The Church of England has launched its national campaign for Christmas 2018. It uses the hashtag #FollowTheStar and there is a range of material available for churches to use, including books, apps and images.

“For many of us, Christmas brings up so many emotions, memories and expectations. We have one nativity story, but it can seem like we all have very different Christmases.
“For you it might be a time of joy and togetherness. Or perhaps it’s all about planning and to-do lists. Many others can find it a sad and lonely time – nagged by the feeling that your Christmas is not like those ‘perfect’ ones we see in the media.
“But just like the unexpected assortment of people who were invited to meet the baby Jesus, #FollowTheStardoesn’t ask you to be perfect. It says: come just as you are to take the life-changing Christmas journey.”

Archbishops Justin Welby & John Sentamu

For more resources, see the Church of England web site. They can be used with or without the CofE branding – at the request of MK and Cumbria!


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Advertising Strategy

Milton Keynes Deanery has been an active partner in Christian advertising in Milton Keynes. We have worked with Church.Ads and helped build a network of churches and partners in our city. We have been commended for the number of churches involved, the amount of money raised, and the impact we have had on non-church people.

This reached a peak with the production of professional quality radio adverts in 2017 – recorded in London with the support of a national funding charity.

Our strategy is changing for two big reasons: firstly, the investment in digital communications by the Church of England at national level is resulting in the decline of the ecumenical approach pursued by Church.Ads; secondly, Deanery Synod voted not to prioritise our radio work for the next few years in favour of other projects…

Our Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee (DMPC) discussed advertising strategies in September. They decided that advertising is best done at local level – although some churches may need support with this. They also felt that cross-city messaging is still worth doing, but may need further thought. They will come back to this at future meetings.

This means that we will not be leading an inter-church advertising campaign this year, but will be encouraging churches to think locally and use helpful resources like #FollowtheStar.

We think this reflects national and cultural shifts, and we hope churches will take advantage of the opportunities they have to reach out.

I hope to run a training session in November.

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Where’s Jesus: Christmas Campaign Report

We put together a campaign based on the theme, “Where’s Jesus?” This was intended to focus on the idea that Jesus can be found in unlikely places, and amongst marginalised people. There was also a tongue-in-cheek link to “Where’s Walley” which we wanted to play with using social media.

A grant of £2,000 from the Jerusalem Trust helped pay for the production of three thirty second radio adverts. This figure includes £1,228.75 for Jungle Studios, who did an amazing job. We also spent money on vocal talent.

There were three adverts. Each one focussed on a different character: a mum who struggles to pay the bills, a refugee and someone who doesn’t have much faith. Each one was humorous, but also attempted to make a serious point about God’s commitment to all people.

We raised and spent £2,572.81 on air-time with Heart MK – reaching an estimated 150,000 people. Our research into previous listener response, and our good relationship with the station, meant we were able to maximise our impact around peak times.

Unfortunately, the station didn’t like the refugee ad because they though it was “too preachy”, but the other two were played. We also ran a web site and a social media campaign with pictures of “Jesus” taken around the city. We paid for Facebook ads to boost this, and this reached over 4,000 people (clicks by 512). With more preparation, we think this aspect of our campaign would be even more successful if we did something similar next year…

The radio adverts were also used by churches in the Newbury area who paid for around £2,000 worth of air-time with Heart FM, a small local station in Aylesbury, and by Radio Shetland, who were willing to use all three adverts.

We have not had time to review the campaign properly yet, but the group feels that a second campaign in 2018 with a similar focus would help build impact. The adverts will also be available for use through Church Ads.

We would like to thank Jerusalem Trust for their grant, which made it possible to produce high-quality audio. We would also like to thank the staff of Jungle Studios, who went way beyond the call of duty to make the adverts work so well. None of this would have been possible, however, without the volunteers who gave time, and the churches who gave so generously.

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We’re Nearly There – But Not Quite!

For the past few years we’ve run a big radio advertising campaign based around the theme “Christmas Starts with Christ”. You’re probably already aware that this year we’ve made three new radio ads of our own linked to this, focussing on the theme of ‘Where’s Jesus?’, because we want to remind people that Jesus was born so God could be with us. The message of the Gospel is for everyone – particularly those who normally feel left out, or left behind – the poor, the marginalised; rough sleepers; the refugees. I hope you’ve managed to hear the ads live on Heart FM (it’s so exciting to hear ones we’ve written and recorded ourselves!), but if not, you can find them on our new website: WheresJesus.uk.

Although 82 services in both Milton Keynes and Newport Pagnell Deaneries have already been listed, not every parish or church has joined in the campaign. It’s not too late – and it’s free! If you’re not sure how to go about it, please email me (admin@mkdeanery.org) and I’ll do my best to help. The site usually gets thousands of hits (especially now the radio ads are repeated more frequently the closer we get to Christmas), so it’s well worth the effort!

We’re nearly there with the funding for this campaign too, so thank you to everyone who has contributed so far. Every single pound has been put to good use, and we appreciate every gift, because the more you put in, the more we can do! We’re not quite there, but are confident that God will provide. The Jerusalem Trust made a very generous grant of £2,000, but this can only be used for the cost of producing the adverts themselves – now and in future years – not air time or other costs. This is where we are:-

(If you would like to download the graph, it can be found in the documents under the Information tab.) If haven’t yet got round to contributing and think you could help us reach our target, now’s the time to do so! Payments need to go to “Milton Keynes Mission Partnership”, CAF Bank Ltd, Sort Code 40-52-40, A/C No. 00030666.

As well as the radio advertising and listing church services on Wheresjesus.uk, we’ve been busy with a visual campaign to make the concept of Jesus being amongst us more real, and get across the message that he’s here in Milton Keynes too! Every day we’ll be posting a different photo on our Facebook site, so please help us to broadcast more widely by copying these to your family and friends.

Finally, and most important of all, please remember to pray – that the Good News will be heard in our homes, streets and churches this year, and that lives will be changed because people discover that Jesus is there for them – not forgetting to give thanks to our wonderful God for his amazing love and provision!

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Christmas Campaign 2017

At Christmas, we usually run a big media campaign linked to “Christmas Starts with Christ”. We’ve used some fun radio ads based on football matches, chat shows, and police chases…

This year we’ve picked the theme “Where’s Jesus?” because we want to remind people that Jesus was born so God could be with us. The message of the Gospel is for everyone – particularly for those who normally feel left out, or left behind.

We’re making three new radio ads based on this theme, and we’ve got a new website: WheresJesus.uk

It promises to be an exciting year!

We need your help!

This won’t happen without the support of local churches. We need your information, your ideas, your help – and your money!

We need your details for our website. It’s our way of telling people where to go for Christmas services and events. The site usually gets thousands of hits, so it’s worth the effort! Follow this link to find out how you can put your services on the website – for FREE!

Getting involved!

We think there are lots of ways you could use the “Where’s Jesus” theme locally. Churches in Newport Pagnell are hunting for Bible characters hidden in their streets. There are lots of possibilities for treasure hunts, story telling and outdoor activities. What could you do to help people think about where Jesus might be today?

We’re planning a couple of city-wide “Where’s Jesus?” events. We’re going to send someone dressed as a classic grown-up Jesus figure, to appear in different parts of the city. If you’d like him to visit you, or you’ve got a really good idea for a photo opportunity, do let us know and we’ll see what we can do. We’re also looking for a couple of really good Jesus costumes, so if you think you could provide one, let us know.

We’re also looking for people to join the team, so if you think you have something to offer, do get in touch.

We need to raise a budget of £5,573 if we’re going to make this happen, but there’s good news already. The Jerusalem Trust have given us £2,000 to pay for the production of the adverts – because they can be used nationally and in future years. We also have a few donations in the bank, so we’re more half way already!!

But that means we still need to find at least £2,000 if we’re going to make a success of this project. Most of the money comes from churches, but we don’t ask for a set figure. In the past, larger churches have given £200 or £300, medium sized churches £50 to £100 and smaller churches £25. We appreciate every gift, because the more you put in, the more we can do!

Donations need to go to the Mission Partnership and details for this will be sent out by email.

Remember to Pray!

Most of all, we need you to pray – that the Good News will be heard in our homes, streets churches this year, and that lives will be changed because people discover that Jesus is there for them!


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Where’s Jesus?

Many people today feel left out, or left behind: the gap between rich and poor is widening as austerity bites; refugees and immigrants feel unwelcome; old and young alike feel marginalised; our society is divided, unfair and stacked in favour of the ‘haves’ against the ‘have-nots’…

In a time like this it’s more important than ever to remember that Jesus came for all – particularly for those who think they’re unworthy to receive him. This is why our Christmas campaign will focus on the theme “Where’s Jesus?” There will be a lot more on this soon, but we wanted to give you a heads up…

Visit: Where’s Jesus? website: wheresjesus.uk

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Easter Advertising

The group looking at advertising has decided not to run a city-wide advertising campaign for Easter 2017. They will focus their attention on Christmas, and will be starting work on this soon after Easter.

Our advertising campaigns have previously included commercial radio and Facebook.  We have been investigating a serious advert in the local paper.  This year we produced three radio adverts that were used elsewhere in the country as part of the national “Christmas Starts with Christ” campaign.

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Report on the “Game Show” Christmas Campaign

Report written for the Jerusalem Trust who funded the production of the adverts


Over the past five years, the churches of Milton Keynes have organised a series of radio-based advertising campaigns linked to material produced by ChurchAds. We have raised money for air-time and produced an effective website with information about local church services.

At Christmas, this has been linked to “Christmas Starts with Christ” and we have been keen to focus our attention on people who have little or no contact with Church. The aim is to do “pre-evangelism” that raises awareness of the Gospel and makes people more positively disposed towards the Christian community.

ChurchAds has been enthusiastic about our campaigns since we generally spend around £3,000 on airtime and involve over 50 churches. Our ads are often heard by over 150,000 people. We therefore do extremely well in terms of reach, fund-raising and ecumenical involvement.

We have an extremely positive relationship with Heart FM which enables us to negotiate very advantageous deals for air-time, ensuring that we get a good number of prime-time slots.

We are now working with church groups in other areas, including Cambridge, Peterborough and Newbury – where we helped a new group form to operate in a similar way.

2016 Campaign

Since there was no new national material available from ChurchAds this year, we took the decision to produce our own. We had some experience of this through past campaigns at Easter when we had worked with Heart FM to produce a thirty second ad. We produced three scripts for Christmas 2016 (starting work in July) and these were refined and cleared for use.

The problem came when the ads were produced by Heart FM. The cost was reasonable (£365 per ad) but the performance was unsatisfactory. It turned out that Heart kept the costs down by recording lines separately in different locations and then editing them together. This didn’t work for comedy or theological subtlety.

The risk at this point was that the campaign would fail to reach sufficient standard for a non-church audience. It had the potential to be “naff” and this would have back-fired. One possible consequence was that our alliance of churches would lose interest and stop supporting the project. This would have had a knock-on effect on other areas.

At this point, time had become very tight and our options were closing…

Grant from Jerusalem

We simply did not have enough resources to re-record the adverts, but this is what we needed to do. The airtime had already been booked, but the new adverts were poor quality and using old adverts would have seriously undermined our momentum. We were therefore grateful for a grant of £2,000 from Jerusalem. This enabled us to book a room at Jungle Studios and pay a group of young actors to provide vocal talent.

With days to spare we had a two-hour session in the studio, where we re-recorded the three adverts. The energy and creativity in the room was quite significant and we came away with three new adverts which were streets ahead in terms of comedy and subtle messages about consumerism, simplicity and the centrality of Christ.

We had three different tags recorded for each advert, which included specific messages for Milton Keynes and Peterborough, plus a generic “Christmas Starts” version and one that has space for a new tag.

The adverts were played on Heart FM in both Peterborough and MK. We are currently collecting evidence from local churches, but the feedback has been good. Our local website in MK recorded 899 new visitors who viewed 4,772 pages. This is a significant proxy-indicator since the adverts were intended to start conversations and change perceptions rather than increase web traffic.

These figures were down by nearly 20% on previous years. The reason for this is almost certainly that we did not have time to organise a multi-media campaign which included video, posters and social media. We spent too much time in November re-recording the adverts and this had a knock-on effect. Ideally we need the ads in October, so we can promote them in churches and build a more sophisticated overall campaign. Failure to do this had an effect on our figures…

Next Steps

Our aim for next year is to start early, drive the production ourselves and use Jungle Studios rather than Heart FM. We aim to build a wider partnership of regional groups who can share production costs – although a grant might help us kick-start the process.
We will also be considering the possibility of an Easter advert, and will need to consider the costs for this.

Tim Norwood

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Christmas Starts with a Radio Campaign…

It was six weeks before Christmas and a group of church leaders were called to a meeting in Milton Keynes. Ali Burnett from ChurchAds had come to talk about a new campaign based on the slogan “Christmas Starts with Christ”. It all sounded like a great idea – a way of reversing some of the negative trends in the public perception of Christmas and Church. At the end of the meeting, Ali turned to us and asked, “Could you run a campaign this year?”

I was one of those church leaders and I remember turning to Ali and saying, “No… but we could do something next year…”

I don’t think she was very convinced, but the timing was right. The Mission Partnership was being reorganised to focus on mission – rather than structures – and new possibilities were opening up. The traditional denominational bodies were becoming stronger and new partners were beginning to emerge. It was actually a really good time to do something big together.

We held a number of meetings over the following year, brought Ali back for a second visit, and gradually began to shape our plans. By the next year we were ready to go, and things were about to get really interesting…

Christmas Starts with Christ

ChurchAds have been around for twenty five years. It began with a group of Christians who were involved in the advertising industry. They’ve produced a number of posters over the years – including a few that have had national impact.

They’ve been focusing on Christmas and Easter because that’s when people are most open to a Christian message.

They also carried out some research and discovered that less than half of the population think that Jesus is relevant to their Christmas. They also discovered that a frighteningly small percentage of the population know the story of Christmas in any detail…

“Christmas Starts with Christ” was identified as a phrase that ordinary non-church people responded to positively. ChurchAds decided to use this slogan over a number of years, because they thought that the repetition would increase the impact. That’s how many big companies get their message across.

The aim of these campaigns is to get people to stop and think – and to overturn some preconceptions. Many people think that the Christian faith is irrelevant or boring. The ChurchAds campaigns tend to suggest that Christian Faith may be worth a second look. They don’t tell anyone what to think, but they can start conversations.

A Radio Campaign?…

ChurchAds started with posters, but the world of advertising has moved on. Posters don’t have the impact that they did in the past, and the internet has had a revolutionary impact on the industry. Internet advertising, however, has a high “avoidance” factor. People just ignore it. TV ads can also be skipped –  thanks to video recorders and online streaming. It turns out that adverts on radio or cinema are the least avoided – and radio is the most trusted medium of all…

It therefore seemed sensible for us to run an advertising campaign on our local commercial radio station – Heart FM. We could reach over 150,000 people for a relatively small amount of money – and there was some great material available which told the Christmas Story in a funny way…

They think it’s all over…

christmas-box-8Our first campaign used two thirty second ads based on the commentary for a football match and a horse race. They were fun, a bit silly, and they got us noticed… We raised £2,500 to pay for the air-time and produced our own web site so people could learn more about the Christian Faith – and find a local carol service.

It worked really well, so we did the same the following year.  We raised a bit more money and involved a few more churches, using a set of adverts based on a chat show…

We did so well that ChurchAds began to take notice. They liked the way we involved a large number of churches and were impressed with the amount of money we could generate. By working collaboratively, locally and ecumenically, we were doing better than any other area in the country!

More than Christmas…

After a couple of years, we were able to run a couple of campaigns at other times of the year. We’ve now done five Christmases, two Easters, and one Fathers’ Day. It’s been a great project for us as churches. It’s demonstrated the value of partnership working and given us a taste of what joined-up mission might look like.


But things were changing for ChurchAds. The work was being funded by a single donor and those funds eventually ran out. Back in Milton Keynes, we were left without material – although we did manage to dig-out some old ads for last year…

Doing it ourselves…

This has meant a change of approach for our group in MK. We used to use material produced for us by somebody else, but this year we have had to move from the role of consumer to producer!

jesusIt hasn’t been a smooth journey, but we’ve learned a lot along the way. For Easter 2016 we worked with the Heart FM team to produce our first advert. The idea was for something that sounded like the trailer for a superhero movie. We linked it to the national campaign being run by ChurchAds and it sounded pretty good – although some of the voices didn’t quite work…

It was a big step for MK and showed that we could produce high-quality material ourselves – with a little help from the experts. The next step was to do Christmas…

A Funny Old Game…

We run this whole project in an unusual way… Rather than have a fixed committee, we have a “turn-up-ocracy”. In other words, I send out an invitation to a wide group of people from a range of different churches. Those who are interested turn up and make the decisions for the next phase.

hashtagIt works really well, because it keeps the circle of involvement wide, and it’s possible for us to make collaborative decisions. We generally meet three or four times a year, and it’s always fun. Heart FM usually host the meeting, and new-comers often get a studio tour.

Back in July 2016 a group gathered to plan Christmas. They decided to commission three new adverts for Christmas 2016 – which was a really ambitious step! We had a separate brain-storming session and came up with the idea of three adverts based on TV game shows…

And this is where it got really interesting. We worked with the professionals on the scripts and they were then sent away for recording. The recordings came back after a while. They were okay, but something wasn’t quite right. We made some suggestions and tried again.

It turned out that the problem was with the way the recordings were being made. In order to save money, each line was being recorded in a separate location and then edited together afterwards. Once we realised that this was the way the production worked, we began to understand why it was so difficult to get the right subtlety of voice or bring out the humour. This is no criticism of the studio. They bent over backwards to help us and were very patient. I knew that we needed something extra if we were going to have the impact we wanted.

Going into the studio…

Ali was very helpful at this point and suggested going to the Jerusalem Trust with a request for a small grant. Jerusalem were very generous and gave us enough money to go to Jungle Studios in London and recruit a few actors.

christmas-lightsIt was the middle of November and time was getting tight, but it all came together. It was quite an experience. We spent two hours in the studio with some really talented people. They tried the lines in a variety of ways until we were satisfied. We also edited down the scripts so we could keep within the thirty second limit – while getting both the humour and the theology.

A highlight for me was the ad originally known as “Cooking up Christmas”. We suggested that one of the lines should be delivered like the mad scientist from Back to the Future. We also tweaked the script to keep the time down and ended up with the line “Christmas lights you can see from space!” – which he delivered like a mad scientist from the Muppets.

It was a great session and everyone enjoyed it. The guy doing the recording for us said he was going to take them home and play them to his vicar!

Where next?

As we move forward with this project we have some real opportunities. We have shown that it’s possible for churches in an area like this to work together and make an impact. We’ve also learned a lot about the world of commercial radio and the mechanics of advert production…

On the other hand, we won’t be able to rely on material from ChurchAds, and the Jerusalem Trust won’t repeat their generous grant next year…

We do, however, have links with a number of areas who are now trying to do something similar. Perhaps the next step is for us to work with them to produce adverts together. If four areas all put £500 into the pot we would have enough to run the whole thing ourselves…

But that’s something for our “turn-up-ocracy” to discuss when they meet in 2017…



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DLT Report – October 2016

The Deanery Leadership Team (DLT) consists of the six Deanery officers, who meet regularly to plan activity and share leadership.

Church Inspections

The summer is always dominated by the annual Church inspections which we carry out on behalf of the archdeacon. Each church has to be visited once every three years, and there is a list of questions that we have to ask the churchwardens. It can be really useful for new wardens, because it gives them an idea of what their role might involve. It’s also a good way of maintaining good links between churches and deanery officers. Our Deanery Administrator, Linda Kirk, spends a lot of time booking the inspections – which often involves finding out who the new churchwardens are. The Area Dean, Tim Norwood, visits roughly half the churches each year – usually with one other DLT member. We’ve just finished this year’s inspections, and are currently processing the results…

Refugees Welcome

Work has continued on the Refugees Welcome campaign. During the summer we welcomed three new families to Milton Keynes through the United Nations relocation scheme. National government provides the money to pay for accommodation, but Refugees Welcome MK has coordinated the preparation of the houses, and is working closely with the Red Cross to help families integrate. Members of our churches donated furniture and money (through the Church of Christ the Cornerstone) and volunteers helped prepare the houses. The next round of arrivals will probably be later in the year…

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Christmas Starts with Christ

We have already started our planning for Christmas. We held a meeting to review the Easter advertising campaign and think ahead to December… This year we have commissioned three radio adverts that will be produced for us by Heart FM. This is a big change on previous years when we’ve used material produced by Church Ads. They no longer have funding for this, so our adverts may well be used elsewhere. Watch this space…

Weaving Trust

The EU referendum was followed by a rapid change in government. We have a new Prime Minister, and are now waiting to see what Brexit will actually look like. One of the unfortunate consequences of all this has been a rise in hate crime and “everyday racism”. There were a few emergency meetings organised by Citizens to gauge the impact on local communities, some of whom feel that their right to be here is being questioned. The language used about immigrants has clearly damaged trust between groups of people in our city.
In this light, the Weaving Trust campaign has become even more significant. We’ve had a number of events over the summer which took place in the Council Offices, the Quaker Meeting House, the Synagogue and Downs Barn Church. This has been a significant project for Tim, but he’s now planning to hand over leadership of the campaign group to somebody else, so he can concentrate on new work.

More about Weaving Trust


By popular demand, we organised a second Churchwardens evening. Our Lay Chair, David Thom, hosted a night of information, discussion and cake. We hope to do another event like this next year, probably soon after the next Churchwarden elections have taken place

Deanery Chapter

There was a Deanery Chapter meeting in July, organised by our Chapter Clerk, Keith Straughan. Over the past few years few years we’ve only had three Chapter meeting each year, because attendance can be patchy otherwise, and people have so many other commitments. There is a desire for more frequent events, so the DLT have been asked to look at a monthly Eucharist and sandwich lunch. This is being discussed and may start in January…

New Start for Water Eaton

St Frideswide’s Church in Water Eaton has been without an incumbent for ten years. It is the most deprived parish in the Diocese, according the Church Urban Fund figures, but it has not been possible to appoint a stipendiary minister. A team of self-supporting clergy have resourced the church through a Local Shared Ministry Scheme, and Tim has been providing interim ministry for the past three years.
After a great deal of work it is now time for a new start. The boundaries have been changed so that the parish will incorporate the new developments in Eaton Leys. The Deanery and Archdeaconry have also agreed to support a new full-time post with a major emphasis on community engagement. Significant changes are underway and we hope to advertise in the new year. Please keep praying for this church and the congregation as they look to the future…

St Frideswide Web Site


The national memorial for the Memorable Order of Tin Hats is behind the library in CMK. Tim once again acted as “padre” for the MOTHs at their national memorial service in September. This is always a moving event.

Watling Valley, Whaddon Way and Newton Leys

In September we welcomed three new ministers. Steve Summerfield was inducted as minister of Whaddon Way Church – in a service led jointly by Tim and the Baptist Area Leader. The new Methodist circuit Superintendent, Dawn Saunders, will be giving half of her time to Watling Valley. Ben Thorpe will be leading a project in Newton Leys. It’s exciting to see new things happening in these places, but keep praying for Woughton, Great Linford and Water Eaton where we hope to appoint new clergy soon…

And also…

There’s so much more happening in MK Deanery, but we can’t cover it all in detail:

  • Tim has been supporting churches with Sunday services, weddings and baptisms…
  • We have a new proposal for the Rector post in Woughton and a new profile is being drawn up…
  • Tim is now covering the “Community Engagement” brief for the Mission Partnership…
  • We have a new Archdeacon…
  • There will be a preaching course in Spring/Summer
  • John Robertson is working on a lay leadership training programme using the methodology of “community organising”
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