Churches need to show off more says former BBC producer

Robbie Lane

Robbie Lane

Churches in the UK need to stop hiding and to start showing off the work they are doing in their communities if they want to make a bigger impact – according to a former BBC producer.

Robbie Lane has launched a new not-for-profit advice website which aims to help churches get a ‘better press’. It uses Youtube videos and real examples to try to persuade clergy that their local newspaper should be seen as an opportunity for outreach rather than something to be feared and gives a step-by-step guide to getting a church into the paper for the right reasons. The site was set up after its founder became tired of seeing a wave of ‘bad news’ stories about  the church in the UK.

He began working with his own church in Somerset and saw its profile grow in the local area, simply by highlighting community work they were already doing. The website covers things such as writing a press release and being an interviewee, as well as ways that social networking sites such as Facebook can be used by the local church.

Robbie says: “I became increasingly frustrated at seeing negative stories about the UK church’s problems when I knew that every local church in every town is doing a huge amount of positive community work. Things like soup kitchens, youth work and projects for ex-offenders all go on without anyone outside the church noticing while negative stories dominate the national press.

It’s not because of an ‘anti-church’ press – it’s just because many churches don’t know how to shout about what they are doing” “I started working with my church at the time, on how they could publicise  special events they were putting on and I found we had a tremendous impact on how many people were turning up for events and on how well the church was known locally.

It wasn’t an overnight change but gradually the church has seen positive  results. Howard Davenport, senior pastor at Elim Pentecostal church in Yeovil (the  church Robbie first worked with) says, “When we started trying to get media coverage, we were a bit unsure of where it would lead. But we've seen amazing results and it's really helped the church to become more well-known in the town.

We've had stories - like a charity boxing match, a church anniversary and an outdoor baptism - receiving fantastic coverage in the local newspaper, radio and TV. We've even been quoted in the Daily Star which not many clergy can say!"

Robbie continues: “The biggest obstacle is fear, because many clergy think that every journalist is looking to catch them out and make them look stupid. In some bible colleges, the advice seems to have been – steer clear of the press as much as possible. In reality, with a bit of guidance and understanding of what makes a story there can be real rewards. And it’s certainly worth the effort - a typical local paper sells 25,000 copies a week and local radio stations get up to  200,000 listeners, which is more people than most churches  would hope to get in a year.”

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