Creating A Tech Ministry For Your Parish

There are a lot of ways that technologies can benefit a local parish.  Basically, you can break it down into two categories:

  1. Administrative
  2. Evangelizing

Both are approached in different ways, but can crossover too.  For example, the website for a parish would be for both.  In my opinion, the best “recipe” for effective uses of technologies in a parish that allow you to effectively enhance both would be:

  1. A website that mimics the parish office services and provide supplemental communication to the parish community.  This should be modeled to automate administrative task and reduce parish expenses.
  2. A Facebook page for the parish which allows you to provide another avenue for communication and engage the community and others.  A great example of effective engagement is the Ask a Catholic Nun Facebook page.
  3. A blog by clergy that educates on faith and engages visitors through comments and replies

It’s a lot and obviously can’t be effectively handled by one person.  It can even sound expensive, but it’s not.  In fact all of that can mentioned can be done for simply the cost of a domain name, internet access, and a good team of volunteers.  This is a great opportunity for members of your parish to contribute their time and talent, and create a technology/communications ministry.  What would that look like?

  1. Headed up by the Pastor obviously
  2. Divide the members up into small teams (i.e. website, email and networking, photo and video, and social networking)
  3. The ministry can meet whenever and have targeted agendas

Each of the members would see crossovers.  For example, photo and video would be shared on the website and social networking services like a Facebook page.  And it becomes very simple to set this up either through email communication between members for new things (i.e. photo or video) for the website by using services like YouTube for video and online photo sharing services.  Both of which are often free.  Likewise, this is great opportunity to get younger people involved gaining them valuable hands-on experience to properly use these tools that are going to be a big part of their future careers.

How much time needs to be devoted?  Very minimal when the efforts are divided up.  The initial set up and processes are the most demanding and that can be spread out over a few weeks.  From there, you are often looking at an hour or two of time each week.  I personally only have to devote an hour or two at most each week to update our website with some new things.  That also includes any prayer requests that may come in and take about 10 minutes to post.

Do you have a tech team at your parish?  How is working out?  How is it structured?

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Author:Brad West

I live in Palm Coast, FL with my family and have assisted my local parish with our website and communications. Our parishes today can benefit a great deal from technology. Whether it's improving communications, community building, evangelizing, business operations, and much more; we have the tools today. To help provide some direction and advice to parishes and parishioners, I wrote and published an eBook titled "The Connected Church" which is available through Barnes and Noble (Nooks and Nook apps) as well as Amazon (Kindle and Kindle apps).
  • @jlewsf

    As the youngest person on staff (by 30 years…) I am the ‘tech team’. It is reassuring to hear the process you are describing. I have come into a parish as the D.R.E. 8mo ago and have set up a blog which embeds into a parish FB page which is also embedded onto the content-poor parish website and *new* Religious Education website (which is also content poor at this point).

    The disconnect is that our Parish Data Service database does not and has never included emails, nor do we currently ask for them. I think we would benefit greatly from making a parish-wide push to get emails and update them annually so that we can connect the dots to spread the word on what we are already doing. We also don’t have the bulletin online (which must be easy to do but I have not had time to tackle looking into that and then teaching the secretary how to do it) which could go a long way in helping to communicate information.

    Question: Any other recommendations for my parish?
    What are the best practices for sending email blasts to parishioners? (weekly or monthly? attach the bulletin/videos/links?)

    • Brad

      Wow. You have your hands full. First recommendation I would make is to get some volunteers aligned with you. This way you can spread the work around a bit.

      In terms of email, we are in the same boat in regards to the lack of entry of emails in the parish database. You can tackle this easier by using a service like Constant Contact. One the service provides for creating nice looking color email flyers to send out. They also add HTML “Join our mailing list” boxes you can add to your website or Facebook page (if you have one). This company is also partnered up now with PDS. Announce this and have parishioners sign up. It’s easier than trying to collect up a bunch of email addresses and enter them or do bulk upload via a CSV file. I think weekly or bimonthly is the best time frame.

      In terms of the bulletin, check with your bulletin publisher as ours is provided directly on the CatholicDirectory.com page and hosted there by Diocesan Publications. This way we just iframe that page of that site right on our own page for the ‘Online Bulletin’ for our parishioners to easily access.

  • Brad

    Also (sorry for what will appear to be self promotion), I created an ebook this past year to help parishes better understand tech uses in a parish and create a comprehensive tech plan. It’s called “The Connected Church” and is available through Barnes and Noble (Nook and Nook apps) as well as Amazon (Kindle and Kindle apps). I hope it helps.

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  • http://twitter.com/ccerveny Caroline Cerveny

    Hi Brad, There is an area missing here that has 35+ years of experience.  In everyday language it is referred to as “educational technology.”  This means that educators are involved in utilizing the technology tools to enhance the process of learning.  It is both and art and a science!  It also involves teamwork, as it is impossible today for any one person to cover all the needed bases!  I like referring to this in the church as faith-based educational technology, which uses new media.  You can follow my blog at http://acyberpilgrim.org

    • Brad

      Absolutely, Caroline.  The opportunities to enhance education using technology tools are fantastic today.  There are also some interesting things taking place in schools as well.  One of the barriers I’ve found is ‘digital literacy’ amongst educators.  Do you have recommendations for educators on that front?

      • http://digitalcatechesis.ning.com/ Caroline Cerveny, SSJ

        So, I’m glad to hear you agree with that there are three levels:

        1 – Administrative
        2- Evangelizing (in other circles this is referred to as “Communications”), and
        3 – Learning 

        In schools that are both public and private – they have worked at training their folks to integrate technology into their learning environments are way ahead of the parish educators. So at least they are “on board.”

        It is the religious education, catechetical, or parish ministries areas that are lagging behind.  Yes, workshops are held for these folks once or twice a year, but there is no agreed upon standards in 21st Century Learning for this group.  Check to see what has been the Guiding Light for everyday educators at NETS – http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-administrators.aspx