Advertising fills the pews, say churches

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The Independent Online
CHURCHES which used an advertising campaign increased their Christmas attendance last year; churches which ignored the campaign saw attendances drop, according to a survey conducted by the diocese of Oxford.

About a third of England was covered by the ecumenical campaign aimed at people who had lost touch with Christianity. The slogan - 'Christmas. It's enough to bring anyone to their knees. Remember what it's all about: come to Church this Christmas' - was used on 20 local radio stations, 150 billboards, and 55,000 car stickers.

This was the second year that such a campaign had been run and the first that a detailed attempt had been made to assess its effectiveness. The churches involved spent about pounds 10,000 for a campaign that would have cost about pounds 60,000 at commercial rates, according to the Rev Richard Thomas, diocesan director of communications in Oxford. The follow-up was limited by lack of funds to Church of England vicars in Oxford and one diocese where the campaign was not run. In the latter, attendance at Christmas was 9.5 per cent down on the previous year.

In Oxford, attendances were on average 4.5 per cent higher than the previous year. In the area that ignored the campaign, attendances were on average 11.9 per cent down.

No research has been done to discover whether the people thus attracted into church have made a habit of churchgoing. However, Mr Thomas is confident that advertising works, and there will be another campaign next Christmas.

Leading article, page 17