Church Communications – Arun Arora & Anna Drew #MediaLit11

How do we communicate at an institutional level? How do we gain confidence in engaging.

Is this how many see vicars?

Project Volvo; What kind of car/animal, etc. would Tony Blair/David Cameron/Gordon Brown be?

Vance Packard: The Hidden Persuaders.  Use every trick how/why people are motivated.

If we ask how we’re seen…

  • If your church were a person what gender would it be?
  • What age would it be?
  • What would be it’s occupation?
  • What would likely be its marital status?
  • If your church were a car, which make would it be? Provide three words that you associate with this make.
  • If your church were a Hollywood filmstar – who would it be? Why?
  • If your church were a TV channel, which would it be? What would you like it to be?
  • If your church were a high street/well known brand or company which would it be? What would you like it to be?


Do we get the reputation we deserve in our own churches?

What do other people think of us? In mainstream media?  The Church is seen as irrelevant. It’s seen as an easy target?  Rowan Williams. Stereotyped (e.g. Methodist Church – anti-alcohol, anti-gambling… is it losing a reputation for being against things, but not replacing with anything).  If people only watched news, what would be seen? There’s no big picture… just seen as irrelevant… as with Woolworths (not meeting needs, trying to be everything to everyone). Most of what it shows is not the faith community, but churches with numbers. The church is wheeled out in times of crisis, seen to speak for the community? Would you feel concerned about taking your child to church today (after all the abuse scandals).  What would people get just from watching TV drama? Vicar = bumbling, fool, hypocrite, etc. Within the church people love Rev – feels like a true reflection – but what did those outside the church think of it? Comedians tend to take cheap shots at religion, those who are Christian comedians, etc. tend not to bring faith into their performances, so the only ones talking about religion are the non-Christians.

When a journalist rings for a bad story, if you have a good story, can build a relationship.

If anybody could be an advocate for Christianity, who would it be? A wide range of names put forward, although people were struggling to find women…

Should we not be more concerned about how we can be a voice for the voiceless? How do we do this to be effective?

Do we want to promote our own church? Or communication as part of our mission? Is the church about marketing (selling?)? Public relations is about relationships and communications.  Would we prefer to speak to 10,000 people rather than 10? Are we seeking to market/PR the Church or Christ?

Institutional (vs) Local Parish?

The Kenning Review sought to consider the problems faced in reaching these objectives (see

  • Appear united (not be?): How do we get the bits of conversations to fit together so the message registers in the secular world as a distinctly Christian one? Loud dissenting voices? Need a wider remit for the church? But the theology of the reformation means the voice is unlikely to be achieved. Who is the view of the church? The vicar? The churchwarden? The regular attender? The gardener?
  • Confident: Senior church figures see the media as hostile, to be shunned at all costs, so it’s been pushed into a reactive and defensive mode when dealing with the media. In a 21st century secular society, “faith is generally and mistakenly perceived to be the lowest form of knowledge. It is the Church’s task to explain and describe just how faith can open up valuable new vistas now perceived or experiences by the secular world.”  Requires engagement/positive relationship, as the media isn’t going to do this for us (and this was pre-Dawkins).
  • Outward looking: The Church needs to stop obsessing with itself (women Bishops, gay priests, etc.), there’s a far bigger problem internally rather than externally.

What culture of engagement do we want to have as a community of faith? We need to be risk aware, but the danger is that we may become risk averse? Should we glad to be ‘upsetting someone’ as otherwise we’re not reaching the right people?

In the media but not OF the media culture? Don’t be afraid of saying sorry… may catch some flak, but people will respect and be prepared to engage.

Athiest Buses: Went to Steven Green (Christian Voice) “this is disgusting”, but others were prepared to check with Methodist Church and Theos who said they thought it was OK to have the campaign and actually was a weak message which got discussion going..

Local Media

According to Ofcom, 90% are consumers of local media, over 70% regional TV/radi. There are 1300 regional/local newspaper title. BBC has 40 local radio stations, then there are 350 local commercial radio services. HUGE reach, around 46.7 nationally – with about 200,000 listening daily to ‘Thought for the Day’.  Local listening figures are bigger than Radio 5/3 combined.

22 news bulletins of around 3 minutes each, including huge number of charity bulletins. Regional newspapers read by 70-80% (older read more).

Who do you trust for your news? Regional news and BBC TV are coming out top.

“The greatest realtiy is the Kingdom of God and the Good News we must concern ourselves first is its proclamation. How we do it is secondary to how we bring it about in our own lives and our own ministry.

What’s mission? What’s communications? Should our communications not just be an overflowing with who we are in Christ?

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