Last updated 31st October 2021
On this page of the Diocesan website you will find important advice and help to enable you and your church to produce more effective digital communications writes Ronnie Semley, Diocesan Communications Manager.
With the help of the new CofE Labs blog, where the national Church of England digital team and other guest bloggers share their knowledge on design, photography, social media strategy and more, this page features a range of advice to assist parishes across Lancashire.
Aimed specifically at those running social and web projects in churches, the advice, available on this page, should help grow the confidence of the Church's digital skills and help us to reach more people online.
There is also 'home-grown' Diocesan advice about using and engaging with our own diocesan social media channels.
Looking after your parish social media accounts and the website? Read this article to begin with for some helpful common sense advice.
What follows below is a summary of good practice guidelines in a social media context, with the current virus outbreak particularly in mind and includes (as of April 2021) and new video featuring Rev. Anne Beverley and Rev. Claire Cooke.
The written guidance has been compiled by Ronnie Semley, our Diocesan Communications Manager, specifically to advise our clergy, office holders and others associated with the Diocese already active on social media (or thinking about it!) during the current coronavirus outbreak.
As of April 2021 the advice in this section has also been supplemented with a special #HomeGrown video on social media use; now 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. 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 at this difficult time in our nation’s history.
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. 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!
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 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.
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 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.
Lindsay Wright, Digital Media and Resources Lead in the Diocesan Board of Education, has also produced some information about social media that may be useful 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.
Are you showing YouTube videos for use in church or at school, or related groups? Some advice ...
Firstly make sure the site owner has set the video for download and showing in public. If you can't copy the url (a url is the online 'address' of the video) then chances are they don't want to have their material downloaded! Check the site carefully, but if in any doubt don't download.
Please note ALL videos on our regularly updated Diocesan YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/blackburndiocese) can be downloaded free for use across the Diocese.
The Savefromnet website allows you to download videos to your computer for use offline in good quality.
Copy the url of the video you want from YouTube - usually the quickest way of doing this is to right click on the video and then 'copy video url' from the menu. When you visit this site, in the field at the top of the page where it says 'just insert a link', paste the url you have copied.
It then shows a image from the video below and a green button next to it. It will automatically go to the best format available for download from what is a free converter. Then click on the green 'download' button and it will bring up a folder page to allow you to save it to your computer.
Ronnie Semley, updated July 2019, September 2020 and October 2021