Focus on Mission and Technology Will Follow

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on August 23, 2010

in Catholic, ministry, technology, Uncategorized

In a survey that I put out a few days ago, I invited respondents to submit any questions they have about technology and mission. The majority of these respondents, like you, are already sold on using technology for mission. Many of them asked the question that I hear again and again “How can we get [fill in the blank] to see the importance of having a web presence, (using email or a shared calendar or social media or whatever)? As we have learned from experience, it is nearly impossible to get anyone to do something they don’t want to do. Technology is no exception.

We are not in the business of selling technology. We are in the “business” of building the kingdom of God on earth, loving God and neighbor, and practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Let’s keep our focus there. Let’s speak of technology after we have clearly established that our goal is to be more effective and impactful in our ministry. In every case be as specific as possible. For example, we can get the word about a program, service or resource to more people, more quickly if we do an email broadcast, or post it on Twitter, Facebook, or our Homepage. That means that we need to have an email broadcast system and email addresses, have a website that can be updated, and have profiles with followers on Twitter and Facebook. We do not want to have a Facebook page just to have a Facebook page. We want to update people on our programs, events, resources, etc. quickly. We can do that on Facebook. Just type the info and click “Share”.

We have come a long  way in using technology. Many of us began using it to carry out our tasks more efficiently and more creatively. (Do you remember your first flier or newsletter done on the computer or the first database you set up?) Now technology allows us to focus on the people we serve and the world we want to impact in a more dynamic way. It also provides us with many tools and resources to be more effective and to have greater impact. That’s what we need to be talking about when we talk about technology.

When we look at our websites, the question is not—have we told visitors what we want them to know, but rather have we given the visitors what they want to know. This requires us to ask who are the visitors and what do they need. The same holds true for every new application we find. The clearer we are about the goal we are trying to accomplish in using it, the easier it will be for others to get onboard. The first question is not about which technology to use. The first question is how it can help us to serve our people better. Can it make our services and expertise more accessible to them? Can it make transactions like registration and getting directions, more convenient for them? Can it help us to bring the teachings of the Church to more people? Can it help us bring more people to Christ? If the mission is always the focus of our conversations about technology, we will have greater success in using it ourselves and in helping others to use it as well.

The other way we can help our superiors, co-workers and constituencies think more positively about using the new technologies is to be good models. We need to keep updating ourselves and using the appropriate technologies to advance the mission of the Church in every way we can. I will write more about this topic in future posts.

Please share your comments below.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Deacon John Giglio August 23, 2010 at 11:37 am

I remember when I first got a computer and printer years ago. I would type and print articles from the Vatican and give copies to the priests of my parish. I thought that was a good way to spread the teachings of the Church. Now I have a number of blogs with different themes like Pro-Life, Liturgy, Mary Our Mother, etc. Instead of reaching a few people of the parish, I can reach thousands (and I do) through the Internet. That’s the only reason for me to have a Facebook page or be on Twitter, or even to publish a blog: to spread the Gospel and the teachings of the Church! All for the glory of God! Keep up the “good works”, Sister Susan! 🙂

Dave Pipitone August 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Hi Sr. Susan,

Congratulations on launching this important mission to help people evangelize through the Internet.

So many people like to connect through online means today. I receive so many more e-mails than I do phone calls these days.

I was a member of the Evangelization committee for the Archdiocese of Chicago that published “Spreading the Holy Fire” – an evangelization plan for the Archdiocese, back in 2001. We put up a website, http://www.goingforth.org back then, which was just at the very beginning of the online demand for information.

The PEW studies on religion and the Internet have been pointing out the growing trend for people seeking and finding relevant information about religion on line. With the advent of social media, those searches and discussions are going to a new level.

All the best to you in this new way of reaching out to evangelize and spread the Gospel!

Marc Cardaronella August 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I think you’re right in establishing the fact that our business is building the kingdom of God and not technology is a very good start. We have to think in those terms first and then try to understand how technology will fit into the plan to spread the gospel and the teachings of the Church as Deacon John said above. We have the goal, now how does technology fit into the plan.

The Web is still really quite new to most professionals in Church ministry. Now almost everyone is going online to look stuff up and using email. Few are comfortable using Web 2.0 tools though. However, that’s going to change. As more tools become available and easy to use, and people in Church ministry see the value of using those tools, online integration into Church “business” will become more mainstream. I think we need to use it effectively and show our colleagues the great value of Web 2.0 interaction.

David Byers September 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Earlier this year, the Diocese of Salina, Kansas, completed a detailed Pastoral Plan. The task now is to invite folks to understand and adopt that Plan, and by far the most promising way to do so is by to use diocesan and parish websites, Facebook and Twitter. The technology is plainly at the service of the goal, which is nothing less than the revitalization of Catholic life in north central and northwest Kansas. If anyone should ask, as we go along, “Why do we have to use the website (or whatever)?” pastoral leaders have a ready answer: “Because it enables us to become better stewards, or to pursue together the universal call to holiness (or whatever).” Technology then is no longer a burden but a useful tool.

Sr. Susan’s point is commonsensical, along the lines of “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” However, common sense is often rare and always welcome. Thanks, Sr. Susan. We shall carry on in Kansas!

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