Digital survey highlights parishes' online pandemic experience

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 restrictions ease, church teams face the new challenge of a hybrid form of church - balancing communities still meeting online, while some worship in buildings returns.

To guage what has been happening, and to understand what support parishes might need going forward, the Diocese embarked on survey in June to learn more about their digital experience during lockdown.

Download a powerpoint presentation drawing out key learning from the survey here

Jennifer Ross, Communications Manager for the Diocese, said the survey had provided a lot of useful information, as well as some fantastic stories of the positive experiences churches have had:

"Clearly many churches have been on a steep learning curve, but what is clear from the responses to the survey  -  as well as from all the various engagements we have had with churches over this period - is that everyone has done what they can with the resources and technical skills at their disposal to stay connected and keep serving their communities.

"For that I want to say a big well done and thank you.

"The survey also shows that churches have adapted their content over the last few months, testing what works. Many have discovered that what they do doesn't always have to be complicated, or over-produced, but what is right for them and their community. Some hidden talents amongst congregations have been revealed and brought forward, and new connections have been made.

"Some churches however have been really challenged, and so the survey also shows questions being raised about how to continue sustainably, and how to improve skills and equipment." 

Seventy-one responses to the survey were received with a good mix from across the archdeaconries. Key findings were that:

  • 90% of those responding said they had seen their use of digital communication increase significantly.
  • 60% said that their use of digital communication had helped them a great deal, or a lot, in building and developing existing and new relationships with people.
  • There was a high level of support for continuing with digital in some form as worship returns to buildings, but this could be dependent on time, and technical support going forward.
  • Those surveyed said that what would be most helpful now would be: training, technical advice, help with connectivity (WIFI), guidance on permissions for adapting buildings, and grants.

Download a powerpoint presentation drawing out key learning from the survey here

Alongside the survey, a Digital Working Group has been formed to provide some initial discussion around issues and ideas for supporting digital ministry.

The group comprises a mix of lay and ordained people from a range of churchmanships, as well as large and small, rural and urban parishes. Some involved have a long background of social media engagement, others have been on a rapid learning experience - going from posters and newsletters to a completely new Facebook presence.

Having already been able to meet virtually a number of times, the meetings have allowed everyone to share their experience of doing things digitally through the pandemic and to raise ideas about ongoing support.

Coming out of this work, and the survey, has been a new Digital Church Resource Hub, with lots of practical advice and signposts to training and theological reflection.

The Diocese also held a webinar in July exploring the hows and whys of doing church online. Watch it here 

Over the summer, a campaign to encourage people in their digital ministry will see a series of video #DigiDiaries, case studies as well as experiences given in the survey, shared online.

Reflecting on the response so far Jennifer said:

"It's really important that we listen to what churches have told us, and that we encourage them in their next steps. As one of the panellists at our recent webinar said, 'Don't play the comparison game and start simple'. I'm keen that we help churches in the Diocese, no matter what they choose to do going forward, to feel confident and supported in their digital ministry."

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