These days we’ve been spending a lot of time online. We work online. We workout online. We learn online. We hang out online. We eat together online. We worship online. We practically live online. Even as parishes return to public Masses, most people aren’t comfortable gathering in groups outside of Mass. They’re still minimizing their risk and exposure; sticking to much of their gathering online. For this reason the Church needs to step up her online presence in the form of evangelization. I’ve always thought we needed to be online, but if you haven’t started, now is the time!
I found a few great resources this past week that I wanted to share to convince you even more!
The first is an editorial written by the Our Sunday Visitor News Team that was published last week. Their first paragraph might be one of my favorite things on the internet right now.
There was a time — think back far enough, and you might recall it — when gathering in large groups for an event was not only common but desirable. In the halcyon days of 2019, we talked together, we laughed together, we ate together, we learned together, we prayed together. All in the same room. Six months into the coronavirus pandemic in this country, it’s almost hard to remember the good old days of sharing the same space with hundreds, or even dozens, of other human beings.source
The second item is an episode of Jesuitical recorded earlier this summer where Ashley and Zach interview Bishop Robert Barron. He discusses the beginning of his ministry for Word on Fire at a small public radio station on Sunday mornings at 5:30 am. He began by giving sermons on the radio, which of course has lead to what Word on Fire is today. If you need inspiration for what an online presence can do for building the Kingdom – this podcast is a great listen!
Most parishes aren’t going to start a ministry as involved as Word on Fire or even any of the conferences that the Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board is writing about. However, having an online presence with a website that is beautifully designed, easy to navigate, and readable is a good first step. If you want to see how your website rates, check out this tool I found (and adapted) online a few years ago.
Once you have a good website tool (and if you don’t, check this out) then your next step is social media. I’d start with Facebook and maybe venture into Instagram. Be mindful of what you share and how it connects with your parish!
Now that you have the basics set up, think about how you can integrate virtual gatherings into parish life this fall. Maybe it’s a live stream of a talk you’re giving in the Church. Maybe it’s a virtual Bible Study or Book Club that’s happening on Zoom or Google Meet.
The main way your parish is evangelizing virtually right now is probably your live stream for Masses. You’re still doing that right? I hope you answered yes. I know it’s a lot of work, but there are still people who are part of the vulnerable population staying home. There are also people who aren’t comfortable coming back or who just don’t fit in the Church with the reduced capacity requirements. Speak to them on the live stream. I know it can be awkward when you have people in the pew now, but setting it up so that it’s a good viewing experience is a way you’re loving your people. This means that the camera angel is good, the reader is understandable, there’s nothing obstructing the view, you lead them in a spiritual communion, and give announcements that they won’t hear or see since they aren’t there.
Now is our moment. Let’s not miss it.