As outlined in the U.S. Constitution, the twenty-third census of our country will take place this year. Technology will play a larger role than ever, as census data will be collected via hand-held computing devices equipped with GPS. All census data will be a short form with basic questions of name, gender, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, relationship, and housing tenure.
Detailed socioeconomic information collected via long-form during past censuses will continue to be collected through a survey process that will provide community data on a yearly basis.
The US census is at its basic form a national head count. But the ramifications go far beyond that, with one of the most important ones being the number of seats each state receives in the US House of Representatives, starting with the 2012 elections. This also affects the number of votes that states receive in the Electoral College for the 2012 presidential election. Current projections indicate that 11 states will lose one or more seats, with 8 states picking up from 1-4 seats. Geographically, the losers are in the Rust Belt across the Midwest to Northeast, with the winners in the South and West.
This is not a civics lesson, but just a reminder that numbers do matter.
Take the numbers of people in your church, for instance. Not just the raw number, but what that number represents. Do you know the age breakdown of participants? Do you know the geographic clusters of where people live? Do you know the makeup of their families? It’s not just the knowledge of this information – it’s what it represents in ministry potential:
- Is your congregation young or old or a mixture?
- What is the age trend?
- Do people have a 10 minute drive to your church? Longer?
- What are the ages of children in your church’s families?
- What do these questions really mean for ministry in your church?
Now for the really important numbers: what about the community your church serves? Ask the same types of questions above, but with a whole new ministry context – is the community your church serves “like” your church, or is it different?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know your church and community pretty well. Like the 2010 Census, there are usually a lot of surprises – just around the corner.