When it comes to technology, we do a great job of telling people what they should get. But we don’t often do such as great job of explaining why. So we can tell Catholics and parishes all these great things they should get and do, but it’s time to back track a bit to fully explain the why’s. Pope Benedict XVI was absolutely correct recently when he spoke about the fact that technology can not replace our need for a relationship with God. We need to be respectful and understand what technology is in terms of it’s role within our lives, our communities, and our parishes.
First things first, technology (whether it be equipment, software, internet technologies, etc.) are tools to accomplishing things. Just like Priests began using cars to get around within their communities and telephones to better keep in contact with their parish communities, today’s technology is no different in terms of enhancing and improving the way we can do things. It’s about looking at the things we do and would like to be able to do better, or things we could not have done before and would have liked to be able to.
When we begin to truly think of and look at tech in this manner, we can begin making good and sound decisions about which tech to select that will be the best choices that will allow us to accomplish the things we would like to. There are several types of technologies that can be applied within a Church environment and basically fall into 3 categories:
- Communication & Evangelization – We need to keep our parish communities informed as well as educate and reinforce faith principles. Likewise, we need to provide welcoming environments to others new to our communities or thinking of joining the Church both in our physical and online presence.
- Administrative tasks – Our parish communities have things that need to be done and we need to manage those tasks so we can continue to effectively fulfill our mission. This puts us in the unique position to constantly look at ways to simplify processes to work as efficiently and as effectively as possible while taking into account future changes.
- Organization and planning – Parish communities are active environments with many things going on at one time through many ministries. We are constantly challenged to keep things in order.
All of these areas have typically had barriers and challenges for parish communities. How do you keep in touch and present with the majority of your parishioners throughout each week? How do we keep running our parishes at an affordable level while effectively fulfilling our mission and maximizing the services to the community? How can we provide an environment that engages parishioners? So forth and so on. All are challenges we face everyday and have done various things over the years to overcome the barriers with the tools available to us. Today, we have powerful new tools that can break down a great deal of those barriers and lay the foundations for future generations while increasing the activity within our communities. Just some of these tech tools and their associated roles are:
- Websites – With computers and internet access being so common in homes and as mainstream use, we have a new avenue to provide connections with our communities. We can utilize parish websites as a powerful addition to our parish office. It can be used to reduce workloads for staff by hosting documents, calendars, etc. for easy access 24/7. We can also use these new “hubs” to keep the community informed alleviating heavy reliance on things like bulletins.
- Networking & Cloud Solutions – “Cloud” solutions allow us to affordable options to improve collaboration, protect files, and reduce costs of operations by expanding choice of equipment while expanding the ability for volunteers to contribute and participate easier.
- Email – This is the new phone number. Email is an important way to communicate with individuals and the community at large more efficiently, effectively, and far less expensive than things like mailings or faxing.
- Social Networking Services – Services like Facebook and Facebook Pages allow us exciting new ways to engage our communities and beyond like we’ve never been able to before. We can improve parish communications and expand evangelizing through these new tools.
- Social Media – Access to mass media has had huge barriers in the past. TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers have always had huge costs and access barriers. Today the Church and parishes can communicate through all of these avenues through things like online video, podcasts, blogs, etc. while allowing us to “engage” and interact with viewers.
The discussion can go on and on as it should. The great thing is that we can today. The point is that technology is NOT about replacing and “changing” the Church. It’s about using the tools available to us to expand upon the things we can do to fulfill our mission. It’s about “changing” how we approach doing things at time to overcome barriers and improve our effectiveness. Although there are some parallels that can be learned from business uses, we are not a business and need to be aware of our purpose and the application of these tools in our unique environments and the needs we have. It’s trying at times and confusing. We all know that. But just think, the telephone and car were confusing and “scary” things for those before us.
What’s in your tech toolbox?