SENIOR Church of England officials have welcomed statistics which suggest a new digital strategy has led to millions engaging with the Church online each month.
A short report by the digital team at Church House, Westminster, reveals that in addition to 1.5 million people visiting the C of E’s suite of websites each month, a further 1.2 million see the Church’s activity through social-media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Specific campaigns that sought to engage people with Christian festivals, such as #LiveLent in the build-up to Easter, and #JoyToTheWorld during Christmas, have also been successful: four million people have viewed content from both campaigns in total.
The C of E’s digital efforts were revamped last year, as part of the Renewal and Reform programme. A new head of digital, Adrian Harris, who had previously worked for BUPA, Tesco, and the Conservative Party, was brought in to lead a new online push (News, 25 November 2016). “As the digital evangelism statistics show, people across the country are engaging with the Church’s digital and social-media platforms to grow in faith and find out more about the Christian faith,” he said.
“Over the last 12 months, we tripled the number of followers on Facebook and Instagram, which indicates that people want to know more of the love of Jesus Christ.
“The three-year digital and social-media transformation project is part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme, focused on us being a growing Church for all people and for all places.”
Each month, 552 hours of videos produced by the digital team are watched online, and prayers released on social media during significant events such as terror attacks have had up to 1.3 million views.
By the end of the year, the main C of E website and its “A Church Near You” will have been redesigned and relaunched.
The work is also reaching more younger people: most of the Church’s Instagram followers are under the age of 34, for instance.
The National Mission and Evangelism Adviser, Dr Rachel Jordan, said that counteracting the C of E’s ageing population had to involve “reaching new generations in different ways”, as “church growth starts young”.
The next step, the secretary general to the General Synod, William Nye, said, was to connect the growing online church community to “the physical community of Church that forms the body of Christ”.
The Director of Renewal and Reform, Mike Eastwood, said that he was encouraged by the early signs of success in the C of E’s digital initiatives. “This project has shown how social media can be used to communicate the Christian faith and life to a huge audience outside our church walls, bringing new hope to the communities we serve.”
Listen to Adrian Harris explain how the Church is using the internet to share the gospel on the Church Times Podcast.