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).
  • Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF

    Hi Brad!  I would love to see parishes form what I would call a “Digital Discipleship” Team or Committee.  What we need in today’s parish goes beyond website or Facebook ministry.  Parishes need folks on this team who know how to effectively use social media for parish communications as well as those who understand how to build the infrastructure at the parish level (which includes the school and all the other ministries in the parish).  In addition, those who know and understand how to use digital tools in the learning and teaching environment are very, very important today.  More importantly, many of our volunteers need to be trained to become comfortable with the technology that surrounds them.  Or, if they are comfortable with technology, they need to learn how to use the technology to enhance faith and to evangelize others with our wonderful digital tools.  In my estimation – Web Ministry – is just the tip of the iceberg that needs to be addressed in today’s parish. 

    • Brad

      I agree, and excellent points.  The reality from what I am seeing and hearing from others is that nothing really exists in terms of technology teams/ministries at parishes.  For the average parish (and probably, the good majority of parishes) “tech” means website which is one person and that’s where it pretty much stops.  In those cases there is the movement to venture into the social services and media which ends up being the same person. 

      The truth is exactly what you are saying in that there are great benefits, it’s something that is beneficial in many parts of the parish, but it’s not happening.  Part of the problem for Catholic parishes is that we really don’t have a “model” of what “right looks like” (although I do have my opinions on what that looks like) that is being communicated from the Diocese level.  The Boston Archdiocese is one to watch with this and what Pilot New Media is doing.  Hopefully the Communications Departments of Dioceses across the country will start following suit with them. 

      So we need to start somewhere in parishes which is why I recommend a Ministry be formed that is varied in it’s tech specialties/focuses but all works toward common goals.  The Ministry should serve to support technology implementation, execution, and general support/guidance throughout the community (office operations, communications, education, etc.).  Schools, however, are a bit more unique and definitely should have Media Specialist on staff that drives those initiatives.  But until parishes really make this a priority and a more serious ministry driven by guidance at the Diocese level, we will continue to see slow adoption and uneffective implementation much like we see now in my opinion.  But I have faith that the proverbial “light bulbs” will go on eventually. 

  • http://twitter.com/MeredithGould MeredithGould

    As you know, I’m over-the-top emphatic about having a strategy BEFORE choosing tools and using them.  In my book, The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today, I zoom in on how church communication involves having not only a secular skill set, but a discerned awareness of one’s spiritual gifts.

    I am regularly dismayed and often discouraged when I see parishes/dioceses lump all communications tools together as if they were interchangeable and then invite volunteers to have at them, as if enthusiasm is a good enough criterion for participation.

    As for your suggestion about the pastor’s involvement, I urge caution. In the domain of church communications, especially but not exclusively tech, Father may not, in fact, know best. Father may not know anything and be too caught up in the cultural of clericalism to share power and authority with those who do — know best.  Lord, have mercy!

    • Brad

      Great input, Meredith.  And I couldn’t agree more.  In terms of the Pastor, my point is that there involvement is important.  One, it’s their parish which they are ultimately responsible for and should always be involved and/or aware.  It’s really not ok to launch anything online without Pastor permission and awareness.  In addition, Pastor support of any program can be huge in terms of success.  

  • Butch Ekstrom

    Nice piece. I will recomment it to others who are floundering on this subject.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=28703007 Sam Thomeczek

      Butch,

      The Senate of Religious Educators is having a Social Media meeting this morning, and we found this link on your blog.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find the blog from the Archdiocese website, and the link was broken on the blog. :/

      P.S. Shoot me a fb message and let me know how life is going, etc.

  • Lisa M. Hendey

    Top notch article Brad — so many great suggestions here. I agree with what Meredith is saying, but I also think that a Pastor’s active involvement in the social media communications of a parish can do a great deal to make those seem more important to parishioners. It’s something I have yet to accomplish in my own parish, although I will keep trying. Another of my goals moving forward is to  provide a better Spanish language presence in our social media. We have a growing community in our Spanish masses, and I think we’re not doing enough to serve them in the social sphere… 

  • Melba12

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