CNLP 418: Tony Morgan on Church Attendance Trends, Creating an Effective Digital Strategy, and Online Metrics that Matter

Tony Morgan returns to the podcast to share the latest data on church attendance trends, best and worst practices for creating a digital strategy, and how to track online metrics that actually matter so you can connect with people who find you online.

Welcome to Episode 418 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about the Coming Church Split.

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Pro Media Fire

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The Unstuck Group

Tony Morgan’s here today to share the latest data on church attendance, digital strategy, online metrics that actually matter, and more.

After you listen, head over to to get his full report for FREE. With the report, you can start an important discussion at your next staff meeting about where you are today as a church and where you’re headed.

If you don’t know The Unstuck Group, this is the consulting group my church has worked with when we needed an outside perspective to help us align vision, strategy, team and action.

They track trends in church health and release findings quarterly in The Unstuck Church Report.

Get Tony’s full analysis, for FREE, at

Conversation Links

The Unstuck Church by Tony Morgan

Effortless by Greg McKeown

CNLP 351: Nona Jones on the Best and Worst Practices for Social Media, Why Online Ministry is About More Than Streaming Content, and Where Social Media is Going in the Next Few Years

How Sun Valley Church is Building Their Digital Strategy – The Unstuck Church Podcast with Tony Morgan

Business Wars – Wondery Podcast

Permission Marketing – Article by Seth Godin

The Coming Church Split (It’s Not What You Think) by Carey Nieuwhof

Get Carey’s Content Straight to Your Inbox

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Insights From Tony

1. Building an online experience does not lead to declining in-person attendance

Before the pandemic, one of the biggest concerns pastors had about going online was that, “If we go online, people will no longer have a reason to show up in person.” Data indicates that this assumption is incorrect.

Tony and his team surveyed 175 churches and found that 85% of growing churches were sharing video content online compared to only 49% of declining churches. Businesses like The Home Depot and Walmart have seen a similar trend of “clicks lead to bricks.”

2. Most churches have seen a bigger decline in first time guests and baptisms than attendance

One of the most disappointing statistics that came out of the pandemic is that the number of new believers and baptisms actually fell sharper than in-person attendance did. This is so sad, and needs to change. Tony outlines this trend in a bit more detail inside The Unstuck Church Report.

3. When measuring online attendance, pick your numbers, and measure them over time

So many organizations struggle with knowing what metrics to measure for their online experience. Tony encourages that what you measure actually doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you consistently measure the same thing and track your progress over time. When you do this, the data you’re measuring can actually inform the decisions you make as an organization.

Quotes from Episode 418

Many times the reason why the church gets stuck is the way we do church becomes more important than why we do church. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet

Disruption is an opportunity for the church to revisit the mission that God's called us to. @tonymorganlive Click To TweetDigital platforms are a way for us to connect with people. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet

This as a pivotal time for the church to reassess its mission, to ask God, ‘What do you have for us next?’ @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet For too long, we've looked at our digital strategy, our online strategy, as a promotions platform rather than a way for us to connect with people. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet I want churches to thrive. I want them to be healthy. And yet, this is what churches are telling us; they're stuck. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet What we've learned during the pandemic is going to make the church healthier on the other side. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet After a year of significant disruption for the church, churches are actually financially healthier than they were a year ago. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet Churches in the last year have almost more than doubled the number of online views for their services. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet I don't buy the argument that we've been training people to watch church online and so now they're not going to come back. @tonymorganlive Click To Tweet Normal dies every year. Click To Tweet Long before the pandemic, 15% of churches were growing. 85% of churches were plateaued or declining. Click To Tweet

I don't think that church buildings are going away, but I think church leaders that really ignore the online world are making a potentially fatal mistake. Click To TweetForward-thinking pastors realize the best answer to the question, ‘Should my ministry be digital or physical,’ is yes. Click To Tweet

Bringing people back isn't a vision. Moving people forward is. Click To Tweet It's hard to move people forward if you're obsessed with getting them back. Click To Tweet Pastors who focus on moving people forward instead of bringing people back will have a much better future. Click To Tweet Churches that embrace people they're trying to reach are going to have a much better future than churches that judge them. Click To Tweet Barna did a study that revealed 62% elapsed Christians said the number one quality they look for in a person with whom to discuss faith is non-judgment. Only 34% said they know any Christians who possess this quality. Click To Tweet The culture needs an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself. And in a divided culture, Christians should be the help and the hope not the hate. Click To Tweet

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Next Episode: Brett Hagler

Brett Hagler, co-founder of New Story, was the first non-profit to launch out of Y Combinator, a startup school for founders that has incubated companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Coinbase, Reddit and DoorDash.

He shares the lessons he learned on being a startup, and how your business or church can foster a culture and network of leaders conducive to true innovation.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 419.

CNLP 418: Tony Morgan on Church Attendance Trends, Creating an Effective Digital Strategy, and Online Metrics that Matter


  1. Rodney on May 29, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Please elaborate as to why there is worry or fear that a believer has shifted their attendance from one church to another.

    • Larry on May 29, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      My interest is more about new believers and the health of the global church. If the growth is primarily from believers switching churches, then the global church is not growing, we are just experiencing geographic relocations of worship.

      New believers are a fruit showing a church is going and making disciples. We can learn from those churches and how they successfully reach new believers.

      For believers switching specifically from a church in decline to a growing church I wonder how their experience and participation at the former will shape their contributions to the latter. I don’t think it is safe to make any generalizations, some will be positive additions others negative.

  2. Larry on May 26, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    There is one question I wish you could have asked Tony about churches which are growing. Does he know what percentage of those new people are new followers of Christ versus how many are just existing believers who has shifted their attendance from a declining church to a growing church? My fear is that we may not be significantly growing the size of the “pie” but instead rearranging the size of the slices.

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