About a year ago we set up Facebook pages for two churches that we are involved with. Their profiles are totally different, one being in a large village in the Lichfield Diocese, the other a tiny church in the middle of nowhere in the Derbyshire Diocese.
The large village church were not interested about using this tool, as only one or two members of the PCC actually use Facebook themselves, but the small church was enthusiastic. After explaining that web sites have their place but rely on people visiting that site and that with Facebook the information is going out to the people it was agreed to set up the accounts. The church is the original social network - it connects people, encourages them to participate and reaches out to others. In both cases we needed to enhance our identity and community.
On both sites we aim to advertise the services each week, any special event that is taking place, put up photographs of the building and activities taking place, and also prayers are posted. We try to add ‘stuff’ two or three times a week and find the ‘schedule post’ button very helpful. It is also very useful to have more than one administrator on each site. Each can have a special job to do i.e. photographs, event coordinator, services. In this way it takes very little time to maintain.
Facebook is instant (or almost instant) communication and gives opportunity for feedback and with links to other businesses and organisations within the area it reaches out to new groups. We posted photographs of our Christmas Tree Festival and within two hours of posting these the post had reached 487 people! Some of those reached had made comments. Some had been to the festival but others had not. We even had someone in Birmingham asking when and what time our Carol service was this year as they had visited on previous years.
People who use Facebook are normally of the younger age group (under 55 yrs), but we are trying to educate those who do not like Facebook that it can be accessed via the www.facebook.com page without having to have their own account. With a little encouragement we are now having older members reading what is on the site.
The small church has some holiday cottages very close by. People staying there often visit the church and attend services when they stay there. They are all part of our Facebook family and although they may live many miles away they keep in touch, often booking to stay when there is a particular event happening. We had a small family staying there over Christmas who attended the Christmas Day morning service.
We cannot say that Facebook has boosted our regular Sunday congregation numbers yet but it has shown the ‘outside world’ that us Christians are normal, approachable people who take an interest in others and respect their views, appreciating their feedback. Many who do not attend church do in fact comment and like the prayers we post. They know a bit more about what the Church is about and hopefully they will soon feel able to cross the threshold for one of the acts of worship.
Since setting up these pages we have encouraged other churches in our benefice to do the same and two other parishes have now set up Facebook. We do realise that Facebook is not the be-all and end-all but it is an extra tool for outreach and mission.
Reader - licensed in both dioceses.
By Bishop Alastair
In Spain a word you frequently hear is Mira – meaning look, pay attention. People use it in everyday speech to emphasise what they want to communicate. In Latin Miraculum means to see something wonderful – a miracle: a particular experience of looking or paying attention.
We spend all our working hours seeing things – a bewildering variety of sights. We need to interpret and order them to make sense of life. We soon learn to place things appropriately. But then, there is something exciting about seeing new things – a doorway to new thoughts, ideas, aspirations.
Much of the modern communications industry plays upon this desire and the pleasure it can give. We live in a world of competing images – invitations to look, closely. Everyone and every product or organisation seems to be saying mira – look, pay attention.
Within this welter of invitations and possibilities we need to offer our churches. As ‘tourism’ becomes an ever more sophisticated packaging of things to ‘see’ and experience, we have a special treasure. Churches offer a totally different, unique, kind of space, atmosphere, invitation. Space that is open, design that raises our sights, images that bring together the realities of suffering and death with the hopes to see beyond them into a glory of living for ever; moments in which prayer and praise invite the heart to be honest, hopeful and more confident in a sense of calling and direction.
Our churches offer an invitation not just as mira – look, pay attention. More – and most vitally, our churches offer an opportunity to see something wonderful – miraculum: with our eyes, in our hearts, into our souls.
Whatever the competition in our image obsessed society, God had given us pearls of great value.
Our churches can speak for themselves: sometimes our efforts of interpretation can help with translation! We must do our utmost to make them available to others: mira, miraculum: miracles in Derbyshire. A precious ingredient within the tourist offer of the second most visited county in England.
I commend all who strive to enable this offering, and pray that through our efforts the grace of God may be made more manifest for all whose tourism is a search for something wonder-ful.
By Revd Jason Kennedy, Church Growth Officer
As a general rule, of all the people who try a church, only 10% of them actually stay and become fully a part of the worshipping community of that church. And yet, lots of people are still coming along to our churches.
And yet, consider how many visitors come through our doors every week, for festivals, civic occasions, occasional offices and just coming as tourists, friends and relatives. Consider what it could mean if we could raise the figure of those who stayed from 10% to 25%?
By Sarah Brown, Children's Adviser
“Hey, this is so cool! Mum says we can visit the CHURCH tomorrow! I can’t wait!”
How often have you heard these words come from a child’s lips? Never? Well, maybe we could help them to look at our church a bit differently, and, whilst we still might not hear the words above, at least we might come across children who are surprised that their visit was more interesting than they thought it might be!
By Revd Canon Alan Harper
Our churches are a great resource for prayer but so are the areas around them. The rising importance of Celtic spirituality with its emphasis on God as the centre but rooted in creation is just one manifestation of this approach to spirituality. A prayer walk leaflet can take many forms. This is a link to a series of prayers we use for our Annual Rogation walk which could very easily be adapted into a leaflet to have available in your church.
A Guide for beginners by Revd Andy Walker
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is, basically, a game of hide and seek played across the world.
Hidden around the world, there are just over 2.2 million caches. Some are the size of a large oil drum, others the size of a screw head and everything in between. Posted on the internet are the GPS co-ordinates for each of these caches. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find these caches.
The tourism newsletter is a quarterly email packed with resources, ideas, case studies and events aimed at churches. Whether you are located in a tourist hotspot or are simply looking for ways to welcome visitors from your local community there will be something of interest.
Churches Open Day will take place on Saturday 12 September 2015.
For ideas on how to take part please visit http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/
Remember to tell us what your church will be doing! Please email email@example.com so we can publicise your events on the Diocesan and Tourism websites.