People engage meaningfully with online content when the content invites them to. Social media polls and quizzes aren’t that, and neither are most YouTube videos, even Ted Talks. TikTok is passive, and Twitter almost never feels constructive.

But an online course you sign up for and set aside time to engage, one that asks for feedback and allows you to chart your own growth/learning/change? That feels meaningful. If we are going to measure online engagement, we ought to measure more than clicks and views. For those of us leading churches that are livestreaming worship services, views shouldn’t count the same as in-person attendance, because those two activities require very different levels of engagement (this is also true within in-person attendance: sitting in the back and leaving before the postlude is not the same as sitting in the front, staying through coffee hour, and signing up to make sandwiches). One need not be considered better than the other, only different, and different enough to warrant their own standards of evaluation.

What are we looking for when we count online views? More importantly, what are we asking for?

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