Last night I had the opportunity to speak to the High School group here at Gateway. It was my second time ever to speak to High School students, my first time in about 9 years. It went well, despite my apprehension speaking to High School students. However, as I’ve been very involved in our student ministry this past year, I’ve been concerned about the lack of information that we have on our students. Last year as we needed to quickly promote our student ministry camp, I found that we literally had no contact information for our High School students. Since most of their parents don’t attend Gateway, we really had nothing.

This year I’ve been plotting ways that we can better care of these students even in an administrative context. How do we track their attendance and know how to get in touch with them when they’re here? I decided that last night while speaking to them, I’d try an experiment and see if I could start the process of collecting their information. First, I figured that if I had email addresses, cell numbers, schools and grades, that would be a great starting place. So I created a little game to play that also tied into what I spoke about… a texting trivia game. I had several iTunes gift cards and put up random trivia questions with a google voice number. The first person to text the answer to the number won a giftcard. It was fun and we had significant participation.

After the last question, I posed one more challenge. I explained that we wanted to better know who they were and how to contact them for things like camp and such. So, we asked them to text their first and last name, their email address, their school and grade the the same number. We said that we’d award iTunes cards to the 1st, 20th, 40th and 60th person to respond. Of the 70-80 people to attend, we capture this data on almost 60 of them. Because it all went to a Google Voice number, I could simple cut and paste the data to a spreadsheet. Later this week I’ll have a volunteer cut and paste the data to individual cells, probably only an hour or so of work.

So, if you ever need to collect a lot of data from a crowd in a short amount of time, consider using a Google Voice number and have people text in their responses. Participation is high and the work to get the data is easy.