Not Citing Statistics – Things That Drive Me Crazy.

Not Citing Statistics – Things That Drive Me Crazy.

Recently I’ve been researching a topic that I’m hoping to write on in the near future: Why it’s important to go to church.  While doing so, I came across an article by a high-profile pastor that is well-known in many Christian circles.  In his article on the importance of church attendance, he gives the following compelling statistics:

“Studies show that if you don’t go to church for a month, the odds are almost 2 to 1 that you won’t go for more than a year. Being a vital and active part of the church is something we pass on to our kids. A study once disclosed that: If both Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful in attendance; if only Dad attends regularly, 55% remain faithful; if only Mom attends regularly, 15% remain faithful; and if neither attend regularly, only 6% remain faithful.” 

My first thought when reading this was, “Wow!  That’s powerful!” My next thought was, “I wonder where these statistics came from?”  I scoured the page, and looked for anything close to resembling a citation; there had to be something that could point me in the right direction, or at the very least tell me where to go so I could get some insight as to the origin of these numbers.

Unfortunately, I found nothing.  No citing whatsoever.  Zero.  Nothing.  Nada.

I’m married to an epidemiologist.  In her field, statistics are CRITICAL.  If a statistic is not cited and that citation cannot be verified, it’s essentially garbage.  That’s how important it is in most fields of study to cite a source.

When you get in front of people and start with, “Statistics say…” you are taking on a responsibility to cite your source.  The sad thing is that so often I hear Christians and pastors cite statistics that, if you gave them a million dollars, could not tell you where those statistics came from.  And if you can cite the statistic, then do it! “But no one really wants to hear that those stats came from a Gallup Poll or the Pew Research Center.”  Yes, they do.  Not only does it give weight to the statistic in the point you’re trying to make, but it shows that you’re not just making stuff up.  In short, it gives you legitimacy.  If anyone should be deemed legitimate in what they’re saying, don’t you think Pastors–and Christians in general–should be at the top of that list?

This isn’t about a preference, this is about an ethic.  Please don’t drive me crazy.  Cite your statistics.

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