In partnership with the National Churches Trust (NCT) and Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), the Diocese of Leeds welcomed representatives from parishes in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to a training event about the importance of the ministry of welcome to church visitors, pilgrims and tourists.
An estimated 40 million visits to places of worship take place in the U.K. annually and over 50% of day trips include a visit to a church. Therefore, open and welcoming churches are an excellent opportunity to engage with people beyond regular congregations.
Training covered a variety of topics, including an overview of an exciting project funded by Discover England to develop experiences in churches to attract American visitors, which resulted in some lively feedback from the group who shared opportunities presented by churches in different areas.
Kay Short from EIG busted some myths about the insurance implications of open churches, with some excellent advice about managing risk and ensuring the safety of visitors to churches.
"It is a great opportunity to talk to churches about remaining open," said Kay.
"Many fear from an insurance perspective that this can't be the case, but it is something we really encourage.
"Staying open can actually have a positive impact on church security and it means people have the opportunity of experiencing something of God."
Sarah Crossland from NCT Heritage Services went on to demonstrate the benefits of Explore Churches as a free online platform that churches can use to engage with church visitors. She then rounded off the day with some clever hints and tips about using social media, photography and video images to attract maximum attention.
Sarah explained, "Today we have talked about brand new church experiences, which is really exciting."
"We've got some funding from Visit England to work with churches to develop hands on activities or behind the scenes tours, which can be promoted to group travellers, tourists from abroad or even local groups."