Home Church community Many churches saw increased attendance after Internet switchover, survey finds

Many churches saw increased attendance after Internet switchover, survey finds

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Many churches plan to continue broadcasting online even after the restrictions end.(Photo: Facebook / Church of England)

Many churches have seen an increase in attendance after moving online services during the pandemic, an investigation has found.

Most of the churches surveyed by Ecclesiastical Insurance have used new channels to stay in touch with their congregation after the Covid-19 outbreak.

The vast majority (93%) used Zoom to host public events and virtual meetings after March 2020, while 60% used Facebook and 5% YouTube. Only 1% have used Microsoft Teams.

A significant minority (43%) of church leaders reported an increase in attendance following the use of these online platforms.

And nearly two-thirds (62%) plan to continue broadcasting events even after all restrictions are lifted.

The survey of 1,000 leaders was conducted in May by the Bible Society on behalf of Ecclesiastical.

Michael Angell, director of operations for the Ecclesiastical church, said: “Churches are so important to so many people and maintaining that sense of community and the unity that comes with it has been a lifeline for the pandemic.

“With restrictions preventing physical meetings and many people living in isolation, whether through home shielding or lockdown, these new ways to stay in touch with congregations have proven to be extremely popular. .

“Even though many churches are reopening, it is encouraging to see that they plan to continue with these new channels and in doing so welcome their audiences, new and old, back to their churches.”

The results also revealed that the switch to the Internet had required some financial investment from many churches, with more than half (56%) saying they bought new technology to make it possible.

Of these, 55% said they spent more than £ 500 on equipment, with half investing in sound equipment and a similar proportion (52%) on cameras. Almost two-thirds (62%) had purchased equipment to support the live streaming of services.

For more than two-thirds (69%), the investment drew on existing reserves, while almost a third (30%) financed the purchases with donations.

The survey suggested that the switch to the Internet was a technological leap for many church leaders, with more than half (57%) saying they needed help getting things done, while close to three-quarters (73%) said they received support from members of their congregation.

Grade I-listed St Edmund’s Church in Taverham, Norfolk, began delivering worship and fellowship services after the outbreak of the pandemic.

For Rector Reverend Paul Seabrook, the change has helped parishioners stay connected.

“The blockades have been incredibly difficult for so many people and the inability to go to church has really affected people in our community,” he said.

“We wanted to make sure they could still worship God and learn together like we’ve been doing since before the pandemic, and the live broadcast has been fantastic in helping us do that.”

In addition to streaming services, the church has started using Zoom for weekly coffee mornings and Bible study sessions. And Facebook was used to share prayers read by members of the congregation and a “Tiny Tunes” music and dance class for young children.

Going online has been a positive change for the church, which has found itself welcoming to viewers from much further afield.

For St Edmund’s, a Grade I listed Saxon church in Taverham, Norfolk, moving things online has meant a lot of positive changes.(Photo: Church of England)

Paul continued, “At the height of the pandemic, we were getting over a hundred visits to our Facebook page per day, ten times more than before. We had people from all over the country and even from this far away. than Arizona!

“By using social media, we were able to reach many more people than ever through the church door each week, so this is definitely something that we are looking to continue to deliver.”

St Edmund’s plans to offer both in-person services and live online streaming beyond the end of restrictions.

“We’ve seen how effective online services can be and we’ve invested in new equipment to help us deliver a better experience for everyone who connects – but we haven’t lost sight of the fact. that our church is for everyone, and not everyone can access the Internet, ”said Rev. Seabrook.

Despite the challenges and changes of the past year, Reverend Seabrook is optimistic about the future.

He added: “We are first and foremost a church for the community and our pastoral work did not stop during the pandemic.

“We have seen more people in need of support through initiatives such as food banks and have encouraged the community to come together with those most in need.

“There is certainly more hope now than there was at this time last year and we look forward to the Lord leading us through this difficult time to freedom and a new beginning.”

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