Why Aren’t More People in Ministry Using Social Media?

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on June 5, 2012

in Catholic, ministry, social media

As someone who has been active on the Internet and using social media tools in ministry for quite awhile, I am not shocked any more when I meet people in ministry who will not or cannot use the Internet and social media as part of their ministry, but I am sad for them and frustrated.

Many in ministry are dependent on their employers, pastors, bishops, directors, etc., to provide the hardware, software, training and access to use the Internet and social media for ministry. When these are not provided, the ministers usually are not motivated to learn this on their own and our Church ministries continue to lag behind the culture.  Those who have the skills and are motivated have to settle for doing less, because there are too many obstacles to doing more. There are some innovative leaders who see the potential of the Internet for mission, but it seems that in the Church, these are the exception.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has been gathering facts on the use of the Internet in America since 2000.  Their website is a gold mine of facts about usage trends and preferences for both adults and teens. The Project Director, Lee Rainie, and Professor Barry Wellman, Director of Netlab, located at the University of Toronto, co-authored the recently published book, Networked: The New Social Operating System.  The following summary of the book appears on their promotional site along with the video below:

Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by email, text messages, tweets and Facebook updates. Some worry that this new environment makes us isolated and lonely. But in Networked, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman show how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making and personal interaction. The new social operating system of “networked individualism” liberates us from the restrictions of tightly knit groups; it also requires us to develop networking skills and strategies, work on maintaining ties, and balance multiple overlapping networks.

Here is a short video of Lee Raines describing their analysis of the communication and social revolutions which have recently taken place with the rise of the Internet.

Ministry leaders, take heed.  We have a great opportunity here.  Not only an opportunity, but an imperative, to use the Internet and social media for education, communication, evangelization, collaboration and relationship building far beyond the walls of our churches and offices. Let’s not hold back!  Let’s catch up and move forward!  That’s what I think.  What about you?

I want to acknowledge that I learned about this video and book from a Facebook post by my friend Mike Hayes (author of Googling God) who wrote his own blog article about it. Thanks, Mike–social networking at work.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane June 5, 2012 at 9:00 am

You are right. We are playing catch-up. It seems that the Church is at least one technology behind when it comes to integrating that into its ministry.

I am working to update our website and adding a social networking site to our parish ministry. I appreciate the work you do to support that effort.

Carol Dikovitsky June 5, 2012 at 10:28 am

Great article, Susan! I learned something this morning, and will renew my efforts with social media.

John K Riordan (RoaminCatholic1) June 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I’ve noticed that there are a good number of priests on Twitter. I think it fits in with their busy and–for many–itinerant lives. The church will need to develop a new theology and spirituality of itinerancy to effectively engage the mobility revolution and “networked individualism”. God is in every moment, even the fleeting instance of a tweet. Most of our daily encounters are like this. The sayings of Jesus are marvels of brevity and conciseness!–because his disciples were itinerants, who needed to keep his message in memory and communicate it forcefully to passersby. The apostles would tweet!

Don McCrabb June 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

There is so much, we are so few, and our mission is so big.

Perhaps we need a discernment process which brings together clarity about the nature and scope of our mission given our role (DRE, youth minister, campus minister, etc.), the people we are called to serve, a critical assessment of the channels available to us, and an honest appraisal of our abilities. Added to this discernment – since many of us may discern that the best thing for the ministry today is to become proficient in Facebook – is to build the network of support so that we, as ministers, can develop social networking skills.

John K Riordan (RoaminCatholic1) June 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I spoke with a person involved in retreat work recently who is wary of Facebook, describing it as “dangerous”. I’m wary of a technology so invasive that it’s become a common user interface for dozens (hundreds?) of other sites on the web, eager to post on our behalf–it oversteps a line. Keeping up with new technologies takes time, something people in ministry don’t have. So it is a discernment process. Those of us who like the net must place ourselves at the service of those who are baffled or intimidated by it. That, in part, is what I’m trying to do with my Catholic events site, http://roamincatholics.com.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND June 7, 2012 at 6:30 am

Thank you for all of your comments!
Jane, I am glad to hear that you are doing your part to help your parish take advantage of the Internet for mission.
Carol, I appreciate your feedback.
Don, you packed a lot into your comment. ( There are a few blog posts for me in there.) In short, websites, blogs and Facebook are good places to start and there are probably people in parishes, dioceses and organizations who are willing and able to be that support network if we ask them.
John, I love your enthusiasm. Yes, there are priests on Twitter and even a few Bishops use it. It is a great little tool. Your compassion for those who have fear is important. Don’t lose that. Your willingness to be of service in this area is great. Keep it up!

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