By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2005-12-07 Print this article Print

Megachurches like the 25,000-member World Changers of Atlanta can teach corporations the true meaning of customer relationship management. How? They can look at their data and identify members, determine who could be volunteering more, contribute how much

The "megachurch" designation is bestowed on ministries that host at least 2,000 people at weekly services. But World Changers flies beyond mega status with its artful, aggressive use of technology to manage its congregant-customers. A full-time technology chief and a marketing director, together with their staffs, have created a customer-care system that any for-profit company would be foolish to ignore.

While secular companies across industries struggle to hold onto customers—and pan for nuggets of personal information to understand their habits—big evangelical ministries have done just that, says John Vaughan, founder of Church Growth Today, a megachurch consulting firm in Bolivar, Mo.

How these churches analyze data on member behavior, as well as operate call centers and develop product extensions, bears impressive fruit.

Megachurches can look at their data and identify members who could be volunteering more, who are likely to spend money on products and contribute donations—and how much—and who are becoming discontent and may abandon the church. Visalia First Assembly of God, an evangelical congregation in California's San Joaquin Valley, improved visitor retention to 59 percent simply by changing the way church officials interact with first-time attendees—at the suggestion of new analytical software.

They know who's related to whom, which church member is battling illness or is seeking a mate—and how best to reach out to people in each circumstance. A bright "we haven't heard from you in a while, come on back" letter is inappropriate for a longtime church volunteer dealing with chemotherapy. But it's effective when a 23-year-old single man begins to skip his midweek prayer group.

Through a combination of software and staff tuned in to individual customers, sophisticated churches, World Changers among them, can track data detailed enough to make those judgments. In short, Vaughan says, "megachurches do what corporations would love to be able to do with their customer bases."

Next page: Pastor's Proposition

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Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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