here and who's missing beyond anecdotal conversations?
What are the ways your congregations have discovered to know if you are caring or not? How do you meaningfully know attendance levels and participation levels by individuals without becoming either invasive or legalistic? What do you think about web-cams that do snap-shots like the one above and then go back and identify? Does that look too much like a casino? The soft underbelly of congregational care is the lack of meaningful and usable data. I'd love to hear about other best-practices.