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.