Seven Steps to Add Internet Ministries to Your Service Offerings

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on February 7, 2011

in Catholic, Diocese, ministry, parish, social media, technology, Uncategorized, website

It is not unusual for people to expect a place of ministry or an organization to have a website. It is not unusual for people to ask if they can follow the ministry on Facebook or Twitter. And of course, all people in service and leadership ministries are expected to have and use email. So why are there so few good parish, diocesan and organizational websites? Why aren’t we using social media to communicate, collaborate, educate, evangelize and catechize in the normal course of our work? And why are there people in ministry still refusing to have email, use it, or to respond in a timely manner to email requests from collaborators, members, inquirers? Why don’t we have more high quality Catholic blogs? There are as many reasons as there are people in ministry resisting Internet ministries.

Not everyone needs to be designing a website or posting to Facebook—but leaders of parishes and dioceses, organizations and religious communities need to find ways to incorporate the Internet and social media into their offerings. They need to draw on their experience and do what they have done many times before when they have added a new ministry:

  1. Do research. Identify the Internet/social media services that would most benefit your community, i.e. an electronic newsletter, a discussion board, a reserved section of your website for committees, an email distribution list, a Facebook page, etc.
  2. Get buy-in. Talk to your staff, your members, and your volunteers. Ask them if there is anything that the organization can do online that would make their work easier or more effective. If they don’t have an answer the first time you ask, invite them to think about it and get back to you.
  3. Get help. What have you done when you have been faced with a challenge in the past? You have searched out people with the skills you need and have recruited them as volunteers or hired them as staff. Do that with Internet services as well.
  4. Make a plan in collaboration with the people who will use and benefit from the technology.  You do not have to do everything at once. Just get started and be smart about your growth.
  5. Set a budget. That says it is a priority.
  6. Set expectations. Let it be known that you are committing your organization to being present and active on the Internet and in social media as part of your ministry.
  7. Stay the course. The Internet is not going away—be there for the sake of the Kingdom.

What do you think? Can our organizations and communities incorporate Internet and social media presence into the way we do ministry? What happens if we don’t?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Pipitone February 7, 2011 at 9:41 am

Hi Sr. Susan,

Thanks again for another informative and relevant post with practical advice on setting up a solid foundation for electronic media strategy.

There is a very interesting new book titled “Flash Foresight: Seven Radical Principles That Will Transform Your Business” by Daniel Burrus, published in January, 2011. Mr. Burrus is a recognized forecaster and corporate strategist, with a reputation for accurately predicting the future of technological change.

He counts use of the Internet as a “hard trend” – something that will continue to develop and grow. Using the Internet and electronic media is here to stay – that is where many people are looking today. So ministry applications are very necessary.

One of my favorite real life examples is Paul Jarzembowksi, the Director of Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet and President of the National Catholic Young Adult Association.

Paul uses his Facebook page and posts to evangelize on a regular basis about what he’s doing, what themes he sees in movies, TV shows, events for Catholic young adults, etc. The number of Paul’s friends on Facebook is growing and the quality of the feedback and comments to his Facebook posts is excellent.

If Paul can do this, why not anyone else who is serious about witnessing to the Catholic faith?

Louise Huberty February 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm

This is great, however, there are many people who refuse to use the Internet even if they have a computer. I suppose we still have to honor their option and continue with those who do use the Internet. They are missing out on so much when they stubbornly stay with the past.

Sr.Maureen February 8, 2011 at 8:42 am

This is really a grand opportunity of help for those who have not taken the step as yet to begin to use the internet. I think listing the 7 steps might spur some on to actually taking the steps. Nicely done, Susan.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND February 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

Thanks for your comments everyone.

Dave, I have added Flash Foresight to our Book Store.
See book store tab above. And you are so right–Paul Jarzembowksi does a great job with his Facebook page.

Marc Cardaronella February 9, 2011 at 11:51 am

I think a most of people in diocesan and parish leadership are simply not tech savvy and don’t understand the value in internet technologies. I find they’re often not willing to innovate on anything, much less social media. That’s like asking them to evangelize on the moon! But I can see this changing. More and more leadership is starting to recognize the need for this. Especially since the Pope and the bishops are jumping in saying we need to do it. The problem now is educating people on how to do it and spending the money to set up good systems.

Thanks for the post!

Don McCrabb February 10, 2011 at 5:30 am

Several thoughts.

Something is gained through social media. Something is also lost.

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. People need information – some more than others – on what the promise is and how to get from ground zero to a successful application. People also need to see the benefit; they need to see how it will be good for them. People also need a clear path – a clear how to – from where we are to where we are going. Eventually, people will need to see the impact – who is served and how is it positively impacting their lives.

There are several good Catholic bloggers who have emerged over the past couple of years. Project forward. If you have one or two speakers in a convention hall, they stand out. What if that number doubles expotentially? Then the convention hall has 10, 100, a thousand voices. Does it become a chorus or a Tower of Babel? Think of the 24/7 news cycle. How much “news” is no longer news but just the same story retold, probed, extrapolated, and commented upon over and over again?

Sr. Susan, I appreciate your modeling in this field. A planned blog – coming out once a week. Thoughtful, engaging, focused.

Social media is a medium. There are various strategies within any medium – just consider the diversity of the Superbowl Commericals from the amusing to the bizarre. As members of a faith perspective, we need to be values motivated in our efforts to serve the mission of the Church, a clear sense of vision, and a robust plan to serve that mission.

A final image. It is one thing to lay the track while you are traveling by train. It is another thing to lay the track and build the train while you are traveling by train. It is a whole new thing to lay the track, build the train, and build a plane while you are traveling by train. Lots of activity. It is easy to get caught up in the track laying, train building, and plane building and forget our destination – and that we want everyone to get there with us.

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