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Tuesday, Jan 19, 2021

Holy tech! Churches try new ways to connect

Holy tech! Churches try new ways to connect

Churches are increasingly using social media and specialist software to help reach their congregations.

Geraint Harries, a technology specialist, for St John the Evangelist in Lancashire, admits that when his parish first started using social media, it didn't get it quite right.

"At first we didn't really know what social media meant for the church and fell into the trap of simply chasing the number of likes and followers on our Facebook page," he says.

But when a parishioner credited the Facebook page for her decision to return to the church, then he felt the strategy had started to work.

Weekly posts on the social media page of the church which simply asked "How can we pray for you today?" resonated with the woman going through a divorce last Christmas.

"Sometimes it can be daunting to turn up in person to a service so connecting online, more anonymously, can make it easier to take that first step into the building which happened here," he adds.

Getting more people through the door is a challenge for the Church of England.

Its own figures show that attendance at services has gradually fallen by between 10% and 20% from 2007 and 2017.

However, while physical attendance has been in decline, digital efforts appear to be gaining traction.

According to the church's data, monthly reach on social media has doubled from 1.2 million in 2017 to 2.44 million in 2018.

Under the Digital Labs programme, more than 2,000 C of E parishes have attended sessions across the country since 2018, getting advice on Facebook, Instagram, SEO and sharing best practice.

Mr Harries runs blog writing master classes. "Attendance at our Sunday service has gone from 15 to 80 in the last few years and we're the fastest growing in the Blackburn diocese and part of this is down a strong digital presence," he says.

"However, it's important to remember that it is a shop window for your church and then it's down to the church whether people stay and remain engaged, which is why we're always looking at how we can improve."

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