You figure it was coming – some guidance, explanation, advice about how to count attendance during this time of cancelled physical services. My church’s last in-the-building service was March 15th. Since then we have had some variety of online services each Sunday and two drive-in services. Our plan is to have drive-in services each Sunday this month, except for on Memorial Day weekend, and then have inside services starting in June, the latter if nothing changes with the current situation and governmental orders.
Southern Baptists are gonna count. Around three-fourths of them are gonna report. So, how do you count attendance/participation now?
I wasn’t all that meticulous about counting heads in worship services. When it was time for the Annual Church Profile, I’d make an informed estimate of average weekly worship attendance. I didn’t see much sense in counting heads each service. I had a pretty good idea anyway.
So now, do you count the online views or whatever other metric is generated by your online services?
Chris Martin, social media manager for LifeWay Christian Resources, gives guidance through Baptist Press: First Person: How do we calculate attendance on social media?
Countless churches are using platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to deliver Sunday morning services, stay connected with their members, and provide other helpful ministry resources for a body of Christ that is dispersed and lonely.
But this also raises a question for pastors: “How do I calculate church attendance?” “Video views” are not a good measure of church attendance. “People reached” is even less accurate than video views when it comes to church attendance.
So what do we do?
Chris proceeds to give a complicated explanation of what the various metrics are used by social media platform and then offers an equation that generates a usable number for online “church attendance.”
I appreciate the effort…but…no thanks on all that. Too complicated. Too artificial. Too uncertain. Too misleading. This is not a criticism of a knowledgeable LifeWay social media guy taking the time to explain and make suggestions. I learned some stuff. I just don’t think releasing the brethren to use online numbers is useful and legitimate in calculating “average weekly attendance.”
Are LifeWay and the state conventions going to advise all SBC churches to calculate online “church attendance” and factor it into the annual average to be reported on the ACP this fall? Guess we will see.
Seems to me that would be a mistake and would make year-to-year comparison of church attendance figures impossible. I’m into conjecture here but I read pastors reporting double and triple “attendance” through their online stuff. SBC pastors have always had a great affection for taking the highest possible numbers. Why go through all the number crunching to get a sensible metric when you can just report a big number? After all, the coin-of-the-realm in the SBC is numbers. The bigger the better. Pastors know this instinctively and pardon my cynicism.
If I were an active pastor I’d just skip over all the online numbers. I mean, we have drive-in church services. You can get a definite number for that although my guess is that the numbers are much lower than what one would have if the regular inside service was held. Some people check all the physical and online services. The numbers for the latter are soft, I’d think.
If LifeWay (and the article didn’t express any formal advice from LifeWay, just the expertise of a LifeWay worker familiar with such things) wants to add online “participation” to the ACP, that might be a good idea. Going forward, I’d think that it is a useful figure if kept separate from actual physical attendance. I don’t see how it could be folded into “weekly worship attendance” without skewing the latter.
I’m sure our statistical brain trust is talking about all this.
One statistic that is concrete and definite, though, is money. Either the church received the gifts or it didn’t. Doesn’t matter how it got to the church. Either the Executive Committee received Cooperative Program dollars from the states and churches or they didn’t. We are already seeing those numbers and they are down.
Maybe my thinking in the eighth decade of life is awry. Please inform me why if that is so.
Reminds me of one of my predecessors at a church. I’d look at the old associational annuals and was almost depressed because attendance while he was pastor was so much more than current attendance. I delicately and diplomatically asked one of the members about why the attendance was so much higher during his tenure. “Oh, Preacher _____ would add in all kinds of numbers for people that never entered our building.” Fake church numbers? Who would have thunk it?