Are We Old-Fashioned When It Comes to the Internet?

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on April 8, 2014

in Catholic, Digital Age, Online Presence

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Most of us in the Church have moved on from rotary phones, but we know people who who resist, even oppose, using the Web for ministry.  We have heard the reasons: no time, no interest, technically challenged, playing it safe, and so on.  We can listen respectfully to their reasons. There is no point in trying to convince them to think otherwise, but the world is moving on and leaving behind those who don’t keep up.

Those who refuse to incorporate the Internet into their ministry are getting further and further away from those who consider the Internet a basic utility.  Simply put, if you are in ministry today and plan to be in ministry for the near or distant future, the Web must be one of your tools.

What does that mean?  At the least, it means to respect the role that websites and social media have in people’s lives. Encourage those who do know how to use them for ministry to do so.  Be sure that someone  in the organization/ministry with Internet and ministry skills is supporting the mission.  Make Internet and social media skills part of every new ministry hire’s job description.

The Web is 25 years old this year and as we might expect, the first ministries to recognize the power of the web are the innovators, evangelizers and pragmatists. We can find these people in

  • Catholic Organizations
  • Dioceses
  • Parishes
  • Publishing houses
  • Religious Communities
  • Individual ministries
  • and in new online ministries such as Word on Fire Ministries and Busted Halo.com

What are they using?

  • Websites
  • E-newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Facebook pages
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Mobile Apps
  • Live streaming
  • Video conferencing
  • Podcasts
  • Digital books
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • And others

However, it is not enough to be using the tools, we need a quality presence on the Web and that demands effort, time, training and skill.  We have over the past decades become much more “professional” in religious education, liturgy, and other ministry fields. We need to do the same in the area of Web presence.

Three questions can help us to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of online ministry efforts:

1. Does our web presence offer quality content?

2. Do we engage our audiences?

3. Do we call our audiences to action?

Think about your responses to these questions and I will share my thoughts next week.

Your comments and questions are welcome here.  Thank you.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn April 8, 2014 at 6:23 am

Brava, Susan; your on-going championing of technology is a gift to the church. Thank you.

I constantly meet resistance, which after 7 years of church blogging, 6 years of church social media, is frustrating beyond belief. On Saturday I was leading a lay ministry group and found myself surprised at the vehemence against Facebook for church.

So be it.

Our soon-to-be bishop (Thursday) has a Facebook account and uses it. Apparently, he is going to open a Twitter account, and start a blog. I love our retiring bishop very much, and respect him, but I am grateful that technology will now have a new place at the table. Now let’s see how many people sign up for my session at our spring catechetical event…last time I cancelled due to lack of signups, and I did one at our fall session, for 5 people. I hope that we can forge ahead. Thanks for giving us so many gifts and so much support through your resources and knowledge.

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn April 8, 2014 at 6:24 am

And PS – I will give a lot of thought to the questions you posed, because they are all important as well. Why do it, if it is never updated or refreshed, if it is not engaging, or if it does not call people to action.

aneesah mcnamee April 8, 2014 at 9:05 am

It is very frustrating. I have been doing this for years, trying to get people to get on board too. Too bad, because time marches on and the many of these people will be left standing on the banks and closing the doors — because they failed to go to where the people are. The thing is, is that you will never get people who are so opposed to it to come to your side….and nine times outta 10 they are over 70, right?! Well, it is just foreign to them. They get on after much prompting – then they see a couple posts about what someone had for breakfast and freak out. They have not learned to move on and look for the good – because there is a LOT of good out there.

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF April 8, 2014 at 9:33 am

Susan and Fran! Let’s just keep leading on! Just remember, the bell curve! There will always be laggards! However, in the three areas of technology: Information Systems Technology, Communications Technology, and Educational Technology…in my observations I would say we’re at a 90% margin with Information Systems Technology; about 40% margin with Communications Technology (i.e., Social Media: Blogs, FaceBook, etc); and in the area of Educational Technology, we are probably around a 10 to 20% margin of use and acceptability. All three are needed in today’s church! The challenge is to know, understand, and plan for!

Larry Rice, CSP April 8, 2014 at 9:53 am

Sr. Susan,

Seeing Sr. Caroline and Fran here gives me hope! I’ve always believed that rather than lament our Church’s slow pace, it’s better to get on with it, and encourage people to take what steps they can. It’s vitally important that Christ has a (sane, compassionate, positive) voice in social media, and that we use the best tools we have available to evangelize. To your three questions I would add a fourth: Does our online ministry draw people to Jesus Christ, and build up his Body? Too much of what passes for “Catholic presence” online is divisive, pharisaical, and scandalous. We need more balanced, mature, and compassionate voices!

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND April 8, 2014 at 10:00 am

Thanks for your comments. While I do not know how accurate Caroline’s estimates are–I do know that we are in a better place today technologically than we were five years ago. Our Popes tweet! And some of our Cardinals, Bishops and priests are on Facebook and have blogs. Some of our laity are on social media and blogging for ministry. There are many signs of progress.

Let’s remember that the Web–that Internet subset that is a massive collection of digital pages that we have access to through browsers–is 25 years old and that Facebook is 10 years old, Twitter is 8 and YouTube is 9. These are the early years.

It is hard to re-tool an institution in any area. The changes will take place as individuals take on the new methods and find ways to use them in support of the mission.

I am very appreciative of all of the early adopters of technology for mission and respectful of those who for whatever reason do not want to go there. It is a big Church. We need everybody to use whatever gifts they have for the spread of the Gospel and according to God’s plan–the gifts are varied.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND April 8, 2014 at 10:53 am

Dear Larry,

Your points are well taken and your question is excellent. I will add it to the list. Thank you.

Jim Simpson May 30, 2014 at 10:01 am

I’m happy to see this discussion. As a 59 yr old “early adopter” of technology I watched smart devices grow over the last 5 years into the most adopted new technology in the history of mankind. As a Christian I decided to help move this technology forward to assist with evangelism, communication, and to better connect the church in many other ways. There is no reason why Sunday’s sermon shouldn’t be available – live – to people sitting on the bus on their way to work on Sunday morning….or to others even later, when time allows. There’s no reason why the bulletin and communication about what is happening in the congregation or church shouldn’t be available to the 70% of the population that can access with their phone. Thanks to all here that see this potential for outreach.

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