The Diocese of Des Moines
Digital Discipleship
May 26, 2015
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Parishes across the dioceses are reaching beyond traditional weekly bulletins and websites to appeal to parishioners and call them to action.

                Corpus Christi Parish in Council Bluffs uses a blog, Twitter account and Facebook to provide regular updates to parishioners and the broader community. The parish will be starting an e-newsletter soon.

                Ss. John and Paul Parish in Altoona has a weekly e-newsletter and uses Facebook pages for the parish, a teen group and the junior high youth ministry.

                St. Boniface Parish in Waukee is tapping talent from within the parish community to communicate more visually through photography, social media and videography.

                This is aside from launching a new website in each of the parishes.

                In each case, a committee evolved that incorporates gifted parishioners volunteering their time.

                Ss. John and Paul Parish has a committee of staff and volunteers, including a youth representative who looks at communication from a teenage perspective and offers feedback.

                St. Boniface’s committee includes former Meredith magazine editor Marlen Kemmet, who coordinates communication for the parish, and up to 20 volunteers under the leadership Kemmet and Kayla Engebrecht.

                Corpus Christi’s digital outreach committee includes about 10 people who contribute by taking small pieces of the work.

                “It’s really a team effort to get it done,” said Christy Rhoades, of Corpus Christi Parish.

“I think there are a lot of parishioners who want to get involved, they just don’t know how to get involved,” she said. “If you can find someone and you know their strengths are photography, they can take professional pictures of your church, or if you know someone who does design work, they can make a banner or flier for you. It makes people feel like they belong in a way that extends beyond coming to Mass.”

                With the help of volunteers, St. Boniface “has created all the things we did not have eight months ago” like a YouTube presence, said Kemmet.

                The main obstacle to getting started was fear of having anything controversial posted, he said. The committee meets monthly to go over what will be posted so there are no surprises.

                Sami Craig got involved in Ss. John and Paul committee as she was preparing for her confirmation. At age 16, she likes the parish bulletin, saying, “They are a good publication for those young and old, tech savvy or not.”

                In the future though, she thinks parishes could better communicate with people using text messages or applications, commonly called apps.

“My advice for other parishes that are afraid or unsure of technology is to just try something,” she said. “Start with a small group, the youth or teen groups would be a good place to start, and implement whatever your ideas are.”

                The Basilica of St. John in Des Moines has a Roku channel for those who’ve cut the cord from cable or satellite TV. The parish live streams its Sunday Mass on the Roku channel and its newly revised website.

                “There’s so much that you could do it’s mindboggling,” said Rosemary Sloss, who plans to go to the workshop to see if the parish is on the right path and learn what more it can do.

                Communication should make people aware of what’s going on and offer a call to action, Kemmet said.

                “We’ve got to do things that make our parishioners feel successful,” he added, giving as examples pictures of award ceremonies, children dancing or youth feeding the needy.

There will be people who say, “Everybody knows,” but no, they don’t, he said.

“The first step is to become aware,” he said. “The second step is to become involved.”

                To share what the parish has learned along the way, St. Boniface is cohosting with the St. Joseph Educational Center a one-day workshop called Digital Discipleship in a New Media Culture on June 19 from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. with lunch included. The workshop focuses on how parish staff and volunteers can energize parishes and share the Gospel. The keynote speaker is Scot Landry, author of “Transforming Parish Communications: Growing the Church through New Media.” A graduate of Harvard Business School, former chief operating officer of a software company, management consultant and brand manager, Landry established and grew a new media ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston before beginning an executive recruiting and consulting firm.

                A free-will offering will be taken. To register go to sjeciowa.org or call 515-222-1092.

 


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