by ROWENA OREJANA
Parishes need to think about designating a social media coordinator to communicate their vision to their members, according to a church ministry expert.
A specialist in social media in church ministry, Dr Charlotte McCorquodale, told participants of the Mission and Media Seminar at the St Columba Centre in Auckland on September 19 that if parishes do not have a presence in social media websites, they might as well be invisible to the youth.
“The importance of a parish website I cannot underestimate,” said Dr McCorquodale in a video conference from Louisiana.
Dr McCorquodale is an international educator, researcher, and consultant for the fields of lay ecclesial ministry, certification standards and processes, youth ministry, and e-learning.
Participants who brought their own devices viewed the key points of her talk on her Pinterest board.
Dr McCorquodale said parishes need a social media committee to push people on to their website.
“If you want to post something on an event that will be happening in your parish, you can load it on your website,” she said. “There is this push-pull reality that is happening. You really want your social media to push people to your website.”
The necessity of social media networking sites cannot be ignored, she stressed.
She pointed out that according to the World Internet Project New Zealand Report from 2007–2013, 73 per cent of New Zealanders consider the Internet is important or very important in their everyday lives.
The same report said 81 per cent of respondents rate the Internet as an important or very important source of information. It also found that a quarter of users access Facebook or another social networking site several times a day.
“The implication of these (findings) is … this is where we need to be. But it seems the Church is always lagging behind,” she said.
Dr McCorquodale offered practical advice. “Who is your audience? What do you need to communicate with them? What technology tools does your audience already use? It is important for you to know that information?,” she said.
She said applications such as Ministry Scheduler can be downloaded for free or inexpensively. “It’s really helpful,” she said.
Dr McCorquodale said a social media coordinator would be responsible for identifying and loading content on the website. She suggested this person could be the parish person who did a lot of technology related things; the parish youth minister or a teacher.
“Ask each ministry in the parish to designate one person to the social media committee. They don’t need to know about technology at all. They just need to give content,” she advised.
She added that improving social media networking of a parish is an excellent way to involve young people in the Church.
Auckland diocese Religious Education team leader, Sr Sian Owen, RSJ, who put together the seminar, said the number of mobile device users in New Zealand is expected to jump to 90 per cent in five years from the present 60 per cent.
“I can’t stress enough the benefits of working together on this,” she said.
Sr Sian and her team put up a Facebook page called Fit with New Media, sharing ideas on new media for ministry.