Social Media and Ministry, Part II

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on June 12, 2012

in blog, Catholic, ministry, social media

I could almost hear the collective groan as ministers read the title of last week’s blog Why Aren’t More People in Ministry Using Social Media? I could hear their answers: “We are already too busy. What more do you want from us?”

I am not a digital native. I did not grow up with the Internet, Facebook, smart phones, or email. That is true for the vast majority of people who are in active ministry today. I had the advantage of being in a situation and location where a computer was provided and I was expected to use it – way back in the 1980s. And with each successive ministry—I was either expected or encouraged to keep up with technology, which I did. And now, I am a web content and social media strategist trying to help religious communities, Catholic organizations and people in ministry use the Internet for mission. Who would have guessed that was in my future when I entered the convent so many years ago? Certainly, I would not have guessed it. The Internet did not even exist then.

What I have come to realize with technology and many other aspects of life, is that engaged, vital life, is one learning curve after another, one adjustment after another. Life does not stand still and now it is changing even faster with new challenges and opportunities facing us every day. The 24/7 news cycle does not let us forget it. We are in ministry to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ into every aspect of life, to every corner of the world—today’s world.

As we saw in the video I posted last week, multiple revolutions in communication and social relationships are going on because of the Internet, broadband availability and social media. This is not my mother’s world. I remember watching the evening network news with my parents and in election years especially, they would be eager to hear news about the candidates and see them on the screen. If the candidates said things they agreed with—I would hear “That’s right. You tell them.” If they heard things they didn’t agree with, I would hear “You don’t know what you are talking about.”

Today we have constant news. It comes on our computers, our cell phones, our iPads, and when people hear or see anything they agree or disagree with, they do not hesitate to comment, post, or tweet, for the whole world to know what they think. They upload videos and make podcasts. They do their own fact-checking. And sometimes they become the news themselves and it all takes place in an instant.

So many ministers think that learning how to use social media and then using it, is an “add on,” something else to put on their already overflowing to-do list. But it isn’t. That is what has changed. Our world is a digital world now. And if your area of the country does not have high speed Internet yet, it will. If you have it, but aren’t using it—who are you ministering to? Who are you missing?

To be continued next week…. Any thoughts?  Share them below.  Really, I mean it, get engaged.  Share your thoughts!!  You want to know how to get started on social media?  You can start by commenting on this blog and others you read. It is that simple. And if you are on the social media sites, use the links below to share this post with your networks. Thank you, if you do that.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF June 12, 2012 at 10:44 am

Susan, I so appreciate your comments! We need to adjust and adjust quickly to this ever evolving Digital World. We are truly in a new world where we need to learn the Digital Culture, the language, and of course NEW SKILLS! Come and visit http://www.catechesis20.org for some thoughts and ideas.

Kathy June 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

I just came back from a conference on faith formation in the 21st century and how we must use social media and digital means to reach our people. The possibilities were almost overwhelming! Would love to hear ideas on what things other parishes will post on Facebook and Tweet about. Thanks in advance!!

Don McCrabb June 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Susan, thank you for your consistent and persistent encouragement to “get on board” with the new mediums made possible through the internet.

The realities are stark. According to Pew (thanks for the link), 95% of all teenagers (12-17) are on line, 80% use social media. Of those 80%; 93% have a Facebook Account.

Developing social media skills is one of my professional goals for next year. Do you have any suggestions.

I offer a caution. Let’s not over state the reality. You said, “for the whole world to know.” While what is out there is out there, the reality is that the whole world, indeed, most of the world, does not care what I think or feel. The question for me – how can these tools help us build intentional communities?

Don McCrabb

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND June 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Thanks for your comments.

Caroline, thank you for being a pioneer in this field helping catechists and teachers get on board with the Internet–we can all learn from you.

Kathy, I do hope those in parish ministry will respond to your request–even if they do not think what they are going is “great.” Great can happen when we bring all of our findings together.

Don, thank you for being open to learn and grow for the sake of the kingdom. I will be talking more about building social media skills in future blogs posts. You can also do a site search for my previous posts on Facebook and Twitter. They may give you some leads. As for my “for the whole world to know” statement–there is nothing more exciting than to have a post “go viral.” It doesn’t happen very often with Church “stuff” unless it is a scandal or controversial, but the idea is to post content that meets your goals, serves your audience, and is so good they want to share it.
FYI: There is software to build intentional communities–if that is what you want to do–just do a search on “online communities software.”

Meredith Gould, PhD June 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Amen, amen. As it turns out, the Roman Catholic church has been a wee bit behind on this, but the good news is that communications professionals in other churches have already paved the way and offer useful wisdom. Included in that wisdom: best practices, how to ensure safety and privacy, what not to do, how to integrate digital platforms, etc., all of which is generously shared.

Two reliable ways to find out what’s out there: 1) following the #chsocm (church social media) hashtag to find content and conversation on Twitter; and 2) participating in or observing weekly Twitter-based #ChSocM chat (Tuesday, 9PM ET). Transcripts are always available after the chat on the #ChSocM blog (http://bit.ly/pTDoAb)or via the FB page.

Full disclosure: I’m the founder and lead moderator of the #ChSocM chat and the author of two books about church communications, one of which is about using social media to celebrate the sacred.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND June 13, 2012 at 8:57 am

Meredith, thanks for your insights and suggestions. I agree that it is important to remember that we Catholics are not the trailblazers here on the Internet. The good thing about that is that we can learn from the experience of others whether they be other churches or businesses or entrepreneurs. Your Tuesday evening Twitter chats are amazing–it takes some time to get used to (all those Tweets coming one upon another). Your blog is an excellent resource also. Keep up the good work.

Sr. Nancy Shively, osc June 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Thanks for the challenge! You’re so right! Yes, we need to be part of the change that is all around us or we are going to be left out – and I want to be part of the exciting life God is here and now, not apart from it!

Sr. Mary Ann McFadden June 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Susan,
I can’t tell you how much I agree with everything you said. I attended your workshop last year, found it energizing, promised myself I would put some of it into practice — and here I am a year later having done very little . I do try to read your emails but again haven’t been as “faithful” as i had intended.
My reason for saying all this is that I’m probably kind of “typical” at least for my age group. I think the best thing you can do for “us” is to simply keep on doing what you’re doing. Keep encouraging, explaining, informing, showing, etc. I AM going to take a step or two toward implementing some of these ideas. I just need to continue to be proded! THANK YOU for your dedication and for not giving up!

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND June 16, 2012 at 9:21 am

It is never too late to start, Mary Ann. Your comment on this blog is a good beginning.

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