Statistics tell us that about 24% of adult Catholics attend Sunday Mass and we see with our eyes that fewer and fewer among these are young adults. Many dioceses and a few parishes have outreach efforts to young adults, but these mostly reach a percentage of those who are active in the Church. How can our parishes connect to the others? One way is through Facebook.
A recent study of 3000 students, 18-29, by Harvard School of Politics found that 84% of them were on Facebook—a much higher percentage than on the other social networking sites. The 2013 Social Media Update by the Pew Research Internet Project, also found the same percentage of young adults on Facebook.
It stands to reason that a parish Facebook page could be a way to reach out to young adults. The Catholic young adult will follow a Facebook page if the content has value to them. Our parish communities, our institutions and our Church have a rich reservoir of valuable content—but it takes effort and consistent commitment to post it on social media in a way that is attractive and accessible.
Here is ministry and faith content that has value to young adults and the rest of us as well. Content that:
- nurtures the spiritual life (prayer, scripture, the example of holy lives, catechetical updates),
- demonstrates that the Church cares about the poor, justice and the environment,
- welcomes people wherever they are in life
- shares the “joy of gospel living”
- celebrates the good that people (especially in this community) are and do and
- is relevant (i.e. relates) to everyday life (holidays, major holy days, current events, milestones, etc.)
In other words the content needs to be varied, interesting, sometimes entertaining, and always of value to get and keep the attention of young adults. Frequent use of images is a must and short, engaging videos are a plus. These are things the rest of us would appreciate on our parish Facebook pages as well, but sometimes older adults accept less from Facebook posts because they are not our only or primary connection to the Church. That’s not the case with young adults who are not coming to Church—if the posts don’t offer anything they want or need-they’re gone.
It is my belief, that if our parishes can connect with young adults via Facebook, we are giving them another reason (beyond their family) to be the place they turn to when they want/need a greater faith connection or spiritual support: i.e. when they want to get married in a church; baptize a child, or find a faith community. They will feel that they have in some way “kept in touch” with the Church and will be less fearful of reconnecting in person. That reconnection could take years—but if we as a Church are using social media especially Facebook to reach out and relate to them with meaningful content at whatever age they are, we have a better chance for that to happen.
What do you think? What is your experience with using Facebook to provide rich, engaging faith content to your followers?