Submission dates are January 1 – February 15, 2021.
To submit your year-end numbers, simply log in to ezra.gcfa.org. (Don’t remember how? Your username is your 6-digit GCFA number, and the initial password is password. If you still have difficulty, click “forgot password.”)
Questions? Contact Robin Brown at 317.924.1321 or Robin.Brown@inumc.org.
Additional instructions for Year-end statistical reporting on the Ezra website:
GCFA attempted to change the instructions on a couple of the lines (for pandemic/PPP reasons); however, it did not copy over to the conference side.
This is what was put in at the end of each line’s directions:
7: For 2020 only use the weeks that you had full in-person service.
7a: In 2020, many churches initiated online services using various platforms. See instructions from the platform to determine views that were hits or watches based upon viewing time (the length of time considered a watch may vary by conference).
27: If the church received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as part of the CARES Act that has not been forgiven, include the loan balance here.
54c: Enter the amount received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as part of the CARES Act here (whether it’s been forgiven or not).
Although the PPP may get recorded in two places, line 27 just tells us that they have a loan amount, it doesn’t get put in as part of the spending plan. Line 54c tells us it was used as part of the spending plan (but it’s still from an outside source, even if it becomes a grant). Neither field is used to calculate apportionments, they are just informational. The challenge is that we don’t have a way to add questions, so we had to put it somewhere. When the loan is forgiven, then it will fall off of next year’s stats and it won’t be put in 54c next year (unless there’s a second wave of stimulus in 2021).
Here is some guidance from Discipleship Ministries on capturing online attendance:
Online Attendance from Naomi Annandale Discipleship Ministries
Taking attendance in online worship certainly isn’t as simple as counting heads in pews. But don’t despair – there are ways to do this responsibly, some already in use and recommended by annual conference and churches across the connection.
These tips were compiled with assistance from almost a dozen annual conferences that responded to a request from Discipleship Ministries for them to share the guidance they’ve been offering to pastors, as well as input from the General Council on Finance and Administration.
- Let’s remember why we count: Numbers represent people and people matter. Every person who watches on YouTube, participates on Zoom, messages on Facebook Live is a child of God. They matter, and it matters that your church has given them a way to worship in a challenging time.
- The details:
- Most churches offer online worship via Facebook Live, YouTube, or Zoom, with some streaming directly from their websites. Each of these platforms offers some statistics, usually including (at least) number of view and length of views.
- Most annual conferences we contacted caution churches against simply counting the number of views as attendance. A casual “scroller” on Facebook or someone searching for something else on YouTube may come across your church’s worship service and be counted.
- Several annual conferences advise counting only viewers who stay with a service for a specified length of time. This seems to vary widely from conference to conference, with some saying to count anyone who watches for one minute or more, and at least one saying not to count anyone who wasn’t there for 30 minutes or more. We encourage you to have a conversation with your leadership about what a meaningful participation in online worship would entail.
- Check-in, multiply, or something else? The most accurate count will come if people “check in” in some fashion and indicate how many people are worshiping with them. This can be done on Facebook Live and Zoom, and churches can set up other online tools for this, as well. But if that is not doable, or if you suspect that a significant number of people are worshiping but not checking in, a multiplier can be used. This means you simply multiply the number of views by a decimal (somewhere between 1.5-1.9 seems to be common) to account for the possibility that some computers are “hosting’ more than one worshiper.
- Because many online services are recorded and then watched at times other than Sunday morning, attendance trackers also need to decide when to cut off counting. Sunday night, Monday morning, or Monday night all are commonly recommended.
- Most important: Be consistent. Whatever method you choose, stick with it (at least for a while). This is the only way to get a meaningful view of your online worship life at year’s end.
- Finally, great advice from the Mississippi Annual Conference: Focus on engagement, not just attendance. Pay attention to greetings and prayer requests in the chat, look for likes, comments, shares, subscribes, requests for connection and giving patterns. Think about ways of connecting worshipers with one another. Respond to expressions of interest. And, of course – keep track of all of this. Even though it won’t show up on your annual reports, these are some of the most meaningful ministry metrics you can have at hand at this present, confounding time, because they inform you about how you are doing in terms of connection with your community.
Remember – we are called to See All the People, and in this unprecedented time and beyond, online engagement is a key part of that.