How Should We Track Online Attendance?
How many people joined your Sunday service on Facebook? If you haven't gone looking for that answer yet, you probably will soon.
And the answer is exceedingly tricky.
Here is a letter from The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of The General Convention. In the letter he writes: " Most congregations and dioceses will record the number and kind of worship; and list the virtual attendance separately as virtual attendance. (This can be accomplished in the notes section.)"
But then you have to ask yourself what number to use.
Using Facebook as an example, there are a couple places where you find different numbers. Just look at the various options below...
On the technical side… we’ve put together this brief summary of how to find different metrics on Facebook. Similar metrics are available on various platforms. Here’s a summary of what the different metrics mean:
One-minute views: People who stopped on the video and watched at least one minute.
Three second views: People who scrolled past the video, and stopped briefly (long enough for the Facebook algorithm to recognize they stopped).
People Reached: The number of people who had the video show up in their feed (i.e. the mysterious algorithm showed them the video, but they likely didn’t stop long enough to view).
Engagements: The number of people who liked/commented/shared the video.
Facebook is notoriously cryptic with their data, which makes answering this question essentially impossible. Everything will be a “best guess.”
After discussion with leaders from churches (Episcopal and others) that livestream often, Canon Alan Bentrup recommends congregations use the "One-Minute Views" as the baseline measure for online "attendance."
It eliminates people who stumbled on a video for a second and left. Those who watched a minute or longer did it on purpose. They meant to watch you, if only for a minute, and that should count for something.
Here is is a Digital Parish Register template. The suggestion is to count 1.4 persons per view, assuming more than one person is watching from the same computer, etc.). There are various "multipliers" that different people recommend, but 1.4 seems to be appropriately conservatice.
Canon d'Rue Hazel points out that it is important to remember that worship attendance, especially on Sundays, will be reported through your annual parochial report. While you may be experiencing increased or decreased numbers with online worship, you also will want to be mindful that numbers larger or smaller than normal can skew church-size statistics. (Even in Upper South Carolina we use church size to determine clergy compensation.)
The General Convention Office is continuing to examine the realities of reporting church attendance in the age of COVID-19, and will provide additional guidance as it is developed.
Tags: Technology Resources