COVID19 Engagement and the Impact on Giving
“We had over 8,000 people watch our services through our live stream!”
“We are connecting with more people during the lockdown than we ever have before!”
Have you heard comments like that? Have you said that? My question is, how do you know? My suspicion is that like giving out your Easter attendance, what the typical church leader reports as online engagement is far from actual engagement. Now with many of your members watching at home from the comfort of their couch, now more than ever we must ask,
How do you determine the actual number attending your online services?
The best source I have found on this topic came through a May 5th Baptist Press article written by Chris Martin, a social media manager for LifeWay Christian Resources. Here is a quote from him,
“If Christians and church leaders are going to be people of integrity, as we are called to be, we must avoid the temptation to celebrate masses of people “hearing the Gospel” who aren’t doing anything but scrolling past a video of a church service.”
Martin writes this sobering analysis, “If your Sunday sermon has 3,000 views on Facebook, that does not mean 3,000 people “came to church.” It simply means that your video played for three seconds 3,000 times. If Facebook says your Sunday service reached 8,000 people, that just means it appeared in 8,000 timelines. It doesn’t mean 8,000 people watched your sermon, and it definitely doesn’t mean 8,000 people came to church. It just means 8,000 people had the opportunity to scroll past your video, of which a smaller group may have stopped to watch.”
The bottom line is that churches are engaging with fewer people than they think!
Martin has a formula for an accurate evaluation of engagement. You will find the link to that article at the bottom of this post.
The inconvenient truth is that attendance was already in decline before COVID19, and it is likely it will never return to the level it once was.
In 2018 Generis wrote a paper called The Big Shift: Ways to Engage a Less Engaged Church Goer. The paper assessed that in the last ten to fifteen years, those we consider faithful now attend two times a month or less.
The Big Shift stated,
“We need a scorecard, which has typically been just about attendance and giving. But now it needs to be more about engagement, which might be some combination of attendance and giving, but more importantly, participation in small groups, serving in ministries of the church, volunteering at church.”
Remember, this was written in 2018!
COVID19 has caused us to move from tracking physical attendance to engagement. This is now our new normal as most churches have decided to continue live-streaming their services even after they come back for on-campus worship.
Engagement moving forward will need to combine both physical and digital to comprise “church.” I don’t see we will ever go back to the way things were. As a generosity strategist, my question is always:
How will these numbers impact giving? Frankly, it is too early to know for sure. There has been conflicting data in the last few weeks. A few churches have seen increases, but most have seen declines. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently released a report that stated,
“Individual giving declined 6 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with last year, a trend that would lead to $25 billion in lost revenue for nonprofits if it continues throughout 2020.”
The experts are still debating the final impact of COVID19 on giving. Yet it is evident that the old way of funding the church, the Sunday morning offering plate, is insufficient to meet your financial needs. The question is, what do you need to do to meet the challenges of engaging people in this new normal?
We must adopt a Digital Giving Strategy that provides for a 24/7/365 day offering strategy!
At Gyve, we are experts in providing you with the tools and the knowledge to help you better engage with donors. Check out our series on The Digital Giving Strategy from recent posts.
Like it or not, church as we knew it has changed forever. We can sit around and complain about it, or we can build our own Digital Giving Strategy. We at Gyve are here to help you accomplish this.