I am acutely aware in my parishes that there are quite a lot of people that do not use the internet at all. I wanted to make sure that they felt supported during lockdown as they are truly the most isolated from church.
I have set up a system to ensure that everyone gets a phone call from someone at church at least once a fortnight. I have mailed out a newsletter and prayer at home booklet to everybody. The other system I have set up is a ‘dial a sermon’ – a phone number you can ring to listen to this week’s sermon. Have a go at ringing mine to see what it sounds like: 01246 388487.
Setting up a ‘dial a sermon’ system
Here’s what you need to have in place to set this up:
- ability to record your sermon as an mp3 (easiest way to do it is to use a voice recorder on your smart phone or to download Audacity and record it using a microphone plugged in to your computer). Some voice recorders save recordings in formats different from mp3 (like opus). You can easily convert audio files to mp3 using this website here: zamzar.com
- When you’ve recorded your sermon you need to store it somewhere online. I’ve been uploading mine to our church website (which is built with wordpress). If you can’t do it on your website you can use Dropbox or Google Drive.
- I tend to add a little intro to the beginning of the sermon for this system so people know they’ve got through to the right place, so I begin ‘this is a recording of a sermon given by Rev Bryony Taylor on….’
Once you have done this – ie. recorded a sermon and uploaded it online as an mp3 – you are ready to set up the system.
I followed the instructions here to set up the system using Twilio, it took me about half an hour to set up, it is a little bit technical but if you follow these instructions to the letter you should be fine:
Update: there is now a video guide if you prefer instructions in that format:
Can you choose the phone number?
You can’t choose the exact number but you can choose a number with a local code – so I chose a Chesterfield code for mine so that most parishioners can just ring the number from a landline without the code for the cost of a local call.
How much is it?
It cost me one payment of £20 and that should pay for at least a year’s worth of calls (it actually costs $1 a month), so it’s very good value. *See comment below from Simon on cost.
How much is it for those who call?
The cost equates to the cost of a local call.
How much is it used?
Mine gets listened to roughly 15 times a week (you can log in to your Twilio account and see what the usage is). I think it is worth it for those 15 people and the longer it is available the more people will use it.
How much work does it take to run?
I have to record my sermon every week and upload it as an mp3, then I just need to take the url of the mp3 and change it on the twilio system each week by pasting it into the code. Using code can feel a bit scary at first but it is relatively straight forward:
Thanks to Simon for this further comment on cost:
It is worth mentioning that there is an additional charge to the church – you pay around 80p a month for the phone number, and then when people dial the number to listen to the sermon/service the church will get charged per minute that people listen to, however it is worth mentioning that it’s a very small charge.
So for example, last week our ‘Programmable Voice’ charge (the charge we get for people listening to the service) worked out at £5.44, based on 97 calls to our number (a few of those were me, as I checked to see if the system was working). You can see from the account details how long people listen for. Our phone service was 29 minutes long, some people listened to all 29 minutes, others listened for a shorter period of time.
Obviously the cost to the church will depend on a) how many people are accessing the service b) how long the service lasts, but it is still excellent value for money, and a great way of staying connected with people.
Anyone concerned about running up a large bill, the way the system works is that you add credit to it, and disable auto recharge (auto top up), so you shouldn’t suddenly find yourself facing a large bill.