People First: Pastoral Ministry in the Digital Age Part 2

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on September 26, 2017

in Digital Age, Online Presence, social media, website

The second challenge that comes to Pastoral Ministry in this digital age according to Antonio Spardaro, SJ in his book, Friending God: Social Media, Spirituality and Community is:

Pastoral ministry in the digital age is [needs to be] “a ministry centered around people rather than a ministry focused on content.” Page 65

My Reflection

Isn’t our pastoral ministry already centered on people? Yes and no.

It is “Yes” in our intentions and our person-to-person ministries, and  “No” if our pastoral ministry is totally off-line.  Today our ministry must include a pastoral  (people-centered) presence on the internet and on social media, where younger generations and early-adopters connect on a daily basis.

What Does It Mean to Have a Pastoral Presence on the Internet and Social Media?

First, of all it means that a parish has a website that is welcoming and whose homepage clearly focuses on responding to the reasons visitors come to the site. Most often they want to know:

  1. The Sunday and daily Mass schedule
  2. The complete address of the parish including zip code
  3. Contact phone numbers and emails; office hours
  4. How to arrange a wedding, a baptism, or a funeral
  5. How to register in the parish
  6. How to register their children in the school or the religious education program
  7. If the parish has anything for teens
  8. If the parish has any support groups (bereavement, divorce, etc.)
  9. How to become a Catholic and/or return to the practice of the faith
  10. That this is a joyful community that welcomes them and reaches out in service to the larger community (This can be communicated through photos and videos.)

Unfortunately, some parishes do not have a website, or have a minimal boiler-plate website with very little to welcome or engage the visitor or they have content-focused websites. These latter are usually driven by staff, especially those charged with fundraising. Instead of answering the visitor’s questions, the site pushes the content that the staff thinks is important i.e. their programs and ministries. Certainly, there is a place for this information after the needs of the visitors have been met, but this content should not dominate the home page. That’s not what people-centered means.

There are also what I call—functional websites where the primary focus is providing a place to “sign-up” for various activities or donate. These are legitimate uses of a website—but a pastoral website offers much more.

Secondly, pastoral ministry in the digital age requires a social media presence—at least on Facebook and where possible on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or other social networking sites.

Again, this is about celebrating the people (lots of photos) and inspiring and engaging them with posts that enrich their everyday faith lives and has the possibility of reaching those who may not be in Church on Sundays. There may be from time to time posts that announce or even promote parish activities—especially those that benefit those in need or foster faith enrichment, but a social media presence that merely repeats announcements is not people-centered.

Questions to Ask about Your Pastoral Ministry in the Digital Age

  • Has your pastoral ministry expanded to the Internet and Social Media?
  • Are you giving sufficient resources to support this area of pastoral ministry?
  • Is your online pastoral ministry focused on the needs and desires of the people or centered on content that someone at the parish thinks they should have?

Your comments are welcome.






Pat Wolf September 26, 2017 at 6:00 am

Thank you Susan. I’m going to visit our parish website today and then start a dialog with our staff to see how we can have a more people centered site.