2011 Tech Wish List For The Church

While the Church has made strides in catching up to the secular culture in the realm of technology and exploiting the web, I think we can all agree that much work remains. With a new year ahead of us, now is a good time to start visualizing how it should look and what kind of goals we should be setting.

Here’s my wish list for 2011.

1. Social Media. This one is pretty simple. We should be shooting for 100% adoption at both the diocesan and parish levels. At a bare minimum, a Facebook page and a Twitter account that are updated frequently.

2. In-house technical and web specialists. The Church needs to be finding, hiring and training individuals who are committed to the mission of the Church, rather than hiring high-priced consultants who may or may not care about the Faith. Every diocese hires accountants, maintenance people, IT staff, etc. Why not a qualified web specialist? The web is becoming – rather, already has become – the dominant form of communication in our culture, and to be effective – technical skills and experience are required to take advantage of it.

3. Significant increase in use and quality of multimedia. I think the work that CatholicVote.org is doing should be the bar we aim for here. Video is a powerful and relevant way to evangelize and get the message out. With Final Cut Pro, a decent video camera and some technical chops, this can be achieved. Another success story we should be emulating is the CatholicsComeHome.org strategy of a full-on media/advertising campaign. [SIDENOTE: Can anyone explain why the entire U.S. Church isn't coordinating a national 'Catholics Come Home' campaign?]

4. Shared Knowledge and Resources. My main motive in building this site, was to coordinate and help Catholic technical folks across the net share technical knowledge and build up the community. Sites like OpenSourceCatholic.com, CatholicMediaGuild.com and others also assist in this endeavor. Events and conference like CatholicCon and CNMC also do a great job. My wish is that we all continue to take advantage of these efforts and participate. [SIDENOTE: I think it would be great if we could create a Catholic web-hosting company. There have been some commercial efforts, but these tend to be more focused on creating cookie-cutter websites. How about an alternative to VPS.net or Rackspace.com? Wishful thinking right? Well, this is a 'wish list'.]

While there are many other small items on my wish list, those are the big-ticket ones. It’s my belief we’re still in the process of primarily ‘laying the foundation’. I do think we’ll see some break-out successes in 2011 – especially in the area of my #1 wish, Social Media – but long-term success will come from a determined effort and focus on items 2-4.

What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Am I missing some biggies?

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Author:Craig Berry

Craig Berry is a Catholic web developer and musician.
Connect with him online.
  • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

    It is probably fitting to call it a “wishlist,” since many of these things are so out of the minds of parish administrators that it is going to take some time. The fact that there are so many new sites and conference is a great sign and I think people like us will inspire parishes to jump on board (even if with trepidation).

    Regarding #2, do you think there are enough web specialist to help out “in hourse’?

    • Frank Koob

      About the “in house specialists”: The Archdiocese of Chicago has adopted DNN as both an agency level and a parish level tool, with training, hosting, and support. It is not difficult for a brave staff person to learn. And then a basic site can be created with pages managed by those responsible for specific information. The trained person can train the others on staff. It is not rocket science … and information is not funneled through one webmaster. However, it does take commitment. See http://dnn.archchicago.org/ for information and links to sites of agencies and parishes on board with this initiative.

    • Anonymous

      Jared,
      Actually…there are…BUT… ;)

      Here’s the problem as I see it…

      The best and the brightest talents are lured to the secular culture workforce because the jobs are more numerous, more glamorous and higher paying. While we shouldn’t bankrupt ourselves by getting them, with a little bit of initiative and creative thinking, I do believe we can recruit them, especially if they have a desire in serving the Church.

      • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

        You are right about the money, but I would also point out the lack of opportunity. When parishes can’t afford to pay a full-time director of religious education, they are not going to fork over money to pay for a full time web specialist. I like what Frank pointed out about the diocese. Getting help at the diocesan level would be great. However, the cutbacks there are pretty steep as well and I can’t see a lot of money being invested in it right now.

        • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

          Yeah, you are right about that Jared. Cutbacks are pretty steep at the diocesan level. It might be a while before we see this kind of priority being placed on social media in the Church. One can hope though.

        • Anonymous

          ‘Most’ parishes probably couldn’t hire a full-time web person. In my Archdiocese, there are a couple of tech companies that handle this stuff at the parish level. They’re Catholic and affordable.

          ‘Most’ dioceses and all Archdioceses probably should though. I’ve worked for an Archdiocese for 8 years and understand the importance of being fiscally responsible. The ‘business’ of the Church is evangelization (among other things obviously) and we shouldn’t neglect assigning resources to it. Rather than hiring expensive outside consultants, IMHO, we would see a greater ROI by locating and fostering talents that exist within the Catholic community.

          • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

            I totally agree! There is a growing number of bloggers in every diocese and I am sure their non-professional, but proficient experience would do wonders for those in need.

  • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

    It is probably fitting to call it a “wishlist,” since many of these things are so out of the minds of parish administrators that it is going to take some time. The fact that there are so many new sites and conference is a great sign and I think people like us will inspire parishes to jump on board (even if with trepidation).

    Regarding #2, do you think there are enough web specialist to help out “in house’?

    • Frank Koob

      About the “in house specialists”: The Archdiocese of Chicago has adopted DNN as both an agency level and a parish level tool, with training, hosting, and support. It is not difficult for a brave staff person to learn. And then a basic site can be created with pages managed by those responsible for specific information. The trained person can train the others on staff. It is not rocket science … and information is not funneled through one webmaster. However, it does take commitment. See http://dnn.archchicago.org/ for information and links to sites of agencies and parishes on board with this initiative.

    • http://catholicservant.com Craig Berry

      Jared,
      Actually…there are…BUT… ;)

      Here’s the problem as I see it…

      The best and the brightest talents are lured to the secular culture workforce because the jobs are more numerous, more glamorous and higher paying. While we shouldn’t bankrupt ourselves by getting them, with a little bit of initiative and creative thinking, I do believe we can recruit them, especially if they have a desire in serving the Church.

      • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

        You are right about the money, but I would also point out the lack of opportunity. When parishes can’t afford to pay a full-time director of religious education, they are not going to fork over money to pay for a full time web specialist. I like what Frank pointed out about the diocese. Getting help at the diocesan level would be great. However, the cutbacks there are pretty steep as well and I can’t see a lot of money being invested in it right now.

        • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

          Yeah, you are right about that Jared. Cutbacks are pretty steep at the diocesan level. It might be a while before we see this kind of priority being placed on social media in the Church. One can hope though.

        • http://catholicservant.com Craig Berry

          ‘Most’ parishes probably couldn’t hire a full-time web person. In my Archdiocese, there are a couple of tech companies that handle this stuff at the parish level. They’re Catholic and affordable.

          ‘Most’ dioceses and all Archdioceses probably should though. I’ve worked for an Archdiocese for 8 years and understand the importance of being fiscally responsible. The ‘business’ of the Church is evangelization (among other things obviously) and we shouldn’t neglect assigning resources to it. Rather than hiring expensive outside consultants, IMHO, we would see a greater ROI by locating and fostering talents that exist within the Catholic community.

          • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

            I totally agree! There is a growing number of bloggers in every diocese and I am sure their non-professional, but proficient experience would do wonders for those in need.

  • Steve

    I like point #1 alot, but how do you get folks to use it? We have a Facebook site, and noone has used it in over 5 months! It’s protected,my wife and I are the admins (we both check FB at least 3X daily), but the 128 members we have so far dont have much to say.

    I also have made efforts to ‘educate” folks about websites, podcasts, apps, etc, via a type of newsletter. Have you done any of that? What were your results?

    • Anonymous

      Steve,
      Another blogger on this site put together a video on some best practices for Facebook here: http://catholictechtalk.com/blogs/missionaries/reaching-parishioners-with-facebook/

      RE: newsletters. They are an incredible tool for communication. At my ‘day gig’ we have 2500 subscribers to our e-newsletter and have found it to be effective in getting the word out regarding all of the things you mention.

      Can you share a link to your site? Maybe someone here can offer some suggestions.

      God Bless,
      Craig

    • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

      Steve — don’t be too upset. It takes a long time and a lot of people to get real engagement. I would try creating a calendar of content to post so that people can come to expect new information consistently on the facebook page.

  • Steve

    I like point #1 alot, but how do you get folks to use it? We have a Facebook site, and noone has used it in over 5 months! It’s protected,my wife and I are the admins (we both check FB at least 3X daily), but the 128 members we have so far dont have much to say.

    I also have made efforts to ‘educate” folks about websites, podcasts, apps, etc, via a type of newsletter. Have you done any of that? What were your results?

    • http://catholicservant.com Craig Berry

      Steve,
      Another blogger on this site put together a video on some best practices for Facebook here: http://catholictechtalk.com/blogs/missionaries/reaching-parishioners-with-facebook/

      RE: newsletters. They are an incredible tool for communication. At my ‘day gig’ we have 2500 subscribers to our e-newsletter and have found it to be effective in getting the word out regarding all of the things you mention.

      Can you share a link to your site? Maybe someone here can offer some suggestions.

      God Bless,
      Craig

    • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

      Steve — don’t be too upset. It takes a long time and a lot of people to get real engagement. I would try creating a calendar of content to post so that people can come to expect new information consistently on the facebook page.

  • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

    This is a great list. I think the first one is an absolute must. As Facebook becomes more widely used and accepted this will happen naturally. It’s already starting to penetrate more. However, the next real step is to get parish and diocesan staffs to understand more than just how to post on Facebook but how to use it wisely to market the way some businesses are doing.

    That brings us to step 2. We definitely need web specialists working for the church that understand the dynamics of both internet marketing and evangelization in order to uniquely apply a Catholic presence on the web. It’s interesting to me that every parish hires an accountant/bookkeeper. As you said, they recognize the benefit of a professional in this area. In the future we will need to have a professional in the web development area as well. At least one at the diocesan level that can provide training and services to the parishes.

    Here’s another thing that’s needed, a social media mindset across the board. The buzz in business now is that everyone in the organization must sell, not just the salesmen. Through social media, an organization is capable of communicating the mission of the company on every level. We need to think about this in terms of Church workers. Everyone needs to become more familiar with social media and know how to communicate the mission of the Church/parish.

  • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

    This is a great list. I think the first one is an absolute must. As Facebook becomes more widely used and accepted this will happen naturally. It’s already starting to penetrate more. However, the next real step is to get parish and diocesan staffs to understand more than just how to post on Facebook but how to use it wisely to market the way some businesses are doing.

    That brings us to step 2. We definitely need web specialists working for the church that understand the dynamics of both internet marketing and evangelization in order to uniquely apply a Catholic presence on the web. It’s interesting to me that every parish hires an accountant/bookkeeper. As you said, they recognize the benefit of a professional in this area. In the future we will need to have a professional in the web development area as well. At least one at the diocesan level that can provide training and services to the parishes.

    Here’s another thing that’s needed, a social media mindset across the board. The buzz in business now is that everyone in the organization must sell, not just the salesmen. Through social media, an organization is capable of communicating the mission of the company on every level. We need to think about this in terms of Church workers. Everyone needs to become more familiar with social media and know how to communicate the mission of the Church/parish.

  • http://twitter.com/srsusan Sr. Susan Wolf, SND

    Good post, Craig. Catholic organizations and religious communities also need inhouse technical and web specialists. As for a Catholic web-hosting company have you checked out Christian Brothers Services http://www.cbservices.org/us/Consulting_Technology/Hosting_Solutions.html? Not sure if they meet your criteria.

  • http://twitter.com/srsusan Sr. Susan Wolf, SND

    Good post, Craig. Catholic organizations and religious communities also need inhouse technical and web specialists. As for a Catholic web-hosting company have you checked out Christian Brothers Services http://www.cbservices.org/us/Consulting_Technology/Hosting_Solutions.html? Not sure if they meet your criteria.

  • http://www.drummerboyhosting.com Atlante

    If anyone out there is looking for a good catholic web designer, I’m here to help! I started my own web hosting company and I started it out to specifically help Catholic parishes get on line effectively and at an extremely affordable price! Little did I know, catholic parishes are soooooo behind on technology:( If you or anyone out there is looking for a Catholic web designer in good standing with the church and in love with the faith and with designing websites, search for drummer boy hosting! God bless all!

    • Catholicservant

      Hi Atlante,
      Be sure to post your company info in our directory! You can also mention your availability in our Work Avenue Forum. :)

  • http://www.drummerboyhosting.com Atlante

    If anyone out there is looking for a good catholic web designer, I’m here to help! I started my own web hosting company and I started it out to specifically help Catholic parishes get on line effectively and at an extremely affordable price! Little did I know, catholic parishes are soooooo behind on technology:( If you or anyone out there is looking for a Catholic web designer in good standing with the church and in love with the faith and with designing websites, search for drummer boy hosting! God bless all!

    • Catholicservant

      Hi Atlante,
      Be sure to post your company info in our directory! You can also mention your availability in our Work Avenue Forum. :)

  • Brad West

    I agree with all of your points. The parish level is the most difficult and I see it needing to be volunteer based. A cloud type of system (i.e. Google Apps which I am a huge fan of) make perfect sense. This would cost virtually nothing. Allows for volunteers to easily assist. And provides for easy change to volunteers over time. All while reducing costs and improving services.