Last night I met with Nels and Esther for the first time.
Nels has spent the last 20 years collecting statistics about anabaptist church membership. He gathers his data through church publications and contacts with the church leadership.
Nels has data on over 6,000 congregations, broken down to the congregational level!
The system that he uses is done in Microsoft Works and is very similar to the methodology one would use via paper and pencil — all numbers are entered individually and all tallies are totaled manually. I want to avoid suggesting any drastic changes, at least at the beginning, but there are a few areas where I see opportunities:
- Right now this information is communicated through yearly mailings, which requires quite a bit of work for the Hostetters. It may be possible to email the results to some of the church leaders.
- The email addresses for the Mennonite Church USA churches may be obtainable through the online directory. If so, Nels and Esther could save themselves the time and expense of sending physical reports to all these churches.
- The Mennonite Church USA website also contains additional information, such as the date each church was established. It may be interesting to compare membership trends for churches of different ages.
- Right now Nels’s spreadsheets do no retain the yearly membership totals. That feature could likely be added quite easily by copying the data for each year into a new column.