The Church of England is turning to millennial 'creatives' to boost its online reach as regular church attendance is replaced with digital engagement.
Around 50 'technicians and creatives' from around the UK are being brought into central London for a day-long event pitching ideas for new apps, hashtags and websites to help the Church boost its web presence.
Their ideas will be judged by an expert panel including the BBC's senior digital producer Lynda Davies and the LEGO Group's global social media team senior manager, James Poulter.
It comes as the Church battles dwindling numbers coming on a Sunday and instead is trying to reach people through social media and digital marketing techniques. Figures released in October say 1.2 million people every month engage with the Church online through its videos, images, podcasts and blogs.
That increased markedly to 6.8 million people over the Christmas period thanks to targeted advertising and sponsored content on social media around the hashtag #GodWithUs. A series of videos shared across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were viewed more than two million times and a Christmas prayer that specifically targeted parents on Facebook was also shared widely, according to the CofE.
'We're delighted that the campaign brought more people into relationship with God and the Church at this key moment in the Christian year and our prayer is that we build on the successes and learnings to do more for Lent and Christmas 2018,' Adrian Harris, the Church's first head of digital communications, said.
Harris is told to be a 'digital evangelist' and has the task of 'exploring how digital engagement can lead to spiritual and numerical growth'.
William Nye, the CofE's top civil servant, said although weekly attendance at church was 'a sobering reminder of the long-term challenge', boosting the online presence is one was to stem the tide 'as the online dimension of people's lives becomes ever more significant'.
He said: 'Our challenge is to join up that growing online Church life to the physical community of Church that forms the body of Christ.'
By targeting 'creatives' for a day-long event called Digital Labs, Harris is hoping to ride on the success of the Christmas 2017 campaign and encourage churches to do more online. The panel will chose two projects to be tested out by different dioceses and funded centrally from the CofE
'We're delighted with the combined knowledge and experience our judging panel brings to Church of England Digital Labs,' Harris said. 'I'm really excited to hear the creative ideas on the day that will help us develop our digital evangelism and discipleship offering.'