A new national resource to help churches continue to offer services both online and onsite has been launched by the national Church of England.
At a webinar on May 27, Bob Jackson (church growth consultant and author of ‘Everybody Welcome Online’), Chloe Axford (Director of Communications, Exeter Diocese), Liz Morgan (CofE Digital Team) and Stephen Hance (National Lead for Evangelism and Witness) entered a brief Q&A, and discussed the approaches covered in the new resource.
Key points from the national team:
- The Church as a whole responded amazingly to the emerging pandemic, with communities all around the country changing rapidly to respond to a huge variety of crises;
- According to research, worshipping communities that offered digital services saw service attendance roughly double, and have maintained that increased level;
- The technology involved meant quite a learning curve for all involved, but ‘polished’ end results were not really required;
- Greatest increases in attendance were to those smaller rural parishes that engaged with new methods, not necessarily the larger churches that had already invested heavily in new media;
- This is a good time to review ongoing parish strategies, with a new approach to services taking new learning points onboard.
Practical advice for online services:
- The good practice points for online services also apply to on-site services, so this is a good chance to have a fresh view of how we ‘do church’;
- Be flexible, feel free to cut down sections of services, having shorter sections with more diversity and more visuals works well – and also offers opportunities for more people to get involved;
- When filming services, avoid ‘cctv’ static views – content should be engaging and watcheable: online church does not just mean watching a ‘normal’ church service online, it’s best with those moments of connection, of engagement;
- Look out for those connection points – those moments of engagement are key, whether it’s lighting a candle in the service (and now we’ll light one at home …), or questions on-screen in times of quiet;
- This is the perfect time to build up volunteer teams, which could be developed as a part of discipleship;
- Churches working together have seen the greatest increases in attendance – if your volunteer team is lacking certain capabilities, neighbouring parishes working together can share skills, as well as entire online services;
- When filming in a church building, people need to know as they enter that they will be filmed – so it’s good to provide seating areas of the building to enable people to opt-out if they so wish.