Our online church resource hub aims to provide our churches with the right tools and skills they need to use digital communications effectively in their mission and ministry.
On this page you will find:
- Online Church advice and guidance
- Training opportunities
- Digital case studies from our diocese
- Additional resources and books
Taking your church worship and engagement online may have raised some questions for you. As well as practical advice, we have pulled together a selection of resources and material to help you reflect on digital church. its role in mission and ministry and the possibilities and challenges for the future.
Digital communications can play a key role supporting many aspects of your mission and ministry; from live streaming services to email newsletters and from supporting stewardship and giving to community outreach.
The 'Supporting congregations and people exploring faith online as churches begin to reopen' blog from the Church of England sets out a range of options for the way churches may continue to offer some form of online service as churches start to reopen after the conoravirus pandemic, whether live or recorded at the same time as the service and shared afterwards. The blog also explores the national resources that continue to be available for those churches who, due to reception or resources, may not find it easy to provide online or streamed services and events. This just advice - no one should feel compelled to start or continue streaming services and events but if you do, we’re here to help.
This section provides strategic planning and practical advice to help you get the best from digital communications in your own church.
In this section you will find
- Digital Stategy and planning - how can digital communications support your mission and ministry?
- Video and Live Streaming
- Social Media
- Online giving
- Safeguarding and digital communications
Thinking about why you want to use digital communications, your audience and how best to engage with them will enable you to choose the best digital communications tools and to develop a plan to achieve your aims.
An important part of strategy is measuring and review. There are great free analytics tools built into most online platforms to help you to measure impact and reach.
As well a measuring the engagement with a piece of content, analytics can give you a lot of information about who is engaging with you. This information can help you better understand your audience and help you plan and shape future communications.
Details of how to use the analytics tools on some of the most popular digital platforms can be found below.
Video, including live video has played a key role in the development of online church since the start of the coronavirus lockdown. Video is also the most engaging type of content on social media. Thanks to improvements in technology and editing software, making good video content has also become possible cheaply and without the need for specialist skills.
So how do you make good video for your church?
Digital Church: Making Videos (from the Diocese of Manchester)
The links below explain how you can get started with live streaming a sermon or service.
A Premier is a video that is broadcast at a certain time so that users can watch together online, however it is pre recorded rather than live. YouTube and Facebook both offer Premiers. Premiers allow you to edit and produce a higher quality video than a live stream. Those watching can still interact with each other using message facilities. However, those leading the service cannot interact live with congreation as they lead the service. Scheduling a service as a Premiere rather than just posting a video also helps you to reach more people as Facebook will priroritse your content in their newsfeeds.
Zoom is a video conferencing tool. churches can use this to host meetings or online services. One advantage of hosting services on Zoom is that the congregation can iteract by video.
Depending on your budget and skill set, there is a wide range of editing software available. Most software will also follow a similar work flow. You drop your footage and sound into a timeline where you can trim clips, merge them together and overlay sound. The following are popular examples:
- iMovie - free for users of Apple Mac, iPad and iPhone.
- Lightworks- free software for Windows, Mac and Linux
- Shotcut- free software for Windows, Mac and Linux
- OBS Studio - free software for video recording and livestreaming. This software allows you to administer live streaming in church
- Adobe Rush - free social media video editing tool
- Adobe Premiere Pro- professional video editing option, paid for by monthly license of approximately £20 per month
- Adobe Premiere Elements- cheaper version of Premiere with less functionality - one off cost of approximately £85
- Apple Final Cut Pro X- Apple's professional video editing softward- one of cost £299
It may not be necessary for your church to spend money on expensive video production equipment. Mobile phones and tablets have video recording capabilities which can be used to make good videos.
However, there are two pieces of equipment it is worth every church investing in and which can be purchased very cheaply:
A tripod will hold your phone or camera steady and make the world of difference to your video. You can pick up a perfectly good tripod for approximately £20. Many now come with fittings to mount mobile phones. Alternatively you can buy an adaptor to fit a mobile phone to a traditional tripod mount.
Mobile phone lapel microphones
Microphones are essential for good quality audio, especially where there is background noise or outdoors. You can purchase microphones which plug into mobile phone earphone sockets. There are also versions for newer iPhones which don't have an earphone socket.
Higher Spec Equipment
Chelmsford Diocese Mission and Stewardship Adviser, Revd Jeremy Fraser has negotiated a bulk discount to help churches in our diocese purchase a specialist camera for livestreaming.
The camera is called the MEVO Start and you can find out more here.
The cost will be around £300 per camera. If you are interested, please contact Jeremy at email@example.com and he will provide you with a unique to claim your discount.
Bristol Diocese have put together helpful guidance for churches on higher spec equipment options from a supplier.
Parish Buying AV options
Parish Buying are working on a range of solutions for audio-visual (AV) equipment for churches. Information will go live on the Parish Buying website during August. Suppliers will offer all the necessary equipment for sound and video, at the budget level required, as well as streaming services and equipment casing.
Christian Copyright Licensing International
Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) introduced a streaming licence in mid-March 2020. It is available to any church which holds a CCLI Church Copyright Licence, which the majority of Church of England churches do. For many churches, this licence will cover them for their streaming activity.
Another license, One License is available which covers an additional range of church and choral music e.g. Taize, GIA Publications, Oxford University Press, Wild Goose Resource Group, Kevin Mayhew.
Rights-free music and hymns for digital church services
The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields have record hymns and songs for use by clergy and church leaders livestreaming Sunday services across the country during the coronavirus pandemic. A selection of up to five pieces of music recorded by the choir will be made available every Thursday evening through the A Church Near You Resource Hub, where there will also be details of music that will be available in subsequent weeks.
The scheme means that Church of England churches can download music from St Martin’s Choral Scholars rights-free when they hold a CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) licence, with the ‘streaming’ addition.
Social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc – have opened up new and important opportunities for church communications. Social media is a great way of reaching people ‘where they are’. However, different social media channels are best used for different purposes and to reach different audiences.Social media helps us to share news immediately (Twitter), build networks (Facebook), share visual content (Instagram) and in all cases encourage social conversations with, and between, your audiences.
Facebook is a free social networking site that allows users to create profiles, upload videos and pictures and send messages to connect with family, friends and colleagues. Churches can have a presence on Facebook by setting up a Community Page or setting up a Facebook Group which you invite people to join.
With 85% of internet users having an account (Global Web Index, 2019), Facebook is a great place for churches to be.
Twitter is a social networking platform that enables users to send messages or ‘tweets’. Tweets are seen by a user’s ‘followers’ - people signed up to receive your tweets. Twitter can be useful way of letting people know something quickly. Tweets are limited to 280 characters (including spaces in between text) so it is important to remember to be succinct and not repeat yourself.
Instagram is a social media platform with more emphasis on visual media - photo and video. This is a great opportunity for you to showcase the life and culture of your church online. The audience on Instagram is younger with 59% of users being under the age of 30. If your church is looking to reach a younger audience, Instagram would be a useful platform.
YouTube is powerful public video hosting website that enables users to share their videos with anyone visiting the site. The majority of videos on YouTube have been uploaded by individuals and can vary from the professionally produced to videos made by beginners. YouTube also enables individuals to embed videos onto their social media sites and websites.
If you decide as part of your digital strategy to have multiple social media platforms for your church, a social media scheduling tool is useful to help those running social media channels to plan posts in advance.
Including images with social media posts is good way to improve engagement. Posts which include images perform better than those without.
The links below will help you create eye catching visuals of your social media posts.
Canva is a free online design programme that is easy to use and ideal for churches with limited time and budgets. As well as social media graphics, you can use Canva to design posters, logos, certificates, presentations, invites and more. Churches can access Canva Pro, which gives you even more tools to use for free, by applying for a non-profits subscription.
Unsplash.com contains free images and photos that you can download and use for any project. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash.
Social media guidelines and digital charter
The Church of England has published social media advice aimed at tackling online abuse, misleading content and encouraging a positive atmosphere for online conversations.
The guidelines encourage positive engagement across all Church of England related social media accounts..
At the same time the Church is urging Christians and others to sign up to a voluntary digital charter aimed at fostering a more positive atmosphere online.
Read more about both here.
Email is a great way to stay connected with people in your community. It is low cost, easy to use and more personal than other forms of digital communication.
If you want to send to large groups of people, using an online mass emailing platform to mange your mailing lists would be beneficial.
5 reasons you need a church email marketing strategy (a blog from Outreach)
There are lots of alternatives, but MailChimp is a great tool to get started with managing email lists.
MailChimp is an email marketing tool that allows you to send mass emails to subscribers. You can design great looking emails and then send them out using the MailChimp system, rather than through your own email provider.
So if you’re looking to send out regular email communications to people in your church, want them to look great and allow people to manage their own email preferences in line Mailchimp is a very useful platform.
It is important that your church is compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when handling peoples’ personal data. Advice on GDPR for parishes can be found on our website and the Parish Resources website.
Your church website can play an important part in your communications and profile in the local community. A good church website:
- Is a shop front to the local community and will be seen by people who are looking for more information about exploring fatih, weddings, baptisms, funerals mums and toddler groups, foodbanks, church schools, local history and much much more
- Is a resource hub for your congreation and church leaders providing vital information
- Can be a key part of your stewardship and giving programme
- Can help give voice to your church in the local community
A good church website need not be expensive and by using a website template system need not be managed by an expert. Some examples for good template services include:
When purchasing a website package, your normally need to purchase three things:
- A domain name- your unique website address
- Hosting space- a space on a server where all your content will be stored
- A content management system- a tool to easily edit your website with so you don't need to use code.
The template services above will allow you to purchase all three of these services and usually pay for them wiht a small monthly payment. They will also provide guidelines to help you edit the website.
Template services also allow you to purchase or integrate other functionality such as giving tools.
If you have bigger budget for your parish website you may wish to consider having a bespoke website built by a web designer.
For further advice on parish websites contact our web designer James Cottis. James also offers a service to build parish websites.
Every Church of England church in the country can be found on www.achurchnearyou.com. If you have no website at all, this is a good place to start to make sure people can find out essential information about your church. visit their Help Centre which has a wealth of helpful information to help you get started.
If you have ownership of your A Church Near You (ACNY) page you will have access to a wide range of resources for Nation Church Campaigns through the ACNY Resource Hub.
Below are links to help you make the most out of your ACNY page:
Many of our churches have embraced online giving and giving by direct debit as plate collections have been hit by the closure of churches. As churches re-open there will also be an impetus for more churches to explore contactless giving. For advice and guidance visit our Finance and Giving Resources web page.
As more of us are now using digital and video communications in our ministry it is important that we are aware of the safeguarding implications and following best practice. Please ensure you are familiar with the following guidance and share it with those in your parish who organise online meetings or worship activity.
- Advice on Safeguarding during the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Advice for using video conferencing for youth work during Covid-19
- Using Zoom for video meetings with young people
- Keeping children safe online
GDPR and permissions for adults
Those appearing in video or photographs will need to have given you their permission. A photo release form can be signed by adults. The form must include all the places that the photo or video may be used by the church.
GDPR and permissions for children
Videos containing children may be used by the church if consent has been given by their parent or guardian. This needs to be signed consent and should include the places which the photo or video may be used by the church. If permission has not been given, it can be helpful to identify these children by using a simple paper wristband, or by asking them to sit in a photo and video free zone. Practically, seeking permission may need a few extra helpers on the day, working from a safe social distance. Alternatively, prepare ahead by sending out the forms to your church newsletter list to avoid queues on the day.
More information can be found under the 'Video and Livestreaming' section
Template photo release forms can be downloaded here.
Chelmsford Diocese Online Church webinars
The Diocese of Chelmsford Communication Team are hosting a series of free Online Church webinars this autumn. Each webinar, hosted on Zoom, will cover a theme of digital communications and will offer practical advice with opportunities to hear from Guest Speakers and Q & A.
Church of England digital training webinars
The Church of England’s Digital Team are running a series of free webinars to help you use digital communications effectively. Topics range from live streaming, using social media platforms, online giving and much more. Find out more.
Digital Labs online conference
23 - 24 October 2020
The Church of England’s Digital Labs conference is a two-day online conference to inspire and equip Church of England churches to share good news, grow people’s faith and bring more people to faith by harnessing digital and social media.
Sign up to hear more about topics such as livestreaming, mix mode services, online engagement and insights. The conference will also be an opportunity to, network with people from other churches, speakers, and experts.
Tickets available from 4 September.
Read stories and best practice of online church below
Please get in touch and let us know if your church has a good story to share of doing church online.
- The Church of England’s Labs Learning Blog contains a wealth of information about how your church can make the most of digital communications tools that are available.
- Everyone Welcome Online - A project supported by CPAS and the Durham Digital Theology Unit, this team have produced some comprehensive material including an exploration of how to welcome and plan for a mixed in-person-online church future: Everyone Welcome to the Future
- The Digital Church Toolkit - a consultancy team, but with an excellent Facebook presence that shares tips, resources and webinars on all things Digital church.
- www.getyourchurchnoticed.com - This is the companion website to the book 100 Ways To Get Your Church Noticed published by Church House Publishing. On this site you’ll find helpful advice here on everything from church noticeboards to parish magazines, logos to leaflets and websites to social media.
- The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online by Heidi Campbell – Free E-book. The Distanced Church Brings together religious leaders and scholar in conversation where each group and offer reflection on lessons learned, answer questions that have been raised, and present insights gleaned from researching religion online.
These books are available from our Bookshop at the prices stated below. Postatge on all orders is £2.00 (small parcel only). For enquiries Tel: 01245 294405 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 100 Ways to Get Your Church Noticed by Neil Pugmire published by Church House Publishing - £15.00
- So Everyone Can Hear: Communicating Church in a Digital Culture, by Mark Crosby, published by SPCK. 2019 - £8.50
- Too Much Information: Ten Essential Questions for Digital Christians, by Andrew Graystone, published by Canterbury Press. 2019 - £11.99
- The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, by Keith Anderson, published by Morehouse Publishing. 2015 - 23.99
- ReTHINK.ministry. This book was written by an amalgamation of professionals who are passionate about helping ministry leaders understand how new communication technologies can work to advance the vision of their ministry and the Kingdom at large (available from Amazon only).