Stats & Stories: Using Both for Maximum Impact

It’s been said that facts are your friends. This is true in business, relationships, education and faith. Even though facing facts can sometimes be hurtful, truth needs to be exposed and embraced to make headway in all areas of life.

To make any wise decision, it’s important to have the right information. But you need more than information to get results. You also need motivation. Information and motivation are two key elements in getting things done.

But not all data is important. And not all data is interesting. Yet combining important and interesting data can compel people towards action. I call these two types of data, Hard Data and Soft Data. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Hard Data
Hard data are statistics. And statistics engage the mind. If you like charts, graphs, numbers and Excel spreadsheets, you love hard data. Stats give us needed information by which we can judge situations, develop ideas and solve problems. They are a foundational building block to any problem that has ever been solved. Some people can just look at statistics, figure out the problem and pose a solution. While it’s seldom that simple, that’s the general idea.

As an example, if a Pastor tells his congregation that there are 500 orphans in a village in Uganda that their congregation could sponsor through World Vision, and if each family would commit to donate $35 a month, they could provide for every orphan in that village. Simple math. Simple numbers. Hopefully a powerful and impactful result.

But some people are not motivated by just facts and figures alone. There’s a second kind of data that others relate and respond to.

Soft Data
Soft data are stories. And stories engage the heart. Soft data inspires people to action. It provides the why behind the what. If your heart is stirred by a sermon on serving others, an appeal to fight human trafficking or a TV commercial about alleviating poverty, then you relate well to stories.

Stories were the videos of Jesus’ time. And Jesus was a master story teller. He told stories of roadside robberies, poor widows and runaway sons. He painted vivid word pictures of the kingdom of Heaven and the reality of Hell. His stories overflowed with emotion, grabbed people’s hearts and motivated them to action. They also communicated valuable lessons about love, life and transcendence.

In the example above, what if the Pastor included a personal story of how he has been to this village in Uganda and has seen these orphans first hand? What if he told a story of how one mother in the village couldn’t support her family and tragically had to abandon her baby to be able to support the rest of her children? I’ll bet, once the tears are wiped away, people will be reaching for their checkbooks and asking, “Who do I write the check to?”

Both / And
In your communication, if you give stats without stories, your people will know the situation but may not be motivated to respond. Or if you give stories without statistics, your people will be inspired but lack direction. The best approach is to use both hard and soft data. Be honest with the statistics. Attach emotion to the story. And see how the creative use of stats and stories can motivate your people towards the heartbeat of Jesus.