Historically, many ringers started learning due to an existing involvement with the Church. Perhaps they were members of the choir, or attended services anyway, so learning to ring was a natural part of their worship. But these days, with smaller congregations attending many churches, the pool of people to recruit from is reduced. Many ringers do not attend services (although they are usually very willing to support the overall aims and beliefs of the Church), and there are also plenty of people who find that their hobby of ringing provides a gentle introduction to attending church regularly.
Talk to your Vicar or Church Wardens about the possibility of holding a “bellringers’ service”, which ringers from the area might wish to attend, alongside the regular congregation. You could open the tower afterwards so that anyone who is interested could come up and see the bells or watch the ringing. If you have CCTV in your belfry, consider projecting live streaming of the bells onto a screen in the church so that those attending the service can watch them being rung.
If your church has a regular family service (such as ‘Messy Church’ or ‘Cafe Church’), they might also like to hold a service themed on bells. This worked well at All Saints’ Marsworth, where children made and brought along their own bells (many of which had been yoghurt pots in a previous life). Even though most of the children were too young to learn to ring, it raised awareness of ringing as a normal part of church life.
The bell team might also like to join in with other non-ringing related Church activities – ringers volunteering to be on the grass cutting rota, helping out occasionally with the cleaning, manning a stall at the church fete or attending the Benefice lunch are all great ways to show support for the wider Church community and get to know people. Familiarity also makes the team easier to approach if someone does wish to learn to ring.
Joining in with things aside, do always invite your PCC and Vicar up to meet the bell team and make it clear that they are welcome to drop in and visit you on practice nights – a good relationship between the ringers and the Church is essential.
We are a combined Roade/Ashton band and one of our ringers is a Sunday School Teacher at Ashton. One Sunday morning she explained to the children why the bells were not rung for service that Sunday morning. Within two weeks we had six young recruits and after 18 months we have still got four of these who are now ringing call changes and starting Plain Hunt.
A poster campaign and notices read in services were good for setting the scene – but a personal appearance and appeal by one or more ringers in a service was really helpful; the side-effect is that you’re appealing to people likely to be available on a Sunday. It also establishes a personal connection – potential recruits know your face.
In 2012, the PCC adopted an altruistic mission plan, that involves us partnering with others outside of our parish to grow our church and the churches in our benefice and across the Diocese. In doing so, we have increased our footfall from 6 a week to over 100 and the utilisation of the church from one use a fortnight to nine uses five days each week and the foundation to do this is through the use of our bells.
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