Why pastors are turning to big data

With church attendance on the decline, pastors are turning to Big Data to help fill the pews.

Once upon a time, church was a staple of American life.

Why pastors are turning to big data

Today, that’s no longer the case. A recent Pew poll reported ~30% of US adults do not affiliate themselves with a specific religion.

Churches are feeling the absence and, per The Wall Street Journal, using Big Data to drive people back to the pews.

One of the companies helping…

… is Gloo, a 200-person tech company in Colorado that uses personal data to help churches identify individuals that could be ripe for recruitment.

The company has signed on 30k customers, which makes up ~10% of churches in the US.

Gloo’s platform builds web ads optimized for specific search terms on Google and social media, and directs searchers to a web page connecting them to a local church.

What kind of search terms, you ask?

Namely, topics that could signal an individual going through a personal crisis, including:

  • Marriage difficulties
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Drug addiction

While the practice may sound questionable at best – to be fair – Gloo isn’t the only one. Churches have been using Facebook to target people in distress for years.

If it still makes you feel icky…

… you’re not alone. Wunderman Thompson – one of Gloo’s data providers – recently terminated its contract after the partnership was made public.

For its part, Gloo claims it no longer uses mental health data to target individuals, and contends all 3rd-party data is anonymized.

The lesson? When working in a moral gray area, you better be ready to prove you’re doing so in good faith.

Topics: Religion

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