Using Social Media as Ministry

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on July 21, 2015

in parish, social media

boygostockphoto Dollarphotoclub_64296125 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.

 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Sylvester July 21, 2015 at 9:57 am

A real-ly good article Susan! I enjoyed reading it and through your blog come to learn more and more the importance and impact of social media! I will do my best to help “spread the word”!
Thank YOU!

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn July 21, 2015 at 10:13 am

Thank you for this post. I wish that it would be read and acted upon in some way by every pastor, pastoral/parish council, and parish staff.

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF, D. Min July 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Yes, Social Media is Ministry! If you have not read these two books, I encourage all to do so as they both offer wonderful background to all of us who are social media participants! After all – today’s world is a “Participatory Culture” so even if our parish has a social media minister – we can ALL be social media ministers. Do take time to read – The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World by Keith Anderson – http://astore.amazon.com/interacconnec-20/detail/0819229954 and Transforming Parish Communications: Growing the Church Through New Media by Scot Landry – http://astore.amazon.com/interacconnec-20/detail/161278724X . We are all called to share our faith with one another!

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND July 21, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Thanks for the book suggestions, Caroline. I always appreciate those. I would like to say a little more about Social Media as ministry. Social media is ministry when it is used that way by someone who knows how to minister using social media. Many parishes have no social media presence at all. Some have an individual minister or staff person who is using their Facebook profile to keep in touch with members, but that is not the optimum for parish ministry. A growing number of parishes are launching parish Facebook Pages, but many of these are not regularly maintained and often are broadcast sites for activities or events the parish wants the followers to attend. This is not ministry either. (I am writing this for the readers who are not immersed in this as we are.) Social media is being used for ministry when it clearly shares with and engages people in the a way that helps them live their faith more fully and joyfully, when it presents the faith in such a way that it attracts those with no faith family to join us, and encourages those who have been away to return. I am going to stop here, because I could write a few posts about this which I will do in the future. But we have to say that not all social media is ministry. Businesses and other groups use social media for their purposes. But for parishes, our purpose should be ministry.

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF, D. Min July 22, 2015 at 7:18 am

Your welcome Susan! What I like about Landry’s book are his clear and practical ideas of how to do ministry via social media. I’d love to see our lay ministry diocesan programs do more to train lay ministers to utilize both their parish and their personal social media tools for ministry in today’s church.

Leave a Comment