Although the title of the book might seem a little overwhelming, the majority of this resource is fairly easy to understand and well laid out. By the Numbers presents the data from the author’s own study of web and social media usage in America’s largest churches. Jeremy Smith explains his purpose for the study early on—to make the reader aware of current digital trends and to help them feel empowered to explore these mediums in their own churches.
Smith recorded data from church websites as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and created statistics on how churches are using these resources. He begins the book by explaining his data and his reasons for the study. (He goes into some pretty technical terms in chapter two.) Much of the rest of the book is a presentation of the data with helpful charts and graphics to illustrate the findings.
Smith does offer quite a bit of personal opinion along with the data, but he stays away from making too many generalized conclusions. Given the ever-changing nature of digital media, I’m not sure this book will be relevant for long. For now, it does a good job presenting the hard numbers of web and social media usage. This would be helpful for those who need real numbers as a starting point for their own church or ministry.
Based on the book’s findings alone, it’s hard to draw solid conclusions about any specific strategy in any digital media. However, the book clearly shows web and social media are viable tools for any ministry and can’t be ignored. Smith encourages each church to figure out what works for its individual situation and to develop a strategy. He says, “Whatever you do with social media and website content, whether for engagement or marketing, do it with a purpose.”
Woven into the presentation of data are also some good ideas for churches to get started. Overall, By the Numbers would be a good resource for any church or pastor who needs real data rather than opinions to be convinced that web and social media are useful ministry tools.