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Is Big Data Praise Saving Black Churches $2 Billion Annual Income?

By Lesley Green-Rennis

  • Churches are turning to big data to boost attendance as 30% of American adults do not affiliate themselves with a specific religion
  • Conservatively, the annual income of the institutional Black church is over $2B

With in-person church attendance roughly 30% to %50 lower than it was pre-COVID, many congregations are turning to big data to boost attendance. About 10% of U.S. churches pay $1,500 a year for big data in effort to recruit members. This may be particularly relevant to Black churches, which have long functioned as the central economic, religious, social, and political institution in the African American community with an estimated annual income of more than $2 Billion.

Why This Matters: The Black church has historically influenced the economic development of Black communities. With the number of churchgoers steadily dropping in the U.S. churches may lose their economic and political influence. Approximately 30% of American adults do not affiliate themselves with a specific religion. Hence why companies like, Gloo, a small technology and data mining company, analyzes Americans’ personal data and online activities to help churches reach people most likely to be open to religious messages and join their congregations. Church leadership has had to remain nimble in this time of uncertainty, responding to shifting COVID regulations and perceptions while also considering the physical, economic, and emotional impact the crisis has had on their attendees.

Just as retailers or political candidates send out online ads to groups of people with particular characteristics, churches are turning to big data to recruit people they believe are most receptive to becoming members, borrowing methods long used by businesses and political campaigns. However, churches rely more on personal data, and this type of analysis is organized around trying to identify some of the most difficult moments of people’s lives. Perhaps this begs the question about where the religious moral high ground actually lies.

Situational Awareness: While religious leaders expect some rebound once the pandemic recedes, many don’t expect attendance to return to previous levels.  The Black church’s central role necessitates it look for different approaches to connect with existing members and attract new ones, big data may be the answer.  

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