THE Church of England has launched its Christmas campaign for this year, #FollowTheStar, as it seeks to draw more people to church over Advent and Christmas.
With the launch of the campaign, churches can order resources including a book of reflections, #FollowTheStar: A journey through the 12 Days of Christmas, written by Dr Isabelle Hamley, and posters and logos from the C of E’s Christmas page: www.churchofengland.org/christmas.
The church-finding website A Church Near You has also been updated to coincide with the campaign: churches are able to add photos and news to their pages on the website. It follows an overhaul last year (News, 5 December 2017).
The head of digital at Church House, Adrian Harris, said that the digital team sought to improve on 2017’s #GodWithUs campaign this year.
He said that looking at analytics for 2017, it was obvious that family resources were among the most popular. “There is clearly a huge gap in the market for family resources, for stuff that can be used with children. So, this year, every day of Advent and Christmas, there will be a daily family craft-resource available through our virtual Advent calendar.”
A Church Near You and the Christmas campaign were used most in the last 72 hours before Christmas Day itself, Mr Harris said; so the digital team had shifted its resources to focus on this point.
Another improvement was to continue the #FollowTheStar reflections up until Epiphany; so that people could be encouraged to go to church services in the New Year rather than just at Christmas. “We have looked into how to engage people and bring them closer to God and the Christmas story. We have learned more about our audience and how to encourage them to go to a local church. . .
“It is wonderful to see the ways that churches and diocesan teams engage with the resources and use them.”
Church House is also producing an app, available to download from mid-November, which ties into the campaign; people can already sign up to download it, or sign up for emails.
The videos for this year’s campaign were filmed at Christ Church, Ware, in St Albans diocese. Mr Harris said that it was an “amazing church” where a “huge amount” is done with parents and children.
Improvements to A Church Near You were rolled out last Friday. Mr Harris explained that, in 2017, it had 50 per cent more page views than in 2016, and they are hoping to further improve on this figure. “We are encouraging churches to put their services and events on the website. We want to add another 20,000 events or services to it.”
Churches can now access their own analytics for their page on A Church Near You, allowing them to see how many views their church gets. “There are churches across the country who are getting thousands of page views without realising it,” Mr Harris said.
On 21 December, there will be a “Night of the Stars” to coincide with the climax of the #FollowTheStar campaign. Individuals or congregations will be encouraged to make and display stars.
Mr Harris said: “In those final few days before Christmas, it is all about helping people realise about the story of Jesus, and also that there are local churches they can attend.”