Whether it’s just a quick signpost or used as a full-featured website, your entry on A Church Near You can speak volumes about your worshipping community – it is also likely to be the first and possibly the only point of contact for someone new to the area.
Local search results may not always bring up a church website or Facebook page, but will almost certainly bring up the local ACNY entry, so it’s an important tool to engage with. Fortunately, getting your ACNY entry up to scratch ahead of the Christmas rush is as simple as 1, 2, 3; we’ve shared some best practice and examples below to help people get started with what may otherwise seem a daunting task.
Who can edit your content?
Anyone with a login authorised by the incumbent. Read more and gain access →
1: A welcoming church
Just as with in-person visits, the welcome on your A Church Near You page is the first contact a visitor may have – and it may make all the difference. An ACNY editor shared recently, “We have a comment in our visitor book that says they visited our church purely because of the warm welcome felt on ACNY.”
Photographs also help hugely with welcome – photos of people and events say thriving community, photos of empty pews at best say quiet prayer space (no bad thing) but they can also imply deserted buildings and disengaged community. Two or three good photos can often say more than ten pages of text.
2: Get the basics down
Even if you don’t intend to use ACNY as a full microsite with multiple custom pages and a constant flow of news and events, updating the basic information is absolutely essential. Diverse contact information, safeguarding information (see below), opening hours and/or typical service and event times should be the bare minimum here.
Ensure your church website is compliant with safeguarding policy
The CofE’s Parish Safeguarding Handbook states that parishes must ‘ensure that safeguarding arrangements are clearly visible on the front page of the parish website’. This includes the ACNY entry.
A link entitled ‘Safeguarding’ in the header or footer, or indeed solely on the homepage of your site, is sufficient. Give clear information about who to contact in the benefice (your Named Persons) if anyone has safeguarding concerns, and include their contact details. It is a good idea to link to the Diocesan Safeguarding hub at www.gloucester.anglican.org/safeguarding – this page has the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor’s contact details and details of how anyone can report a concern.
3: Finishing touches
From FAQs to tagged Christmas services, links with social media accounts, embedded videos and custom web pages – ACNY is now a fully featured website-building tool that can answer the majority of needs for any worshipping community looking to improve their visibility online. Circled above is the example from St Barnabas Church – their ‘First time at church?’ page is an engaging way to allay any fears people may have looking to make their first visit to a church/service.
Take it further: Claim your church listing on Google
When someone searches for your church on Google, a box appears in the right-hand corner which gives contact details, location information and more about your church. These information boxes are called ‘Google cards’ – and we would encourage all churches to claim their card so it can be used effectively and accurately to promote your church.
You’ll need to create a Google My Business listing (or get access to one, if it already exists). Watch this short video for help with how to do this. If you have any questions, please email the national Church of England Digital Communications Team.
ACNY is run by the national Church of England Digital Communications Team. For help with your church pages on it, please visit their Help Centre which has a wealth of helpful information, from how to edit churches to updating information, events, tabs and pages, and photos and logos.
You can also always contact the Diocesan Communications and Engagement team – we are on hand to help with any digital communications queries you may have.