Theology of Social Media

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on January 22, 2013

in blog, ministry, social media

Theology of Social Media

In his 1999 Exhortation, Ecclesia in America, John Paul II wrote: “I urgently desire to encourage all the members of God’s People, particularly those living in America – where I first appealed for a commitment ” new in its ardor, methods and expression” – to take up this project [the new evangelization] and to cooperate in carrying it out.”

I read a striking reminder of the importance of finding new and effective ways to reach out with the good news of Jesus Christ in this quote from Elaine Menardi in her eBook, Theology of Social Media

A culture that doesn’t change is dead. A church that doesn’t change is empty.

In her introduction, Elaine makes this simple statement about social media and ministry:

The real goal here is to connect with people that we never see in person so we can build a relationship that could potentially result in the regular face-to-face encounter.

She reminds us that only 22% of U.S. Catholics are at Mass on Sunday. As a missionary church, we are called to go where the people are. Study after study tells us that people are going to the Internet and social media for information, entertainment, socializing and yes, even spiritual insight. Some are there for hours a day.

Elaine makes the case that theology of social media is Body of Christ theology.  We are one bread, one body, one community.  Social media itself is a just a tool. But the theology of social media recognizes that together we form the Body of Christ and because of that we seek each other out.  Today, one of the ways we seek is through social media.

We may have questions, fears and hesitations about this new method.  Elaine identifies and responds to the most common ones.  In addressing fears around using social media for ministry, Elaine writes on page 33:

The real crux of the issue is that we resist change. In some cases, we’re downright afraid of it. It’s definitely your prerogative to keep your push-button-long-curly-corded phone if you want to. But if you are the gatekeeper in your area of ministry… or even the whole parish… don’t let your own resistance to change handcuff what others could be doing with technology and social media. Give them the freedom and support to use these powerful tools for the work of ministry and evangelization.

Elaine is making her eBook available to anyone who wants read it. You can download it here. Share it with your campus ministry or vocation team, your parish or diocesan staffs. Start or continue your conversations about how you can reach/connect/be in conversation with the people who are not physically in front of you today, but none the less belong to the Body of Christ. Ask yourselves: How can we share our own stories of Jesus and the saints? How can we help people find faith, hope and love in the joys and struggles they face everyday? How can we engage them in conversation? How can we listen and respond to what they say?

Elaine Menardi is Associate Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Reno, social media editor for Veritas Religion USA, and a social media strategist. You can read more of her writing on her blog, laneplane.com.

How did I meet Elaine? Last week I did a search on blogs about Catholic ministry and found links to her blog and eBook. I sent her a message and the conversation began. I have read her eBook and I am now sharing it with you.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Elaine’s ideas.  Please share them in the comments below.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn January 22, 2013 at 6:45 am

Thanks for this info… I am grateful to learn about Elaine also. Let me read more and I will let you know what I think.

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF, D. Min January 22, 2013 at 7:18 am

Just read the material, good going! Elaine has a wonderful perspective that is well thought out and helpful to any of us. Read on and enjoy!

Elaine Menardi January 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Thanks so much for your kind words! Please keep the conversation going and share the eBook with others in ministry. Peace.

Meredith Gould, PhD January 22, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Delighted to discover this e-book here and looking forward to reading it. Loved what I saw during my first quick scan, especially Elaine’s nod to Teresa of Avila’s prayer. Harmonic, holy spirit convergence! Here’s my version, adapted to embrace social media, “Christ Has No Online Presence But Yours”: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/8704/christ-has-no-online-presence-but-yours/

Erin Pascal January 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

Thank you for sharing this ebook. Indeed, the internet plays a huge role in finishing the task our Lord Jesus Christ has set for us–make His love and grace known to every kindred and tribe. Certainly Christ’s return will be hastened by the work of online evangelists. God bless you!

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND January 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Thanks for the mention on My Catholic Blog.com.

catherine cleary January 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

Jesus will not be confined to the cross or to the paper printed word. Thank you Ellen for giving me the puh I need. Catherine Cleary, OSB

Elaine Menardi January 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

You’re welcome Catherine! Let me know how I can help you move forward. Peace, Elaine

John K Riordan February 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Re: Elaine’s ebook, p. 27, “10 Simple Ideas for Evangelization”. I’ve hand-built a library of nearly 7,000 Catholic YouTube videos. I can tell you, parishes are doing a very poor job of utilizing online videos! Liturgies, homilies and catechetical talks are common but the production values are very poor. Shaky hand-held cameras, terrible sound, monotonous camera angles. Make the extra effort to at least get the speaker’s mike directly linked to your recording device, rather than recording ambient room sound. Videos which illustrate the good work churches do in their community are conspicuously lacking on YouTube! Soup-kitchens, clothing drives, nursing homes, special needs, emergency response. Let your good works shine forth Christ’s presence (Mt. 5:16).

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND February 4, 2013 at 8:14 am

You make a very good point, John. We don’t have to create elaborate media productions, but we could utilize some best practices in the production of videos. Yes, I agree with you, we have many good stories to share.

John K Riordan February 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Some of the best videos I’ve seen are ‘welcome to our parish’ introductions. They aren’t pro level, but they’re scripted and edited with care. I think every parish should have one, on their website and on YouTube. People are looking for churches. Every gesture of hospitality helps.

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