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Opening Digital Doors: Why Digital Interpretation Matters for Places of Worship

Published: 12 Mar 2024

Places of worship are at the heart of our historic environment. They are often the buildings with the longest period of continuous use in a community and as such, they are storehouses of collective memory, cultural identity and regional history. While their primary purpose is spiritual, places of worship are increasingly recognised as tourism destinations. A 2023 report by Visit England revealed that religious tourism has grown by 117% versus the previous year with family group visits increasing by 43%.

Visitors are drawn to the grandeur of cathedrals, the serenity of temples, and the unique traditions practiced within these sacred spaces and the benefits are numerous. Tourism revenue helps with maintenance, preservation, and outreach programs. It also encourages intercultural understanding and appreciation for diverse faiths.

However, some religious institutions face challenges in balancing tourism with their primary function. Striking a careful balance is crucial to ensure these sacred spaces remain welcoming to both worshippers and visitors. Digital interpretation tools offer a promising solution. These tools, such as audio guides, multimedia guides, and virtual tours, can tell the rich story of the place of worship without intruding on the sanctity of prayer or quiet reflection.

Why go digital?

There are numerous compelling reasons why places of worship should consider incorporating digital interpretation into their visitor strategy:

  1. Enhance Accessibility and Inclusivity for Remote / Virtual Visitors:

Not everyone can physically visit a place of worship due to geographical limitations, health concerns, or physical disabilities. Digital tools, like virtual tours with detailed descriptions and captioning for services, can bridge this gap. This allows individuals from diverse backgrounds and abilities to explore the space, learn about its history and significance, and participate in spiritual experiences, fostering a truly inclusive environment, all from the comfort of their own home. Take a look at the virtual tour we created for St James’s Piccadilly.

  1. Welcome a Broader Congregation:

The internet offers a global platform to reach a broader audience than ever before. Through digital visitor guides or virtual tours, places of worship can connect with individuals who might not have been aware of their existence or live too far away to visit in person. This outreach can spark curiosity, encourage future visits, and even foster a sense of connection and belonging within a wider faith community. For St Mary’s Church, Chalgrove, we designed a website to provide an introduction to the story of their medieval paintings, as well as creating an on-site multimedia guide.

  1. Engage with the Digital Generation:

Today’s generation, particularly young audiences, rely on digital platforms for information and communication. Having a user-friendly website, engaging social media presence, and accessible digital resources such as multimedia guides with a family tour option, allows them to explore at their own pace and in a way that resonates with them. See how we helped Christ Church, Oxford, here.

  1. Offer a Richer Visitor Experience:

Digital interpretation tools can go beyond simply providing basic information. They can offer in-depth narratives, historical insights, and multimedia elements like photos, videos, and interactive maps. This allows visitors, both physical and virtual, to delve deeper into the unique stories, symbolism, and significance of the space, enriching their understanding and appreciation. For St Paul’s Cathedral, London, we produced a rich variety of multimedia which included audio, filmed interviews, animations, graphic games and interactives.

  1. Provide Additional Resources and Support:

Digital platforms can serve as a repository for additional resources and materials, such as sermon transcripts, historical documents, or information about ongoing events and programs. This allows individuals to further explore their faith, learn more about the community, and engage in meaningful ways beyond physical visits.


Beyond the Basics: Exploring Digital Interpretation Options:

While digital visitor guides and virtual tours are valuable starting points, places of worship can explore further digital interpretation methods to enhance engagement and accessibility:

  • Interactive 360° Tours: Offer a fully immersive experience, allowing users to navigate the space virtually and explore details at their own pace.
  • Audio and Multimedia Guides and Apps: Provide visitors with self-guided tours, narrating stories and insights as they explore the space or through headphones.
  • Interactive Quiz Games: Engage younger audiences and families through interactive activities that test their knowledge and deepen their understanding.
  • Interviews and Q&A Sessions: Host online sessions with clergy or members to answer questions and foster connection with a wider audience.
  • Social Media Engagement: Utilise platforms like Instagram or Facebook to showcase daily activities, events, or behind-the-scenes glimpses of the community.


Taking the Digital Leap: Getting Started

Implementing digital interpretation strategies doesn’t require elaborate technology or significant investments. Starting small, with a basic digital visitor guide or a virtual tour of the main sanctuary, can be an excellent first step.

By embracing the power of digital tools, places of worship can extend their reach beyond physical boundaries, connect with a diverse audience, and foster a more inclusive and engaging experience for everyone seeking spiritual exploration and connection.

In a world increasingly shaped by digital interactions, embracing these tools becomes not just an option, but an opportunity to connect with the hearts and minds of individuals seeking meaning and belonging in their faith journey.

We’ve put together a video to share best practice from across the sector – you can watch it here.

We’re always happy to have an initial chat and explore what options may be most appropriate for your church or place of worship – please call us on 02392 595000 or email

If you would like to discover more about going digital then take a look at our helpful guides: Are You Ready To Go Digital? and Creating Great On-Site Experiences.

How can we help?