General Convention issues guidance for counting online worship attendance in 2021

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Update on March 9, 2022: The information below is now out-of-date and is published for reference purposes only.

The 2021 Parochial Report does not require information about online attendance numbers, but has a section titled “2021 Worship During the Pandemic.” Questions in this section include, “Do you track online participants/viewers?” and “If you answered yes, how do you count online participation/viewers?” The instructions for the 2021 Parochial Report state that “the data collected [via these narrative questions] will assist the church in developing standards for tracking online and hybrid worship…in future revisions of the parochial report.”

Based on this latest information, the communications office of the Diocese of CNY recommends that your parish continue to count online attendance consistently and record online attendance separately in the parish register. Be aware that at this point General Convention is not specifying particular metrics for counting online attendance.

The Diocese of Central New York received the following information from the General Convention Office on December 14, 2020: 

One of the adaptations churches have made in this time is to offer some (or even all) of their worship in an online platform. Beginning January 1, 2021, please use the following guidelines on how to count online attendance at worship services. This will allow The Episcopal Church to collect consistent, detailed data beginning with the 2021 Parochial Report. (The 2020 Parochial Report does not require attendance counts for online worship services, but only the number of online services held).


Count online participants separate from in person worship. If you have in person worship that is also streamed, enter two counts for that service, those in the building and then those online. It is recommended that you count views within 24 hours of the broadcast. Given that online worship is often an entry point or initial connection for stewardship as well, it is also recommended that you track online donations (“giving units”) separately from standard pledging units. Going forward this information will provide helpful financial trend data for congregations, dioceses, and the whole Church.

Worship Counting by Platform


Count participant devices that are logged in:

Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and YouTube

Count views (longer than one minute) by device:



Photo by Jim Hughes of livestreaming setup at Christ Episcopal Church in Manlius, used with permission. 

Showing 2 comments
  • Hope VanScoy

    We had limited in-person services in our parking lot as weather permitted and no online. We did send out the weekly bulletin which included all readings, prayers, and sermon, to each household. The Vestry members were assigned parishioners to keep contact. How to We count our attendance? Rural America speaking.

    • Meredith Sanderson

      Dear Hope: The Episcopal Church’s Parochial Report process gathers valuable data, and at the same time there are meaningful ministries that can’t be represented by those numbers. So let me assure you on behalf of your diocesan community: What you are doing matters. Thank you for keeping your congregation connected through this challenging year! And we’re also here to support you if you ever want to experiment with gathering online, or if you want to connect with another congregation that’s already doing so.

      In the 2020 Parochial Report process that begins January 2021, each church will be asked to provide attendance for in-person services held, and to share the number of online services held (but not attendance at those). In your case, zero online services were held in 2020, so that’s how you’ll answer.

      The 2021 Parochial Report process begins in January 2022, and that process will ask congregations to track attendance at online services as well. So if you do experiment with meeting online in 2021, you’ll want to record attendance using the methods recommended by the General Convention Office.

      I hope that helps! Blessings on your ministry today and in the year ahead.

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