Another Longstanding Church Institution Faces Automation
She gazes over the congregation each Sunday morning. Her eyes are clear, her mind is sharp, her addition skills are unparalleled throughout the district. She wields nothing other than a dull #2 pencil and a well-used notebook with just a few remaining pages. Her task; count every person in attendance from the squirmy 4 year old in the front to the drowsy deacon in the back. She’s held the post of church attendance counter for years, but like many other longstanding roles a new technology has arisen to challenge her tenure.
The technology is an automatic church attendance tracker or church people counter for short. And as much as she would like to hold on to her post she realizes the new system doesn’t under count, doesn’t visit her sister in Toledo once a year, and doesn’t add a little fluff factor when the pastor preaches a particularly good one.
If you’re considering having your existing church attendance tracker explore other areas of ministry, here’s a few things to consider before you do.
It seems it’s difficult to go anywhere these days without being tracked, identified, classified or otherwise. If you want the benefits and reliability of an automatic church attendance tracker but want to avoid the creepier end of technology, you can ask these simple questions. Does the technology ever uniquely identify someone? If the solution makes use of video, are there privacy features available to disable video features after initial calibration?
Most attendance counting technologies are able to perform well in low lighting conditions but if you have an entrance that is particularly dark or maybe has a dramatic change in light level prior to people entering or exiting, ask to see a live demonstration that matches your conditions.
Traffic Volume and Flow
Many attendance counting systems were designed to service retail environments or other facilities where traffic is dispersed sparsely over the course of a day. Before considering a system, you may want to ensure that the solution being proposed is able to handle the entrance or exit volume at the beginning and end of a gathering.
Perimeter Counting vs. Occupancy
There is a bit of nuance to the applications offered by an attendance counting system. The most common application offered by people counters is a perimeter counting or threshold counting application. This means the count increments every time someone enters or exits a defined space. This means if someone enters and exists multiple times within a particular time range they will be counted multiple times. This is likely NOT the metric that most churches are looking for in an attendance counting system.
The more meaningful metric is occupancy. Occupancy answers the question of how many people were present within a space at a given time. More specifically, you may be trying to calculate the maximum number of occupants during a defined time range. When evaluating a church attendance tracker you should ensure that the solution offers occupancy as a metric and not just perimeter counting.
Figure A: Enters and Exit for 9:15am and 11:00am Service Times
Figure B: Occupancy Example for 9:15am and 11:00am Service Times
Important Reporting Capabilities
Once you’ve identified that the system you are evaluating is capable of delivering the metrics that are most important to you, it’s probably a good time to start envisioning the exact reporting output that you’d like to see.
Questions to Consider
• Are the reporting intervals and date ranges flexible enough to capture your service times?
• Can the data be exported or integrated into other systems?
• Do you have to login to retrieve reports, or can they be delivered automatically on a schedule?
Below is a checklist of items to gather before starting to process of implementing a church attendance tracker:
1. Determine what areas of the facility you want to measure. We find it helpful to think of each monitored space as a fluid container. The goal is to make sure there are no “leaks” created by unmonitored entrances or exits.
2. If it’s a large project the vendor might recommend a formal site survey, but if you’re up for the work yourself you can gather measurements and photos for each monitored entrance. You will want to work with the vendor to determine the optimal placement for sensors before starting to measure.
3. While some wireless solutions exist many of the most reliable attendance counting solutions do require a network connection. Many vendors offer cabling services, but it might be a good time to think through cable paths and what network ports will be made available for the sensors.
4. Take the time to mock up an ideal format for the reporting information you want to review. This will go a long way to helping the vendor understand what you are trying to achieve with the attendance counting system.