Measuring Online Attendance: Expanding Our Digital Reach
By Angel Owens
Gathering attendance numbers can be tricky these days. How many people are actually joining us in worship each week? There is no way to know just how many people are actually in each home clicking in, but we can gather and compile how many clicks we get each week.
On Facebook, we can also take a look at how many devices are staying connected for at least 3 minutes, so we can tell how many are tuned in for the duration of worship service. Because this isn’t possible over all our streaming platforms, Facebook, YouTube, and our website, our most reliable way to collect and compare online attendance each week is by number of devices that click into worship.
Since moving worship to online only, and even after introducing in-person worship opportunities, viewership has significantly increased. Clicks in one Sunday in February, prior to the pandemic, were 167, while on a Sunday in July, after we began the in-person 9:27 worship service, they were 797.
We are also able to archive worship and the sermon audio and video to engage with for anyone who isn’t able to join on Sunday morning.
Many of our members feel more comfortable remaining engaged through zoom calls, so book studies remain via zoom and Senior Academy has moved to a hybrid format.
We are sensitive to the fact that different groups have different comfort levels returning to in-person worship and activities. Our goal is not to move entirely to an online format. During the pandemic, we have been reminded of the importance of having time and community in a shared space together.
We have seen a culture change. People are more comfortable using the online space to learn and build community. We are more comfortable using the online tools themselves. Zoom calls, livestreams, webinars, social media, online courses, and the like aren’t so scary anymore. These are resources we have at our disposal to reach our congregation and beyond.
During the pandemic, as a staff, we have considered what returning to a shared space might look like, and “thinking small” has been a common recurring theme.
As we think about what this means for St. John’s, we consider what an online campus might look like, to expand digital reach and create original resources that can be referenced by small groups and individuals, Taylor Hutchins, Production Manager says, “We now see more online campuses and have to take that very seriously. What can we do next? What makes worship easy and more engaging for people?”
The philosophy to meet people where they are has taken on new meaning in the world of social media. We can share original faith-based, formative content with people where they are. We are learning which avenues are best for which types of engagement, and that we can meet people where they are for a minutes (or usually seconds) to lift them up, teach them, and also invite them to engage in more through the proper channels, like Sunday worship, joining a small group, or online campus resources.
We’ve had people join us in worship and on our social media from all over the world. Taylor adds, “You don’t have to be a mega church to reach the world anymore!”