Digital Church Resource Hub

With the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of church buildings, churches have been learning fast how digital communications can enhance their mission and ministry.

As we begin to emerge from lockdown, church teams face the new challenge of a hybrid form of church.

We've compiled the following resources to support you as you continue to develop your digital presence.

You can jump to the section you want here:

 

The Basics: Equipment

You don't have to break the bank in order to get your church online, but we know that many churches will have been making do over lockdown.

Equipment costs could range significantly from doing something very simple, using little more than a smartphone or computer webcam, to purchasing ‘film’ quality video and sound equipment. We’ve put together some suggestions based upon creating a basic functional set-up that will work for the majority of church environments.

Video

Whether you are live-streaming or pre-recording a video, the equipment you use may vary.

For Zoom or Google Meet uses, your phone camera, tablet or laptop’s built-in webcam will almost certainly suit your needs. If you have a desktop machine that doesn’t have a camera, but through which you would join these online meetings, you will need to buy something.

The choice is broad but it’s worth finding one that includes a microphone and has had some positive user reviews, something like this (click here) would suit most desk-based purposes.

If you’re filming more broadly in your church building, for instance a Sunday service, your choices become broader. Most modern personal smartphones or tablets are in all likelihood going to be able to film to an acceptable standard for your needs. They also have the advantage of being able to connect to the internet when live-steaming.

If you wish to invest in some new video equipment, about £300+ is the starting price you should be considering (multiply this many times for ultra-high quality equipment). Chosen well this will resource your church with both a camera and video recorder for several years.

  • Christ Church, Tunbridge Wells, have been exploring their equipment options. They’ve kindly shared their research with us. It ranges from a budget option right up to high end. View their Live Streaming Tech list here
  • The Diocese of Bristol has also put together a suggested equipment list. Find it here (Scroll down to find the Technology Solutions section)

To help future-proof your investment, look for models that can connect to WIFI and have interchangeable lenses. Two options from Canon to consider would be the Canon EOS 4000D DSLR and the Canon EOS 2000d. When purchasing a camera, it’s worth adding a case and if the budget allows a spare battery and additional memory cards can come in useful.

Sound

With even the most basic smartphones having the filming capacity to meet most needs, it’s important to then ensure the sound quality good.

Viewers are quite forgiving of poor video, but not sound.

The Church of England Digital Team have produced two blogs that will help you gain a better understanding of what to consider. They also make suggestions for what you might choose to purchase. Follow the links below to learn more.

Tripod/stand

It is certainly worth investing in a tripod to hold your chosen film device securely. Here are some examples taken from the Church of England Blog “How to set up to film a video on your phone

Lighting

As with the sound, lighting is often an issue when shooting video. Without spending many hundreds of pounds on lighting equipment and spending many hours learning how to use it to best effect, try to experiment with what you have at your disposal already.

If your church benefits from lots of natural light or is already well-lit with artificial light, it’s likely that for the purposes of online streaming a service or pre-recording something, you will already be okay.

If you experiment with the recording, you might find that there are corners where people won’t be well lit, and so for these areas learn to avoid them when filming.

As a general rule, you should ensure that the strongest light source is behind the camera, not in front. This blog (click here) from the Church of England digital labs team gives some general advice around this.

Need more advice?

Here are suggestions for blogs, Facebook groups and online forums where you can find lots more advice and tips, as well as support.

  • The Digital Church Toolkit - a consultency team, but with an excellent Facebook presence that shares tips, resources and webinars on all things Digital church: https://www.facebook.com/DigitalChurchToolkit/
  • A blog from the Church of England Digital Team on practical next steps for churches wanting to explore their digital engagement out of lockdown: Supporting congregations and people exploring
  • Coronvirus Help: Rev Bryony Taylor: A fantastic blog full of practical 'how to videos' on how do church online, especially if you are on your own, or have limited time and people resource.
  • How to make videos - A great little film from the Diocese of Manchester, giving you tips on how to make your self-shot films on your phone look good.
  • An introduction to Open Broadcast Software (OBS) - Adam Pyrke, Curate at St Justus
  • Premier Christian Digital webinars - a variety of topics explored, from the practical to the more reflective. You first webinar is free, those following will have a cost.
  • Opening the Doors from the National Church offers materials including posters, prayers and webinars to help you welcome people back to the building. 
  • CPO Digital Toolkit - A go-to resource where you can find help in all areas of church and digital communications and ask any question you may have. Curated by CPO Marketing Co-ordinator Gemma Kent, it includes interviews, articles and tutorials with contributions from the CPO team and peers within church communications.

 

Watch our Doing Church Digitally webinar - the future shape of church. Hosted by Bishop Simon Burton-Jones, our speakers explored the how and why of doing church online.

  • Bob Jackson - Co-founder of the Everyone Welcome Online project, Durham Digital Theology Unit (Bob Jackson's notes)
  • Rev Esther Prior –Vicar of St John's Church, Egham & Premier Digital webinars contributor (Rev Esther's notes)
  • Rev Bryony Taylor - Rector of Barlborough and Clowne in Derby Diocese, blogger and expert on social media and its uses for learning and communication. Bryony Taylors presentation

 

Digital connectivity - how to get online

Most of us are quite used to being able to connect to these platforms through our phones or internet when at home. However, for many it has begun to highlight issues around connectivity while in a church building.

If your church does not already have WIFI, or the signal strength of mobile devices is poor or unreliable, now might be the time to focus on solutions to this, not least because as well as making live streaming from the church possible, it also opens the door to fuller use of things such as card readers.

Where to start

 

Explore mobile WIFI

Sometimes physically connecting your church to a cabled telephone line may just not be feasible. In which case, purchasing a portable WIFI hub may work for you as it has done for some in our Diocese and elsewhere.

A portable Wi-Fi hub is a small device that lets you use the internet when you're out and about.

These mobile WIFI hubs work by using a normal phone signal to offer WIFI to your church. From this you can connect the devices that you need to (usually only a limited number at a time) so you can stream your services or use contactless card readers. Here are a few steps to take:

  1. Check the signal strength in your area first, you can do this by clicking here. Particularly look at the Upload speed. You want a minimum of 2mg - the higher the number the better quality your stream will be.
  2. If you can, test the areas in your church building where the signal is best on different networks. Your congregation might be able to help if members are on different mobile networks to see which one seems to be the strongest inside your church.
  3. Once you've settled on a network using your own tests and the Ofcom checker contact the network operator to purchase the device. You might at this stage find this best to do 'in-store' should you have any questions.
  4. It varies, but much like a mobile phone contract you might expect to pay £20-£30 per month (or more with more data).

Be safe:

  • Always be careful about giving any wifi codes or access to visitors or congregretions. It could put you at risk of people downloading unsavoury content via your WIFI, as well as slow down your connectivity.
  • You should also consider changing passwords regularly

 

Just can't get internet?

Can't get online, don't worry. Many of our churches have reached out in other ways, by setting up phone sermon and prayer lines, as well as emails and podcasts. Back in the building? Then why not prop up phone on the altar and share the service that way?

As long as you are connecting with your community in the way they find most useful, online or not, that is just as good as being fully online.

  • A number of churches have set up free-phone lines which allow people to dial in and listen to sermons and prayers. Read their experience here.
  • Zoom also has the facility to allow people to dial into a session, with no need for an internet connection.
  • The national church has also set up the Daily Hope worship line. The phone-line offers a selection of hymns, reflections and prayers.
  • Setting up a phone church - a video by Rev Bryony Taylor on how to set up a phone church.

 

Grants

There are currently few communication/digital specific grants available, however, given the upsurge in this area of ministry, there is no doubt that this will be a changing situation. Indeed, as a Diocese we are looking at what possibilities are out there, and we are aware of one new grant that could be of interest for churches wanting to improve their connectivity.

  • All Churches Trust - The Hope Beyond grants programme aims to enable churches and Christian charities to meet changing needs within their communities, helping them and the communities they support to adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented by the Coronavirus pandemic.  

This includes projects focused on growing technological capability and resilience, particularly increasing digital capacity and provision, and supporting those without online access to get online through training and support. 

In all cases, applicants will need to demonstrate how their project is seeking to directly respond to increasing/new need as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Grants of up to £50,000 are available. Find out more here

 

Get the skills

Many churches have been on a steep learning curve. As you explore and develop your digital presence, it's always best to keep things simple at first and deliver something that is sustainable and right for you and your community. If you want to improve your skills, take a look at some of these learning opportunities.

  • Premier Christian Digital webinars - a variety of topics explored. You first webinar is free, those following will have a cost.
  • Labs Learning webinar - regularly updated series of webinars from the National Church Digital team to help churches to use digital communications effectively. From Instagram and Facebook, to online donations and much more.
  • Disciple and Evangelism webinars
  • Online Worship - a new course from the Central Readers Council, to help you do online worship well. Comprised of 3 one hour units to take you through both theory and practice, all at your own pace. Find it here

 

Safeguarding and accessibility

Keeping everyone who engages with us online safe, is a key priority, as is ensuring everyone can be part of our online content.

 

Copyright and GDPR

You also need to be aware that there are some copyright issues that come into play, especially around music, literature and images, when you share content online. 

Music copyright

There are several copyright permissions that come into play when streaming a service, which means it is not always an easy area to navigate.

You will not be covered by your usual CCLI licence for streaming and there are particular issues around using recorded music  - such as a cd - as opposed to a live performance.

  • Here's a short guide to help you as you consider how to include music legally in your service
  • The national Digital Team has also added some new guidance on music copyright in the FAQs section of their COVID-19 page
  • Music hub - In addition, the national church, working with St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Royal School of Church Music, has is now providing a resource of rights-free music for use in streamed services. They can be accessed via the A Church Near You Resource Hub. You must also have the CCLI Live Streaming Licence.

Books and images

Permission should also be sought from the owner(s) of any other creative works included a service. If reproducing bible verses, or liturgy, usually there will be copyright information in the front of the publication, and usually they will allow for only a certain proportion to be reproduced.

For any images etc. the same rules would apply as in normal circumstances. Never assume that you can take an image found on Google and use it in a church service or include it in a service sheet or similar without permission.

If reading from a book, please check with the individual publishers as to their terms of use.

With regard to a Service Sheet, as long as there are appropriate licences/permissions in place, making that service sheet available online should be fine.

 

GDPR

There are very similar considerations to make when ensuring you are GDPR compliant when filming as there are when ensuring you meet your requirements for Safeguarding. Some general advice is included below.

GDPR permissions for adults

Those appearing in a video or in photographs will need to have given you their permission. A photo release form can be signed by adults. The form must include all the places that the photo or video may be used by the church. A template photo release form can be found on the Communication pages of this website here.

GDPR permissions for children

Videos containing children may be used by the church if consent has been given by their parent or guardian. This needs to be a signed consent and should include the places that the photo or video will or could be used by the church. A template photo release form can be found on the Communication pages of this website here.

If permission has not been given, it might be helpful to identify those children by using a simple paper wristband, or by asking them to sit in a photo and video free zone.

You can read the Safer Environments for Churches guidance from the National Safeguarding Team which covers more on GDPR and safeguarding.

 

Theology and reflection

Taking your church worship and engagement online may have raised some questions for you. Here are a selection of resources and materials to help you reflect theologically on your digital experience.

 

Case studies

It is always helpful to learn from the experience of others. We're compiling a series of Digital Diaries and case studies as we all embark on this digital journey together.

 

Join the conversation

Use our Digital Church Forum to continue the discussion about doing Church digitally - listen, learn, share (and with respect).

 

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