The Hoopeston First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is looking to better reach people through a new website and new focus on social media.

Rev. Tom Cici spoke with The Chronicle recently about the church’s efforts to better serve its congregation and the Hoopeston community through the new website and social media.

Cici said they started working on the project in June after first getting the idea from a meeting at the East Prairie Clergy of the Illinois-Wisconsin Church Region.

Cici is a member of the clergy and attends monthly meetings of the group and at a meeting, in March or April, the Rev. Angelique Byrd, Associate Regional Minister for the Illinois-Wisconsin Church Region of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, spoke about the importance of websites and social media for small churches.

“In small towns, people come in and out a lot and they may be looking for a new church,” he said.

Byrd told Cici that just having a Facebook page isn’t good enough any more and that churches need more than one social media platform.

Byrd recommended what social media platforms the churches could use and said her office would build websites for the churches if they were interested.

Cici took was Byrd told him to the church board and the board was in favor of moving forward with establishing three social media sites for the church along with the new website.

Cici said the board also took the step to seek out the opinions of younger congregation members to see what social media platforms youths are using today.

“We found out that our youth are not using Facebook as much as others,” he said. “They’re using Instagram and they’re using Twitter.”

The church established a presence on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Cici hopes that creating a new website and having an increased social media presence will allow people who are new to the community the chance to see what the church has to offer.

After a discussion with his wife about creating a new website, Cici said it was interesting to consider how people today generally want to look into a place online first before they actually visit it in person.

“People don’t go anywhere until they visit it online,” he said. “People need to know us and see us before they come out.”

Along with the new website, Cici said, the church opted to start broadcasting Sunday sermons via video on the new site.

Cici said many of the churches in the East Prairie Clergy have been utilizing video broadcasting for their sermons for some time.

“We thought, well, we’ll go ahead and do the same thing,” he said.

The church reached out to Andy Bane to help get the video recording system set for them.

Bane grew up in Hoopeston and his parents are Mike and Sue Bane.

Sue Bane works at the church and recommended the church utilize Andy, who handles broadcast equipment for a living, to set up the new system.

Bane ordered all of the equipment the church needed for the new system and returned to Hoopeston the week prior to Thanksgiving to visit family and set up the new system at the church.

In addition to the broadcast system, Bane also installed three flat screen televisions in the church nursery, children’s church and in the church library.

Cici said each of these locations can house children and adults who are teaching during the worship service.

He said the screens will allows these individuals to follow the worship service as class is going on.

Bane worked with Jeff and Alec Wise to set-up the system and Alec is staying after the service each Sunday to upload the sermon to the website.

Cici said Tim Walsh has also been a big help in training members of congregation on how to use the equipment.

He said Bane was only able to stay at the church for a few hours, so he didn’t have time to train everyone, so Walsh stepped in to take the time to train more members of the church during the rest of December.

“So now we have a nice little staff who run the camera and PowerPoint,” Cici said.

The website went live Dec. 8 and the first video sermon went up on the site that weekend.

“We’re excited that this is available for the community if they want to listen to it,” he said.

Cici said the video sermons aren’t just for new people coming into the community, they’re also for the members of the congregation who can’t make it to the services every Sunday due to weather, other obligations or having moved away from Hoopeston.

“During the winter months, we know that a lot of our congregants are elderly and don’t want to get out in the snow and ice,” he said.

When the idea of broadcasting the sermons was put to the congregation, Cici said the congregation was in favor of the idea and many of the congregants said they already listen to other sermons online as they’re following the churches where they children or grandchildren who have moved away from home attend church.

“We feel that we’re doing a service to the community and doing an extra service our congregation,” he said. “We know that, in a few years, some of our youth will be going to college and going into the military, this is one of the ways they can stay in touch with the church and community.”

Cici said the website and social media platforms are the current medium of society and the church wants to be a part of that.

“We want to be in the 21st century,” he said. “It took 20 years to be in the 21st century, unfortunately, but we’re there. So we’re happy that we’re there.”

Check out the new First Christian Church website at www.fcchoopeston.org.