We have come a long way on the web. That evolution has brought together new skills and technologies that are changing the way we communicate, collaborate, share information. Creative entrepreneurs have used Internet technology to bring us email, instant messages, friends and followers, tweets, smart phones, Google and Bing search engines and on and on. More new applications are being developed every minute. It can be overwhelming when we think about it. In fact, many of us in ministry don’t want to think about.
During a 2012 interview by Andrea Tornielli, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) said the following about evangelization in Argentina and in particular Buenos Aires:
We seek to make contact with families that are not involved in the parish. Instead of just being a Church that welcomes and receives, we try to be a Church that comes out of itself and goes to the men and women who do not participate in parish life, do not know much about it and are indifferent towards it. We organize missions in public squares where many people usually gather: we pray, we celebrate mass, we offer baptism which we administer after a brief preparation. This is the style of the parishes and the diocese itself. Other than this, we also try to reach out to people who are far away, via digital means, the web and brief messaging.
Using the new media for ministry is about coming out of ourselves to reach those who are not with us as well as those who seek information, inspiration and engagement.
Some Internet enthusiasts make it sound very simple: just get a Facebook page and start posting, or get a Twitter account and start tweeting. Set-up a website. We can do those things—but they aren’t ministry unless we do them in a spirit of service, unless Christ is in our hearts and at the center of all we do.
Effective web ministry is work, thoughtful work supported by prayer and a passion to respond to the needs of the people. It is driven by a desire to bring the gospel message into every aspect of people’s lives. It takes skill and commitment. It is also deeply rewarding. Not everyone is good at it.
Leaders of dioceses, organizations, religious communities, and parishes need to discern who has the skills, expertise and passion to minister on the Internet. We need to support them with infrastructure and training. We may even need to hire them.
What do you think?