by Pete Phillips, Head of Digital Theology
You may have noticed that Premier is supporting the Hybrid Church. We believe this is the right way to go forward in part because of mission, in part because that's what most people want in the Church.
In terms of mission, the Church in the UK is in decline. One reason is that we're much happier talking to the people we already have in Church (about 4m on average each Sunday - although many only come once a month nowadays!) rather than speaking to the other 66m people who live in the UK. During the lockdown, some of our research showed that we could potentially add another 16m people who popped their heads around our online doors by continuing to do online worship alongside our return to onsite worship.
That would be a potential 400% increase of those coming to church!!!
That's great. But we also know that up to 90% of the British population are online. So alongside doing onsite church to ensure that those who can't get online can get onsite (mmm...), we can do more online because that's where the potential congregation is. John Wesley decided that he wanted to preach to the Kingswood coal miners outside Bristol back in the 18th century. But he had to break down old barriers of tradition to allow him to do this - he said he needed to become more vile. Perhaps we need to break down the barriers to get our there and share the good news online.
Moreover, some of the research (the chart is from a BARNA survey in Sept 2020) is suggesting divergent patterns among the youngest adults in our society. Such people, often now Gen Z or late Millennials, are shifting their spiritual search from physical buildings to online sites - they expect to find their faith concerns met by online engagement rather than onsite engagement. For them, God is as connectable online, community is as real online, faith is found online. But at the same time, young people are a bit fed up of online because education and work tends to be online. So some (Christian?) young adults are avoiding engaging with church online. They are just zoomed out.
So we need both online & onsite to grow the Church.
But how do we do that? Premier, Spurgeons and the Centre for Digital Theology are providing some resources later this year to help out:
TASTER DAYS FOR THE MA!
We have two more taster evenings for you to find out more about our ground breaking MA in Digital Theology and how you could join in with the course. See here for details on the course and on how to book for one of the taster sessions:
Mon 12 July, 7.30pm: https://bit.ly/July12TasterMADT
Tues 3 Aug,, 7.30pm: https://bit.ly/Aug3TasterMADT
MediaLit offers an introduction to Digital Engagement within Christian ministry, both lay and ordained. During the three day conference, we’ll explore the impact that digital culture has had on the world, on the church and on our theology. We’ll look at hybrid church and church online and explore how everything changes, and stays the same, when we minister in an online setting. From there, we’ll invite in practitioners in Church Comms and learn from them how to communicate our faith online through social media and websites; how to deal with crisis comms; and how to write material for websites, blogs and social media – perhaps even for media interviews. On day three, we’ll shift to looking at how we make the most of inclusion in the digital age, of how hybrid offers a space for both online and onsite worship and how we explore the wise use of technology within Christian settings.
The course will run both online at Spurgeon's College in London, and offline (wherever you are in the whole world!!!!) from 2-4th September. More details along with costs, etc can be found here
It is going to be awesome!
It's time for the Church to train up in digital. We've done a fantastic job but now we need to come together, help each other, support one another. Come and share your tricks and learnings from the pandemic. Come and equip others to do online church well. Come and learn from guest speakers, fellow students from across the world, come and equip yourself for God's Mission in our Future Hybrid World!