Until recently, I thought a tablet was just what my GP prescribed, and Twitter the sound that birds make in the morning.
With lots of youngsters in the family though, I am becoming much more savvy with modern technology and also wise to the opportunities it offers for our churches.
You may or may not have an interest in websites, social media, mobile technology, Ipads and the rest of it.
However, if you’re serious about growing your congregation and improving the way you communicate with them, you’d be naive to ignore these things.
Here are five ways you can use some 21st century tools to put your church on the map and get it reaching out to the community as effectively as possible.
No 1 – Give your congregation multiple contact points
We live in an electronic communications age. Emails, websites, Facebook and Twitter are now an every day part of life for much of the world.
There are of course people still reluctant to embrace these things and not so long ago, I’d count myself among them.
However, it’s important to realise that people are communicating in many different ways now and, just like the rest of the world, I think the church needs to adapt to this development.
As well as a phone number and address on your website, why not consider placing a mobile number on your contact page, along with an email address and perhaps even a link to a Facebook or Twitter profile?
Everyone has their preferred method of getting in touch so why not give parishioners and prospective parishioners as many options as possible.
No 2 – Create an online presence for your church
Christine and I were curious to see how many churches have a fully functional website so we typed the name of twelve local churches into Google to find out.
Eight of the churches had active websites, whilst the remaining four had no online presence.
We established that 60% of the sites could be considered welcoming to new parishioners and 75% provided a contact email address.
However, half of the sites were not easy to navigate through and only three of them displayed a calendar of dates and times of services for the coming weeks.
In conclusion, I would suggest that there are some good church websites out there but for the majority, many improvements are needed.
The reality is that a website presence is expected for any organisation, group or business these days, as is the accuracy of the information presented on it.
Christine and I worship at many different churches in the diocese and I always use each church’s website to find out the time of their Sunday service.
One such church site failed us recently though. Whilst it did state the time of the regular Sunday service, the week we chose to join the congregation, we arrived to a locked church.
We discovered later that it was in fact the Sunday for their quarterly joint service, which was held at another church.
This clearly emphasises the need for websites to be as up to date and accurate as possible. Whilst helpful to church members, they should also be designed with those who do not attend church regularly in mind.
Before you consider establishing or refreshing your own website, it’s not a bad idea to look at other similar sites with someone who is not church connected and explore these together.
Then both of you could consider what information is needed and decide the most effective way to present this on the site.
No 3 -Enhance the service experience
Technology can certainly help to enhance the presentation of your services and help the congregation to understand your messages.
Using a laptop computer and projector screen, you can reinforce key points of the sermon or create a backdrop of images to i
llustrate the stories you tell.
Plus, when it comes to singing hymns, the words can be placed in large font on the screen and timed alongside the music.
This facility can be of great use to
those with hearing or vision difficulties as those struggling to hear the spoken words of the sermon will find the summary helpful.
Parishioners struggling to read their hymn books meanwhile may find it much easier to read the words off a large screen at the front of the room.
Some members within the congregation may deem the screen as a distraction from their worship but I believe the majority will find that this gives the service much more of an impact.
No 4 – Get the message out electronically
Email messages lack, of course, that intimate personal touch of a phone call but they are the perfect medium for sending out messages in bulk to your parishioners.
There are so many types of communications that can be sent out to the whole congregation at the touch of a button.
For example, you may wish to send out notes on last Sunday’s sermon, a reminder to attend charitable events or a notification to members of any changes to service times.
Whilst most people have an email address these days, it is important to remember though that some may not.
No 5 – Improve your personal presentation skills
Some time ago I saw a DVD video of myself officiating at a Eucharist service. It was a real eye opener.
The video made me realise that my rubrics had to be more effective, my speech slower, my language clearer and my sermons more personal.
Viewing a clip like this can help you to assess the quality of your speeches from the congregation’s point of view.
Why not ask someone to video your next sermon on a camera phone and then watch it back? You can then identify areas in which you may need to improve.
Having taken on board this advice, it is of course important to remember and respect that not all members of the church are tech savvy, and these people should continue to be catered for.
There is, of course, no technology that will ever replace the personal touch required to, for example, visit and comfort the recently bereaved.
But as a church we have to make efforts to meet the needs of today’s generation, and the internet, mobile phones and social media are now a significant part of our modern world.
Whilst the message of our Bible including the Gospels and Christ’s teaching is unchanging, I believe its presentation needs to adapt to the world of today.
The Reverend Priestly Brook, an Anglican priest, retired in August 2012 from the Colne & Villages Team Ministry in East Lancs. His Bishop has granted him a licence with ‘Permission to Officiate’. He is married to Christine, has six grown up children and is a well known preacher and after dinner speaker in the North of England.