5 Tips for Defining Digital Church Attendance

5 Tips for Defining Digital Church Attendance

As churches move their services online, they have to figure out what kind of metrics they’ll use to monitor engagement. When your church gathers physically, attendance is a pretty easy thing to gauge. It becomes a little more tricky to determine how many are showing up for online gatherings. 

Here are five tips for defining your digital attendance:

1. Think households versus individuals

It’s relatively easy to be precise when you’re counting physical bodies in a sanctuary, but it’s a little more challenging to know how many people make up a single viewing. An entire family is probably not going to watch the service on their own device. If the opportunity permits, spouses will probably watch a service together on a TV or computer. In fact, the whole family may watch it together.

It can be helpful to send out an anonymous survey to find out how many people, on average, are tuning into digital services. In a pinch, you could use the average number of people in an American household, which is about 2.5. This can give you a better sense of how you should think about views. 

2. Decide how long should count as a view   

It’s kind of awkward to get up and wander out of church mid-sermon. When you’re watching a service or sermon online, it’s a lot easier to get distracted and click away. A lot of platforms offer different view counts based on how long someone sticks with a video. Ideally, you want to count people who have stuck with your services or videos for a more extended period. 

3. Shoot for engagement 

Whether you’re livestreaming your service or posting pre-recorded sermons, look for ways to inspire engagement. Ask questions and encourage people to respond in comments, and have staff members reply. Not only does that restore the sense of community to digital services, but it gives churches another criterion to use when gauging congregational involvement. 

4. Be strategic in choosing a platform

There are so many ways to post videos, and it can be tempting to cast a wide net. After all, if you share your content in multiple places and platforms, you reach more people. Right? The truth is that they all handle data a little differently, and this can make it more difficult to get a good read on how you’re doing over time. 

Do your research and experiment with a couple of different platforms. Find one that you and your congregation are comfortable with and stick with it. The more you use it, the better you’ll understand how to gather the data you need. Additionally, when using a platform like YouTube, you can post a video on your website or church app and get additional insights from those analytics. 

5. Focus on building momentum 

Judging online attendance isn’t an exact science, so it’s smart to focus on numbers you can influence. No single metric is as meaningful as paying attention to your trends overall. The goal is to increase viewership, engagement, and time spent watching videos. Experiment with ways to expose your content to more people. Find ways to keep them engaged. The data you collect over time will give you the most useful and actionable insight. 

Are you making tough ministry decisions? 

A lot of these kinds of questions are coming up as churches explore transitioning to a more digital-forward ministry. If the COVID-19 pandemic has you considering your options, or you just want to be better prepared next time a crisis hits, download a free copy of our special checklist: How to Pivot Your Church to a Digital Strategy in Times of Crisis

It will help you put a plan in place to connect with your members when you can’t physically connect with your members. 

Jayson D. Bradley

Jayson D. Bradley is a writer and pastor in Bellingham, WA. You can find his work all over the internet, including Overviewbible.com and Ministryadvice.com.