Banchory West Church goes on The One Show

Rev Tony Stephen of Banchory West Church.

A north-east minister is appearing on The One Show to explain why he encourages his flock to use their mobile phones during Sunday services. (The appearance was scheduled for Monday 28 March but was pulled at the last minute. The One Show has apologised and says the segment will be rescheduled for a future date. We apologise for any incovenience.)

The Rev Tony Stephen of Banchory West Church said devices were one way of helping the congregation to grow and flourish while face-to-face relationships were key.

The One Show suggested more and more people were donating money via direct debit through mobile apps - a handy method that was increasingly replacing the traditional collection plate.

Mr Stephen, who was interviewed by a crew from the BBC One magazine programme along with other congregation members, said: "We actually encourage people to keep their phones on in church.

"We want people to ask questions so we have a dedicated anonymous text number that is used to challenge me during the sermon.

"Many people have the bible on their phone and we installed wifi in the church so that people can stay connected and share what's going on.

"We want them to be engaged and I think that's why people respond so well and we continue to grow."

Mr Stephen said he was approached by The One Show producers in London who had been told that Banchory West Church was bucking a national trend and growing from strength to strength.

He added that he was very pleased that the film crew saw for themselves a queue of people waiting for the church to open a week past Sunday.

Mr Stephen said parishioners donated about £120,000 a year to Banchory West Church despite the current economic challenges.

"The majority of our giving is by direct debit or a similar method," he added.

"About 8% of our offerings come in in the offering bowls - around £9000 a year."

Mr Stephen said about 53% of the money raised was spent on staffing costs.

"We want that to be our priority - people," he added.

"We support our minister, a youth coordinator, administrator, music director, other support staff, a youth project and a food bank among a range of other outreaches and work with people of all ages.

"We invest in staff to support the huge team of volunteers who serve gladly and make the difference."

Banchory West Church, which has a weekly attendance of about 190 people, gives about £25,000 a year to the Church of Scotland central fund which is used to help support Kirk work in less well-resourced areas of the country.

"We try to keep costs of the buildings, heat and light to a minimum and keep the focus on people and serving," said Mr Stephen.

"On top of all that the church community gave around £32,000 to outside organisations serving the poor and vulnerable locally and worldwide.

"I am blown away by people's generosity."

Asked if people were reluctant to donate money, the minister said they were more than happy to support a "cause"or "vision".

Mr Stephen said: "We at the West Church see ourselves called to be a 'blessing machine' in the heart of the community.

"We believe we were created to serve the community.

"And so when we present the challenge of how we want to serve, and explain clearly and simply where the money goes, people are happy to join in with what they can offer."