Steve Bremner

Author, Podcaster & Writing Coach

Skipping church? Facial recognition software could be tracking you – The Washington PostThis post is a 3 min read

One software company is now providing churches with software to better track who shows up at their worship services.

Source: Skipping church? Facial recognition software could be tracking you – The Washington Post

Nope, again a real thing and not an Onion article.

I don’t know how I feel about this, since one of the statements the article makes is that it’s to help with preventing people from falling through the cracks. But of course also not neglecting a way to track people so as to ask them for money.

When Thumma asked the same question in a national survey of megachurches in 2005, 99 percent of megachurches said they have a computerized database that holds the names and addresses of members or attendees, compared with 95 percent of churches that had a congregational Web site. Many of the member databases include photos, Thumma said.

Thumma said he hasn’t come across any megachurches that use facial recognition software, but most have security cameras and people who are trained to get a sense of how many people are in the church. Part of the appeal of a megachurch is that you can walk in without people noticing, he said.

That last line is very telling, since true New Testament church is relationship-based, not event based. The people are the Church, not the building, so this idea that you can attend something and not be noticed was foreign to the early believers who met in each other’s homes.

A church will upload a database of photos of its members, and they usually use security cameras they already have in place to match the video with existing photos. Churches could use it to track regular attendance or see who’s missing.

“It’s simple to see if a member isn’t attending three or four events. Then they can give the member a call and say something like, ‘See you on Sunday,’” Greenshpan said.

Again, notice the impersonal automated nature of tracking attendees. The article further states that challenges many megachurches face is accountability among the members and feeling a sense of ownership or belonging to a church. Pastors and leaders want to know how to help individuals progress in their faith.

Does anybody else think the way people are going to feel a sense of belonging is if a computer tracks their attendance and then gives them an automated phone call inviting them back to church if they don’t show up?

Me neither.

Something tells me that an actual human being noticing you’re not there is how to make people feel they’re appreciated and missed.

I could be pressing this whole ‘organic church’ thing too hard, though.

I’ll close with one last quote from the article:

“With the concept of facial recognition software is an underlying subconscious hunch that this is wrong because it’s an inauthentic substitute for one-on-one relationships,” Shaffer said. “Imagine, ‘And then the apostles walked into the assembly, and their faces were scanned.’ It seems like it misses the authenticity.”

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About Steve Bremner

Steve the coffee drinker is a Canadian missionary to Peru, who is called to raise up disciples who flow in the power of the Holy Spirit within a missional community named Oikos. If you like Steve's blog, you'll also like his Kindle books. Note: this post may have contained affiliate links of which the author receives a small commission if you purchase something recommended in the post.