Last updated 17th November 2023
Since the pandemic, many more of our churches are looking to technology to complement and support gatherings in person.
More from our Diocese ...
Other digital resources from the national church
National CofE training webinars. The national church digital communications team organises regular webinars to help churches stream sermons, events and make the most of digital platforms. These cover subjects like ...
You can access details about the webinars and book on to them via this page of the national Church of England website.
Video editing tools and advice: See this page of the national website.
Digital training course: Norman Ivison, who worships at our own St James’ Church in Clitheroe, produced some helpful digital resources to share with the Diocese (which are also useful for any parish in any Diocese). Norman is a former BBC Producer.
If you are struggling to produce online worship, or if you are doing it but know you can do better, Norman developed an online course during the pandemic which is still useful now. Three one-hour units take you through both theory and practice.
You can join an online community and get help from others wrestling with similar issues. Here's a short promotional video.
On the course you will hear from those leading worship online regularly and those who work in professional broadcasting. And there are practical tips galore to make your streaming stand out and make an impact. It’s totally free!
All you need to do is register and start at your own pace. God is reshaping the Church and it’s up to us to catch up and move with him. The course is on the 'lifelong learning' pages of the Central Readers' Council website, where you can also register. (Note: You don't have to be a Reader to take the course.)
Related to this video course, Norman had previously produced an excellent downloadable document for us which is filled with further tips and ideas.
Topics covered include:
That full document containing Norman's advice can be downloaded from here.
A special #HomeGrown video on social media use; available on our diocesan YouTube channel and featuring Rev. Anne Beverley and Rev. Claire Cooke who have both also contributed some additional thoughts to the written guidance below.
The video is a fantastic and helpful session in which they chat through some helpful advice and share insights about using social media. The video was produced during the pandemic and may make some reference to that but remains relevant for normal times.
It will be useful for clergy but also lay people. Anne and Claire have also contributed some further thoughts to the guidance below as well.
Watch it here ...
The common-sense points which follow should help you fulfil, with confidence, your role as an effective and responsible online representative for your local parish, the wider Church and our Christian faith.
The guidance has been compiled by Ronnie Semley, our Diocesan Communications Manager, with additional contributions from Rev. Anne Beverley and Rev. Claire Cooke who also feature in the above video.
It is true to say that social media platforms are being used in new and exciting ways to engage with communities. Many parishes are engaging with some of these for the very first time. This should be encouraged.
Meanwhile, while we know social media can be good for maintaining connections, it can also be a terrible source of harm, anxiety, fake news and angst. So please consider carefully not just about what you choose to read yourself, but also what you write and put out in the public domain.
We would want to advise against any use of social media which may promote upset or discord at this time. Please also ensure social media content associated with you is consistent with your role and with Christian values of love, tolerance, truth and forgiveness.
Words have power. At this difficult time there should also be opportunities to reassure people while also sharing our Christian faith.
How is social media different?
Three ways to remember social media is different from more traditional forms of media:
In these contexts, please be wise: If you engage in an online discussion on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else, remember this: everything you say is public and shareable, possibly even something which originates in a private chatroom initially.
Also consider carefully, in the context of the coronavirus outbreak, whether the content you are engaging with, sharing or commenting on is going to be received well by other people; perhaps inadvertently adding to the stress or pressure another person is experiencing? We all have different levels of tolerance. If in doubt, don’t forward or retweet.
Guard your own back too. As well as being careful about what you engage with personally, be careful who you ‘follow’ and ‘like’. Do also feel free to ignore or even block people who ‘troll’ you or are just plain rude! This is a difficult and stressful enough time without those kinds of added pressures.
And please just try to be loving and kind as much as possible. If the powers and authorities make decisions which you disagree with, you should be able to voice your concern of course but please remember to disagree well; always do it in a way that is factually accurate, while keeping in mind that they too may be under considerable stress and strain.
The immediacy of social media is one of its benefits of course – we can respond quickly to questions, correct misunderstandings or just give our perspective about a breaking story. Responding quickly doesn’t mean doing so without due consideration, however.
You may not have thought about things in this way before, but if you choose to identify online in your Church of England role, whatever role that is, others will likely see you as a Church of England representative or ambassador.
If your comment is in the ‘public domain’ it could therefore pique the interest of the media if it is considered ‘newsworthy’ depending on what you might say, so please consider this carefully too when you are posting.
Know your platform; know your audience
Please also be aware of what platform you are communicating on and the culture and mood there.
Each social media platform has a slightly different culture and place in society so, before you get active on a particular platform, spend a little time understanding who is present in that space, who can see your content and the comments that are made about it and what kind of community you are joining.
In other words - get to know your audience and what makes them tick.
For example, someone could preach a great sermon from a pulpit in a church service and have it go down really well; but preach that same sermon in a political debate and it would be heard quite differently and evoke a different response. Preach the same sermon again, in the same way, at a kids party and it would be totally lost!
Different social media platforms have different audiences and each requires a slightly different way of communicating, precisely because they are different.
Each time you post/engage on social media think carefully ...
Before you post anything, spend a while listening to others; maybe getting a feel for the tone of the particular forum you are involved in, at the same time as giving careful thought to how you might then participate (if at all).
Think about practical things too - like the background to videos and photos. They may inadvertently provide an insight into your private life you might not want to share!
So consider where you are filming and in what room in your house? Is this something you are happy for strangers to see? How will the background reflect on your message?
Also be aware of what personal information you are happy to share beforehand. For example, family relationships. Ensure you have permission from family members before mentioning them or sharing photos or videos of them on social media, even on your own private sites; remember on social media nothing is truly private.
It is also ok not to enter into theological, ideological or ethical debates on social media. Getting drawn into a lengthy exchange of comments in a post is often counter-productive and rarely shows the church in a good light.
Instead respond with a comment that shows love to the person whilst also saying you have a different view. Then refrain from engaging with their response, however tempting it may be to do so. We also suggest you delete offensive comments, without exception.
And don't feel you have to be available to respond 24/7. Social media moves fast and is an instant media, therefore it is very easy to get into a mindset where we believe that we have to be ‘available’ 24/7 to monitor and respond to comments.
This is not good for our personal health, and provides no time off. So, instead, if you choose to be active on social media (and remember, it is a choice) set aside one or two times a day to check messages, and allow other members of your church to also monitor social media, giving them responsibility for times when you are on holiday or off work.
It is absolutely fine to switch off notifications on a particular app so you are not constantly bombarded with messages.
Prayer and support
And remember to always pray before posting on social media, in the same way as we would pray before public services.
If you are encountering issues using social media talk to your spiritual director or someone you trust in your church about the effect comments and content on social media are having on you, good and bad.
Take some time to reflect on what raises a strong reaction in you and why and allow this experience to help you in your self-awareness and spiritual growth. Find a good, trusted friend who you are friends with on social media to stay accountable with. Invite them to encourage you and to gently challenge you when you need it.
If this short summary of common-sense advice has been useful to you, as part of the national church ‘Digital Charter’ launched in 2019 you can also find further suggested advice about how to operate on social media in a Christian context here.
The Diocesan Board of Education, has also produced some information about social media for parishes. The advice can be read for general information but has a particular slant towards younger people.
It gives some insight into the main current social media platforms: what they are, what they do etc; some general points on how to use social media.
It also includes a section on the importance of safeguarding in a social media context.
You can download the full document by clicking here.
There is excellent advice on technology including livestreaming; with copyright information on these websites:
The latter link above includes a wide range of advice including copyright in relation to Zoom services. Zoom services - even those where you invite people, instead of making it an open invitation - are likely to be subject to copyright.
Think of it this way ... if you were invite a group of, say, 20 or so people to an event at a church hall and play a copyrighted video while they are there then it would be a public broadcast. So our advice is to consider the rules as being the same for an invited group on Zoom.
Further important copyright advice
This further advice is extracted from the filming advice document (link in the filming advice section above) ...
Copyright is something of a minefield but some things are clear:
You can’t simply use a track of music or video or image in a video or any other kind of broadcast without permission. Some copyright free material is available online if you look carefully. But if it doesn’t say ‘copyright free’ or ‘no licence required’ assume you can’t use it without permission.
You can’t simply sing a song, unless you have personally written it, in a live or recorded video (for example a worship service) without permission or a relevant licence.
But there is good news of you use YouTube or Facebook Live as far as local sung worship is concerned. This is from this page of the national Church of England website:
If you use a YouTube video in a video which is then streamed via YouTube, you should be covered by YouTube’s own licence. This does not cover videos you might download free or at cost from elsewhere.
Check copyright with your supplier before you use. If you do upload copyright music (the biggest risk area) to YouTube, which is not covered by the generic YouTube licence, then YouTube will warn you and, in some instances, stop you uploading. You don’t want to find this out 10 minutes before your premiere is about to start!
We have heard reports of a parish in another Diocese which was recently approached by representatives of a picture agency in regard to the unlicensed use of a photograph.
We want to remind parishes of the importance of using copyright free images. Copyright holders are increasingly using ‘bots’ to scour the internet and spot unlawful use of copyrighted material.
It is crucial that any images parishes use on their websites; social media channels; printed publications etc have been taken by the parish directly or are 'creative commons' (copyright free). Never copy images from image libraries, direct from Google or from news sites etc; they are someone else’s work and you could be liable for a fine.
Images are normally copyright unless it specifically says otherwise on the site you get them from.
If you need to access pictures for use online (such the 'lit beacon' picture here which we have used in Parish Update in the past) we recommend Unsplash.com which has a huge variety of excellent pictures available free of charge and - crucially - free of copyright.
Useful sites with contact details if you are still unsure:
Ronnie Semley, page regularly updated