Is social media easy? That’s what some people in Catholic ministry ask. Others ask if it is a waste of time—a lot of effort for nothing or even “dangerous.” A growing number of us are recognizing that social media can be a tool for ministry and believe that eventually it will be considered an essential tool. Many other religious groups and non-profits as well as businesses have come to that conclusion and are “out there” already. They are blazing the trail and setting the standards. But for a few exceptions, we are not contributing significantly to this growing mission field. The question we are asking is: How can we change that?
Purposeful social media takes strategic thinking, effort, and willingness to measure and experiment. It also takes time and commitment.
The strategies around using social media for ministry revolve around the mission, the intended audience, the message and the desired results. A minister looking to use social media needs to have a clear grasp of their mission and know the needs of their intended audience (or audiences). We need to summarize succinctly our message to this audience, based on our mission, what they are looking for and what we want them to do in return. Do we want to inspire, instruct, or involve our social media audience in some way? What kind of content is needed? Can we write it ourselves or do we need help from others? What platform(s) should we use: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. How often should we be posting? How are we going to measure engagement? Thinking about these questions ahead of time and from time to time as we get started using social media will help us to make the best use of our resources and be more effective as online ministers.
The bigger question is can social media help us bring the gospel message to more people? Can it help us to engage more disciples for Jesus Christ? The deeper question for each of us in ministry is whether or not we are continuing to deepen our own faith, so that we may be able to share it with others authentically. Social media is only a tool, the minister must bring faith to it—a faith that is truly believed and lived.
The Year of Faith will begin in a little more than six weeks. There will be many opportunities to re-study the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I pray that we will not just take in the inspiration of these historic documents, but that we will be creative sharers of the truths they hold, apply them to our times and be missionaries in word and deed—“bringing the good news to all strata of society” (On Evangelization in the Modern World), including to those who can be reached best on the Internet and through social media.
Social media is a tool for ministry whose time has come. The final question is are we willing and ready to use it?
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