#UKChurchChat Blog

Discussing faith on the internet - Social Media and Website advice for Churches. Faith stories, discussion and advice. Watch out for #ukchurchchat hour on Twitter - coming soon.

First impressions of your church

First impressions of your church

Where do people get their first impressions of your church? Well they might go and read a noticeboard which is standing outside, especially if you are a town centre church. Or they might have a church magazine posted through their door.

It's highly likely nowadays that the majority of people will get their first impressions of your church through your website. If you don't think you have any presence on the internet, try googling the name of your church because that's what people will do. Find out what they see. Don't forget many church organisations have a national directory such as 'A Church Near You.' You don't want those to be full of irrelevent out of date content either. Anyay, have a read of this infographic and please feel free to comment.

 

 

firstimpressions

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God on the Web

God on the Web

Are you a Digital Native – born and raised on technology; or do you feel more like a Digital Immigrant – slightly awkward with the culture and the language? Does the internet help you make relationships and spread the word; or does it reduce your ability to think and rest properly?

I spent some time recently reading and talking with theologians who study “digital theology”. Here’s a light-hearted taste of what difference the internet can make to your faith.

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Five QR code ideas for your church

Five QR code ideas for your church

I was recently asked what those square code things are and whether they could be used by churches to encourage people to raise funds, for example. This blog contains a short introduction to QR codes along with some practical ideas that you could use in your church. Ask one of your Digital Superstars to help.

What is a QR code?

The term QR code means Quick Response code. Think of it as a 2D barcode that opens a link to a website. The concept it simple. If you have a web page that you want people to visit, then you can create a QR code that encodes a link to that page.

Here is an example. Try it out and see what happens. Not sure how? Keep reading.

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How do I set up text giving for my church?

How do I set up text giving for my church?

I was recently asked how to set up text message giving for a church. Encouraging people to give small amounts of money for specific fundraising projects can be a great way of gaining extra funds. Text message donations is usually a paid for service, however the Just Text Giving service (sponsored by vodaphone) is free. You can easily sign up for the service by following this link. You can even create different text services for different donation amounts.

Here is a short video tutorial which explains how the service works.

Being part of the Just Giving and National Churches Trust partnership scheme saves you the £15 per month Just Giving fee and also allows you to set up text giving as well as having an online donations page. There is an application form here.

The National Fundraising Scheme also offers a free service, and some great advice.

 

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Why I love twitter right now

 

I love using twitter. It's so fantastic to be able to network and chat with the global church. If you have never given it go, why not create an account and follow Churches Alive Online to get started. 

One of my favourite ways to use Twitter is just to scroll around my news feed and see what's going on. Last week a tweet caught my attention. #askjustinewelby was the hashtag. Now I love tweeting at specific times, knowing that someone will read and respond. That's why I couldn't resist dropping the Archbishop of Canterbury a tweet. His topic this week was prayer, so I asked about praying at lunchtime. Here is the response.

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The Little Book of Prayer Experiments - Author Interview

The Little Book of Prayer Experiments - Author Interview

I had a fantastic week at the Northumbria Community this summer. You could really sense the heartbeat of God's presence in the beauty and the stillness of the worship there. I bought myself a copy of The Little Book of Prayer Experiments by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes only to bump in to here on Twitter the very next week.

The bookis a great little pocket sizes practical workbook to help you experiment and record your experiences with some different forms of prayer. Experiments include Colouring The Bible, Prayer Walking, Breathing Meditation, Prayer Den, Praying with your Body, Using a Labyrinth and many more. I'd recommend this to new Christians or those lifelong Christians (like me) who have really kept to just one or two ways to pray. These ways of praying have been tried and tested over the whole life of the church, and most of them have ancient and biblical roots. They're worth thinking about.

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Is a digital presence for your church just a ‘nice to have’?

Is a digital presence for your church just a ‘nice to have’?

So, this was the tweet I ended up sending this morning:

 

This was a really unfortunate ‘start’ to a resumption of ‘adventures in church hunting’ in the new area that I’m in, having made excuses week after week. People forget how tiring it is looking for new churches – not being sure of exactly what it’s like, what kind of welcome you might get, how much pressure there’s going to be to ‘commit’, whether you’re going to find parking – and that’s if you’re already familiar with church. If you’re not familiar with church at all, then it’s even more terrifying, as who knows what is going on inside those buildings – sure it’s full of weird people, undertaking weird rituals!

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Towards the Prophetic digital Church: Why I believe the Internet helps me to share my Faith.

Towards the Prophetic digital Church: Why I believe the Internet helps me to share my Faith.

"And so I found myself sitting in a prison cell, politely thanking the police officer for bringing me a Bible, but telling him this one was no good. "Why?" said the officer. "Because I'm blind and unless it's in Braille, its no good to me whatsoever.""

Professor John Hull

The late Professor John Hull, Theology tutor at The Queen's Foundation, Birmingham, where I trained for ordained ministry.

John was giving a lecture on prophetic witness and telling us the story of when he was arrested for peacefully protesting against nuclear armament at a weapons manufacturing factory in the North. He'd handcuffed himself to the fence and sat patiently and quietly protesting. The police officer who arrested him was polite, apologised for having to arrest him, and was continually thanked by John for his manners and kindness throughout the ordeal.

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6 free places for Church Website graphics

6 free places for Church Website graphics
All of these image sites can be used for non commercial purposes such as in your church printed materials and on our church website.
 
This is a personal favourite. 660,000 images that can literally be used for any purpose.
Search terms such as Christianity or praise and worship.
When you find a contributor you like, click to see their other photos. You will see some photos from Pixabay on our demo site.
 
 
You must use the ‘Free Images’ tab at the top to search for free images, otherwise everything will cost money.
There are not so many religious and church related images in the free library, but there are plenty if you are prepared to pay. There are plenty of free images on a wide range of themes such as family, growth, light etc
Commercial images will also appear in your search results.
 
 
This site is nicely organised into categories and the search function is very easy to use. The categories are handy for you to use if you want to find other images that are similar. You will find over 100,000 free images.
Watch out because you will find image results and also search boxes that take you to paid sites. You do need to register on this site to download your free images.
Here is one I liked (just search for Blue Cross to find it as well as some other nice crosses):
Blue Cross
 
 
This site is another one worth visiting if you have a general theme in mind rather than church specific images.
Shutter stock results are also shown in adverts, and there are search boxes and adverts that lead you away from the site. To stay on this site make sure yu go back to the home page when you want to carry out a new search.
 
5) Flickr
Use the advanced search to find 
Again look for other photos by the same photographer - these can be a real goldmine.
Check whether attribution is required or not before you start sharing or adapting this photos
 
This is a ministry resource website specifically set up to help churches communicate. If you are planning a sermon series or want to communicate a specific Christian message, this could be the site for you.
 
 Get started
 
Use your Digital Superstars. Have you got some tech-savy teenagers in your church? Why not give them some themes to use for image searching and set them going.
 
Churches Alive Online are offer FREE interactive workshops to help you get started with your church website. Our next event is detailed here. You could always sign up to our newsletter and hook up with us on Facebook or Twitter to find out what's coming up.
 
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Website Review: Church Media Design - Freebies Section

I just thought any techy types out there might find this website really useful! 

The Church Media Design website has a great section called Freebies where you can choose from free Audio, Backgrounds, Games, Mini Movies, Series Art and Textures. There are various other parts of the site including 'Episodes' 'Inspirations' and 'Articles' but this review is going to focus on the Freebies section. Here is an example of the quality you can expect for FREE! Notice the lack of large credit messages splurged across the image.

 

I'd suggest using the menu to filter the search and find the type of resource you are looking for (eg backgrounds.) It's probably also a good idea to download a much of resources together and organise them in to your own folders ready for when you need them. That way you know they are there when you need them. You could be kicking yourself for reinventing the wheel. An even better idea might be to give an administrator in your church some themes you have coming up and ask them to have a look for you!

Quite a few of the freebies link to other websites but they all seem to be links that work as far as I can tell after rummaging around and helping myself to quite a few nice resources for my church.

There is the usual SHARE button as well so that you can pass the goodies you find on to your friends using social media.

Good Stuff

If you use a digital projector in your church then you are going to absolutely LOVE this website.

Some of the resources even come with video tutorials telling you how to make your own versions using software like photoshop - if you are 'in' to that kind of thing.

It's all free!

Downsides?

Some of the materials will always be a little culturally specific to part of the church. For example the LoveMercy video is great but it has lots of footage of New York City. That's all fine - but it might not be right in some churches.

What you don't get is an indexed list of resources by topic - that would be one way to improve the site. It is all free though!

There isn't much audio (but there are LOADS of backgrounds.)

Any thoughts? Would you use these resources in your church? Do you have any other favourite sites?

 Here is an example of a video that you can download for free.

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App review - Prayers on the Move

I love the concept of this simple app. It's prayer for busy people!

Overall

It has a library of 31 apps and the idea is that you work through them all. The app includes an audio recording which encourages you to focus on your breathing, reads the prayer and allows some silence - all in 1 minute.

The prayers are certainly easy to understand, in relevant modern language and surrounded by nice loooking modern graphics. Once you've had your minute of prayer you can write a note on the prayer, send feedback or share the prayer using any of the usual social media options.

I've used it on the tube in central London sat right under the advert for the app (?!) I've also used it in the car stuck in traffic and whilst taking a break from work. It's nice to have prayers in your pocket and there aren't that many similar apps out there. Here's a screenshot.

 

potm

 

If you'd like a sneak preview of the app you can also listen to the prayer of the day on the apps website here. From the same site you can also download books, wallet cards and various other goodies. 

Good points

If you would like a free app to encourage you to pray each day, are a busy person who likes technology and is sometimes stuck for what to say to God then this app might just be worth trying! It's great to see a wide ranging campaign aimed at deepening people's faith through regular prayer. If you aren't 'in to' apps then you can download a free prayer ebook or even order your free copy (suggested donation £1.) All in all this is definitely one of those campaigns that will 'click' with some people so it's worth giving it a go.

 

The 'Add a personal note' option would be a great way to start a prayer diary, keeping a note of what you feel God is saying to you as you pray (although this might take more than one minute!!)

Glitches

I use the android version which was a little glitchy but not by any means so annoying that it made the app unusable. This could just be my device.

 

 

Please do post your comments here or drop us a tweet to @aliveandonline if you've tried the app. 

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Finding Church On Facebook

Finding Church On Facebook

 

How might we define Church? Perhaps as a building, a gathered Christian community, a discipleship movement? What though would it look like if Church was online, would we attribute the same value or worth, if it existed in cyber-space?

Where do you gather as a Christian community? A small group sitting together in someone's living room, maybe something outdoors, perhaps meeting in a cafe, or a church building. Community created in these places is tried and tested.

But there is change afoot, with the explosion in social media in the last few years, more and more people are finding, creating and enjoying meaningful community online. For example, if Facebook was a country it would be the biggest on earth, a whopping 1.44 billion plus people are currently subscribed to its community. Facebook dwarfs all other social media platforms, like WhatsApp on 9 million, and Twitter 320 million to name two.

facebook

When considering online Christian community some people think that somehow online community is not as meaningful as face-to-face. Somehow church online is seen as something less!

Many don't agree with that argument. Yet there are many more people who go online to find answers to spiritual questions rather than the church; and for whom church community doesn't fit with work or family commitments.

Those that hold a negative view of online church may find their stance stems from a fear of what it might mean for the church in the future. The world is changing and has changed and we would do well to keep up with it rather than take a reactionary stance. We step into whatever the world is offering and seek to make community in that place. After all is that not what Jesus did!

The internet is the next earthly frontier to be explored, it is wild and untamed, various nations debate over how to police the Internet. However the Internet in some ways it is like a living thing, and Facebook amongst many other platforms has managed to harness and form community in that place.

Facebook as already mentioned is vast and global, and you who are reading this, will be given the option to share on Facebook and may well be yourself on Facebook. It is in this place we seek to form Christian community that is vibrant and meaningful.

As part of the team for d-church we have been developing an online christian community for a number of years now. Together as Christian leaders, once a month, we sought to bring together meaningful content, images videos and text on a particular theme. One of the beauties of using Facebook as a platform for community building, is that the mechanics for social interaction are already well established and well known. Generally everyone knows how to comment, share, tag, like, set up a group or page and if they don't its very easy to find out.

For d-church we chose a page, for particular reasons and flexibility. The d-church monthly event takes place online. The team all ring each other on a conference call using Skype, and each of us have responsibility for different social media platforms, including WordPress, Twitter, Google plus and of course Facebook.

The content is preselected and put together in a document, the content of which is shared appropriately across the various platforms. Most people who interact with the monthly event use Facebook. I know personally of a number of people who join in with d-church as their only Christian interaction and many others for whom it is part of their spiritual diet for the week and month. This community offers several things, a safe place online, no one is judged here, people are accepted for who they are and what they bring. The only expectations are, that participants treat others well. We are told that the doors of our churches are often a barrier to outsiders coming in and we are encouraged to go outside of our churches. D-church on social media is very accessible to those who just want to take a quick look, and we hope they will gently be drawn into the friendly community they find.

We live in a post christendom world, a world that is instant and in the moment, and d-church and others who are engaging with social media are creating, forming spaces where people can interact with faith issues. Not that it might replace Church but broaden its horizon to encompass all of humanity as it seeks meaning, value and peace with itself. Of course our hope is that what they come to find is a God who knows and loves them.

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A big #ukchurchchat welcome to a new look blog

A big #ukchurchchat welcome to a new look blog

Welcome to the brand new #ukchurchchat blog. Our aim is to become a useful and buzzing digital hub to support UK churches with online mission and ministry. Discussion, news, stories, advice and support is all posted totally free and always will be. Please join in Please use our commenting system. You can leave a guest comment with no account, just your name. We'd love you to create an account and add comments that way too. Once we can see you are a real person we'll allow permissions for you to comment without moderation.

Topics

Our topics include church website tips, virtual church, social media advice for churches, news, discussions and testimonies. Do have a look at our different categories and tags to see what's posted right now. If you'd like to receive support or advice on a particular topic then please let us know and we'll do what we can.

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Find some 'Digital Superstars' for your church website

Find some 'Digital Superstars' for your church website

In my previous blog on ideas for church websites I mentioned the concept of Digital Superstars. I thought I'd flesh the idea out more in a more detailed blog post.

What are Digital Superstars?

These are people who find computer / internet skills simple and are happy to give a little voluntary time to help your church.

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6 Essentials for your Church Website

6 Essentials for your Church Website

Essentials is a strong word, but you will really put people off if you miss these out. Your church website has two main audiences - new visitors and existing church goers. The first of these will get their first impressions of your church by checking out the website and they will not hang around if they don't find what they are looking for.

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10 tips for your new church website

10 tips for your new church website

Have a read of these tips to consider when you are setting up your new website. There is a lot to think about, and planning ahead can be the key here.

We've been through this process before with many different types of church and non church related websites, and are happy to talk you through anything that might be difficult to understand.

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10 website ideas for the outward looking church

10 website ideas for the outward looking church

Does your church have an outward looking focus? All churches do, in their own particular ways. Try integrating one of these ideas in to your church website and maybe you will be surprised how much your church website has to offer as a tool for reaching out to people.

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2016 Website Design Gallery

 

2016 sees live previews of our 6 most commonly used designs available for you to look at right on our website! Please have a good look at the designs in our portfolio.

We'd love to hear your comments too! Please feel free to Like, Tweet and Share our designs far and wide.

 

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