Social media use in parishes is in its very early stages. The person or people managing social media in a parish may not have an evangelizing mindset and/or may not be experienced in using social media for ministry. This explains why many parish social media sites are not engaging nor relational which is what social media sites are designed to be, nor are they evangelizing or catechizing which are the best reasons for us to be using them. But that does not mean they have to continue that way. They can become real ministry.
When I speak about social media, I am talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. but mostly Facebook as Facebook is still the leader in members.
I want to make one point today: social media is ministry. Next week I will make my case for having a trained pastoral minister (professional or volunteer does not matter) oversee social media in the parish.
Social Media is Ministry
Social media is a MINISTRY. If it is not, why are we doing it? Social media gives us access to people whether they are in church on Sunday or not. It gives us the opportunity to share our faith and our community with them wherever they are 24/7. Through our posts, photos, and short videos, we can connect with them in the name of Christ, even if it is only for a few seconds. A few seconds of Good News is more than many people get during the week outside of church on Sunday—if they go then. And if we post inspirational, upbeat content several times a week that they “Like,” “Comment,” or “Share” with others, we are extending our faith community online. This is a ministry which is best done by bringing people the Good News in everyday language, images and photos that touch their hearts.
One example of how we can witness our faith and share our joy is with the sacrament of marriage. We can post photos of married couples who celebrate a significant anniversary (25, 40, 50, 60, 70 years) by renewing their wedding vows at a weekend liturgy. In one of the parishes that I support, the pastor with permission from the couple, asks someone in the family to take a photo of their renewal of vows and email it to him right after Mass. It is posted that day on Facebook with a note of congratulations. These posts are without a doubt some of the most popular on the parish Facebook page. They reach 4-5x the number of people we usually reach, get many likes and many congratulatory comments. This witness of the couple and the engagement of friends and family in congratulating them is an evangelizing moment for everyone who sees the post. It is a testament to the grace of the sacrament of marriage.
We can do similar posts for the other sacraments as well. Our faith is not about Church jargon. It is about people, just like you and me, trying to follow Christ in our everyday lives. That’s what we can share on social media. We can share our people doing service projects, or at community events. We can share the fun-times and the prayer times that we spend together. And we can say in many different ways, all are welcome to be part of this community. This witness of faith is ministry.
Ministry is Work
As a ministry, social media is WORK. It takes time, commitment, planning, execution, creativity, and basic writing skills. This is something that the people who do it know. But this is something we need everyone else, especially those in leadership to realize, respect and appreciate.
A growing number of parishes are setting up Facebook pages. They now have the means to share the joy of living one’s faith or an inspirational thought or a short faith reflection on a topic that may be current within the local community or the nation, or a link to what’s happening in the Church at large with people who will not hear Good News any place else in their lives. Let’s do it!
Next week: who should own parish social media?
Please share examples of how your parish shares faith and the joy of living it on social media in the comments below.