How did we engage different audiences with #FollowTheStar over Advent and Christmas 2019?


Building on the very positive response to #FollowTheStar in 2018, we kept the same theme and were delighted to see the way in which churches, dioceses, individuals and clergy used the resources.

The number of times the Advent and Christmas content was seen on social media grew by 59% to 12.6 million in 2019 from 7.94 million in 2018. The number of people who described #FollowTheStar as helpful, very helpful or extremely helpful in bringing them closer to God also rose from 85 per cent in 2018 to 94 per cent in 2019.

A Church Near You, our church finder tool, sat at the heart of the #FollowTheStar and we are thrilled that page views increased substantially in December to 6.7 million. More than 25,000 services were added to the site and editors logged in more than 300,000 times to respond to inbox messages from members of the public and to update their Advent and Christmas calendar. A huge thanks to church editors for all they do to keep the website up to date.

In this blog we set out some of the key findings and the opportunities ahead:

What were the main elements of #FollowTheStar 2019?

As with 2018, we focused on a range of audiences with specific content:

  • Encouraging clergy and lay leaders to:
    • Add services and events to A Church Near You
    • Use the new video generator tool
    • Access the range of resources, both free and available to purchase
  • Equipping churchgoers to:
    • Share the resources from Advent and Christmas
    • Encourage friends and family to attend
  • Enabling those exploring faith to:
    • See content that encouraged them into a local Christmas service or event
    • Visit A Church Near You to find local services and events
    • Grow in faith by reading reflections and praying
    • To use craft activities with their families.

The main content developed included:

  • Church House Publishing Twelve Days of Christmas Wonder daily reflections and accompanying family activities written by The Rev Mina Munns, which were available in a variety of formats including booklets, email, app, smart speakers and on the Church’s social media accounts
  • Weekly Advent reflections from Archbishop Justin Welby and Rev Dr Isabelle Hamley, which were also played on BBC Sunday Worship
  • Christmas adverts filmed with St Peter’s Church in Stockon-on-Tees
  • A new video generator tool for AChurchNearYou editors and the ability to switch on #FollowTheStar branding throughout December
  • A special broadcast with Archbishop Justin and the Canterbury Cathedral choir.

Free and paid resources for churches to use, including posters, logos, bookmarks, stars to put on churches and customisable banners.

What were the key results from the campaign?

As mentioned above, we were thrilled with the number of times the content was seen on social media throughout Advent and Christmas, with a significant uplift on #FollowTheStar 2018. This really shows the impact of dioceses and churches engaging congregations and those exploring faith.

We used social media to share virtual invitations with millions of people to come to their local church at Christmas and to read the reflections.

Church House Publishing distributed more than 133,000 of the Twelve Days of Christmas Wonder reflections. The app featuring the daily content has now been downloaded more than 33,000 times and the audio was played more than 13,000 times. The daily emails had an average open rate of 44 per cent, more than double the industry average.

We recorded a programme from Canterbury Cathedral with Archbishop Justin and the choir was extremely popular and watched 199,000 times:

Following the success of this video, we will be producing more long form content like this in the years to come.

The Christmas adverts filmed in Stockton-on-Tees were very popular on social media. Thank you to Fr Bill Braviner and the church community for all they did to make the filming a success.

Working with a range of churches across the traditions, we asked people to fill in a one question survey to understand how they ended up at a service over Advent or Christmas. The results from a sample of nearly 1,100 responses are in the pie chart below:

The insights indicate the influence of friends and family and that one in five people took a digital journey, whether through A Church Near You, a local church website or a national or local church social media post.

The weekly Advent content from Archbishop Justin Welby and Rev Dr Isabelle Hamley formed part of BBC Sunday Worship broadcasts and this partnership helped us to reach many people. In addition, some of the daily Christmas themes were used for BBC Daily Service.

The new A Church Near You video generator tool was used nearly 1,000 times and we think there are lots more opportunities.

How did churches engage and what user feedback did we receive?

The montage below demonstrates a tiny percentage of the overall engagement we saw from churches. It was wonderful to see the way in which churches across the Anglican Communion got involved including Portugal, the United States, Canada and Australia, to name but a few.

Users provided lots of helpful feedback and here is a small selection of comments:

  • "Provided me with new ideas for sermon outlines. Fresh and thought provoking yet simple"
  • "I learned so much from #FollowTheStar. Easy reading and easy to understand"
  • "Many thanks. I feel very blessed and challenged to have used your campaign materials"
  • "It gave a quiet reflection time in the middle of all the chaos of family life"
  • "Easy to read and understand please continue to print more for every Christian festival"
  • "It was inspiring. It encouraged and support my daily reflections"
  • "They are a perfect length for a busy person to read and with one key, simple message each day. Thank you"
  • "Thank you. This is marvellous. I have 2 teenage children who are not interested in church but I was able to share some of the reflections. They are interested in a kinder compassionate society and very worried about climate change"
  • "Encouraging, helpful and easy to read and contemplate"
  • "Keep up the good work.  Children’s ideas were great, as well as the reflections."

We’d really like to thank everyone for getting involved in #FollowTheStar and the reach and engagement wouldn’t have been possible without brilliant church and diocesan engagement. We will be using #FollowTheStar again in 2020 and will update more on this later in the year.

Find out more about our plans for #LiveLent: Care for God’s Creation. Throughout Lent, the resources aim to encourage you to engage in prayer, learn more about the remarkable world we have been given and build habits that last beyond the season to protect and honour the earth.


Church of England Communications

#FollowTheStar is part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme, aimed at helping us become a growing Church for all people and for all places.