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9 in 10 say their church used new tech platforms to keep in touch with members during the lockdown

by Cara Bentley

A survey suggests that almost nine out of ten Christians have seen their church use technology which is new to them to stay in contact with their congregation. 

In research by church insurer Ecclesiastical, 87 per cent of respondents said they used channels they hadn't used before to maintain contact.

78 per cent joined Zoom for video calls with their church family, which was the third most popular means of communicaction after telephone (82 per cent) and email (79 per cent). 

Graham Nicholls, director of the evangelical group of churches Affinity, and church leader told Premier: "I know many post-retirement or post-post-retirement people who've learned how to use Zoom in the last few months and certainly upped their game in terms of messaging services and interaction - people watching us on YouTube or watching us on Facebook Live or watching off the website who would never have done that before.

"My 88-year-old mother watches whole services on YouTube by just sending her the link on WhatsApp. She's got it on a little stand, she watches the whole thing. She's typical of lots of people doing their best but managing to interact pretty well with services. I think she's been doing a bit of Zoom, although it's harder for her because there's more interaction involved."

Twelve per cent of church goers who responded said they'd used Skype and eight per cent had used other video chat platforms such as WhatsApp video and Microsoft Teams. 

Almost a third of churches have seen an increase in attendance as a result of the move online and 38 per cent of respondents said they would continue to use the new channels after lockdown to keep in touch and attract new members. 

Among the13 per cent who hadn’t adopted new means of communications, the main reasons were limited access to equipment, a lack of expertise in using digital kit and not enough people to help manage it.

Nicholls said that despite the drawbacks of Zoom when it comes to conversation and socialising, he reckons it will still be used in some form when it stops being essential. 

"I think we will move towards a kind of hybrid when churches open up more and more and I think some things will be retained as useful."

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