Internet Ministry Can Serve Many People

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on September 14, 2010

in Catholic, ministry, Uncategorized

In our reading of the gospels, we learn that Jesus engaged people individually and in large groups as he preached and taught his message. He walked the length and breadth of his homeland to be with them. We who follow Jesus accept his commission to take his message to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20). Today that includes to cyberspace where many people are gathering. They go online for information, goods, services, entertainment, communication and engagement. Some are looking for answers to their questions about God, the Church, and faith.

A recap of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes story (Matthew 15: 32-38) reminds us that no matter how much things change, they always remain the same. The crowd was large and the people had been with Jesus for a few days. He did not want to send them home without giving them something to eat. The disciples said, “How could we ever get enough food for this crowd?” Jesus told the disciples to bring him what little food they had and have the people sit on the ground. He blessed the food, gave it to the disciples to distribute, and everyone had enough to eat with some left over.

We are in a similar situation with Internet ministry today. The people are on the Internet. According to Internetworldstats.com, there are 239,893,600 Internet users in the U.S. (as of June 2010). That represents a 77.3% penetration. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to raise that to 90% by 2020. I can hear Jesus saying, “Let’s feed them.” And I can hear many ministers saying, “Where will we find the time, money, or resources to do it?”

We don’t lack resources. We just have to bring what we have to Jesus, accept his blessing and get started. When our faith communities, ministry formation programs, parishes, dioceses, organizations, and religious communities do that, we will be taking the Good News to the whole world.

What can or do you bring to Internet ministry?  What can or does your Catholic community or organization bring to Internet ministry?  Your observations, comments, and questions are most welcome.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan Torres September 14, 2010 at 11:30 am

I began a blog last January and have enjoyed writing it. Most often I write about things I need to hear, things I have learned that need to be reinforced in my own spirituality. People tell me they enjoy it, and we plug it in the bulletin. But I am not getting many hits or subscriptions. How can I expand my readership?

David Byers September 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

Sr. Susan: I’m working right now on a communications strategy to support implementation of a Pastoral Plan in the Diocese of Salina, Kansas. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND September 14, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Joan brings up a common issue–how to get more traffic to a blog. Here are some of the best practices that I have heard from successful bloggers.

1) Readers will come if they know the blog is for them and it meets a need they want met. Ask yourself who is your target audience? Does everything about your blog speak to them? The title and the subtitle of the blog, the titles of the posts and most importantly the content need to speak attractively and directly to your intended audience.

2) Write about what you know. Readers want authenticity.

3) Blogging was one of the first types of social media. That means it needs to engage people. Are you doing that by the questions you raise? Is it clear that you want people to respond to your posts? Are you encouraging them to share your posts with others by email, on Facebook and Twitter?

4) But even if you are targeting your content and trying to engage the reader, in the end you must also promote your blog in multiple ways. You can get new readers by commenting on other blogs (like you did today); inviting people through email campaigns or on other forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

It takes a lot of work to build up a blog’s readership. Perhaps other bloggers could tell us what they do to increase traffic to their blogs.

Marc Cardaronella September 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

This is very inspirational. Thanks!

Sean Ater September 15, 2010 at 5:42 pm

What great insights! The biggest objection I get from colleagues is that “they just don’t have the time for it.” They are right in the sense that it does take time and effort. The first thing is to decide if it is worth it to dedicate your time to it. In my position, I am in charge of the catechetical and evangelization efforts of my parish. Social Media is a tool that helps me accomplish both of these goals! For me, it is well worth the effort!

The USCCB document on adult faith formation “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” talked about doing “non gathered” catechesis 10 years ago. They had no idea what was to come with the social media revolution. In a sense they were prophetic, and it tells me that the time I put into efforts at evangelization & catechesis that happen in cyperspace and not a meeting room is well within the vision for comprehensive faith formation as put forth by the Bishops.

In my parish we are using a lot of social media platforms – facebook http://companies.to/ihom/, Twitter http://twitter.com/IHMParish, We do video on http://vimeo.com/channels/ihom and podcasting on http://ihm.podbean.com/ and a LinkedIn Group at http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2411908. Even with all of this, I feel like I have only scratched the surface of the possibilities social media offers to spread the Good News!

Sr Margaret Kerry,fsp September 15, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Thank you Sr Susan!

Recently I submitted an article to the Boston Pilot (Catholic paper) “Texting in the Spirit.” I asked Domenico Bettinelli, Creative Director of the Office of New Media and Special Initiatives of the Archdiocese of Boston, what he thinks may be the biggest area of concern regarding social media in church life. We corresponded via Facebook:

“I think the biggest area of social media that needs to be addressed in the Church is parishes communicating with their parishioners in all the various forms,” he wrote, “whether it’s a parish web site or bulletins or a parish email list or Facebook/Twitter sites or audio/video podcasts. In fact, the more ways a parish can communicate with as wide of an audience, the better.”

Benedict XVI has this terrific statement on the new media: “Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts, say once more: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).

There are more requests from Diocesan offices, religious educators and parents for workshops on Social Media. I am a co-presenter for “Catechizing a Digital Generation” at the Pastoral Center in Boston this November. Within this workshop there will be hands on portions and insights re: Social media so that is applicable to Catechesis across the spectrum of teaching and faith community.

Our congregation, Daughters of St Paul, are also on the Internet in various ways: web site (pauline.org) online Catholic store, apps, e-books, video, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Two of our sister answer questions for “Ask a Nun” Facebook site. When it comes to the Internet six degrees of separation is three degrees. Each Social Media area engages the other. Sisters on Facebook and Twitter network with each other and then with friends and followers. We are also developing workshops for parishes, media literacy for schools (in conjunction with book and media fairs – jclubcatholic.org) and reflective Communication Spirituality workshops.

Holy Spirit descend upon the Apostles gathered in new media and enable us to preach the Gospel to all nations with courage! ( Acts 2:1-13) May we have the courage, as Benedict XVI prays, to persevere and seek new methods of evangelization, so as to reach areas as yet unexplored.”

Lisa Hendey September 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I concur with Sr. Margaret’s comments above. When I go out and speak in parishes, I find that the parents are hungry for information on how to faithfully supervise their children’s usage of all forms of technology. I’m thrilled to see that our online Catholic community is flourishing!

As a blogger, I have learned to stop contemplating numbers and statistics. It many sound “Pollyanna” to say “If I’ve helped one reader today to draw closer to Christ, I’ve done my job,” but that’s honestly the way I feel now about my work. It’s easy to get bogged down in trying to figure out how to draw more traffic. The truth is that if you write what is in your heart and soul, and write it well, readers will learn about your work. I think the key is actively networking online, being present in social media sites, and being a participant in the Catholic community online. Great topic!

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