Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

This wonderful term “New Media” – what do we do with it?  The world around us is changing.  And as this world changes, we need to begin to explore who we will bring on board to assist us in our parishes and dioceses so that we can integrate these wonderful digital tools into evangelization, catechesis, and communication ministries.

Photo of Thomas Sanjurjo

Thomas Sanjurjo

I’d like to introduce you to Thomas Sanjurjo, who recently joined the team/staff at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida.  What is important to note, is that he is their first Electronic Outreach Director.  I met him recently at a Sunday liturgy.  After Mass we chatted in the parish hall over coffee.  I left the conversation with Tom with a sense that this parish portrays a model of what it means to be an emerging 21st Century Parish.

Nativity Catholic Church

Why is he important to this parish?  We are now in the midst of an ever evolving Digital Culture that has its own language and tools.  Many of us often feel that we are strangers on the edge observing a world that is both exciting and terrifying.

If I were a missionary in a foreign land, initially I would feel intimidated by not knowing the new language or culture.  Even though I would desire to share the Gospel with others, they would not understand me.  I might possibly offend them, not knowing how important it is to only shake hands at our first meeting instead of giving a warm hug.

Missionaries today are trained in both the language and culture of the country and people they will serve. By the time they arrive in their new and foreign land, they already speak the language and know the fine points of what is acceptable or not in the culture.

So, if we stop to think about the Digital Culture surrounding us. It is a new language and a new culture!  Who is teaching us the language and the ways of this ever evolving culture?

Yes, a professional like an Electronic Outreach Director will not only do ministry via the parish website, Facebook page and more, he/she will also be responsible for training the staff and even parishioners.  After all this Digital Culture affects all of us!  This parish now has an in residence mentor whose job it is to be involved in electronic outreach.

Tom’s description offers an excellent model of a 21st Century minister who is focused on being a Digital Disciple.  He is to be a catalyst in his parish to bring others onboard with being 21st Century ministers and parishioners.  He shared this model of what he is currently doing in the parish:

Electronic Outreach Director Model

Yes, he will be responsible for the daily feeds and updates of the parish FaceBook page, developing and coordinating the parish blog, uploading the Sunday homily to Sunday Mass Podcast, and training his staff and parishioners, and more.  His ministry is just beginning.  It will be a delight to hear more about his ministry in the future.

I’m sure that there are other positions being created at the parish or diocesan level.  If you are aware of these new positions, I invite you take a moment to introduce us to the new position and who is serving in this role.  Let’s share in how we are becoming a 21st Century church!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Comments on: "The Times – They are a Changing!" (12)

  1. I have to say, I am really excited about this position. I hope to see many more like it in the very near future.

  2. Thanks for sharing this information about Thomas’ position — I am employed eight hours per week by my parish to serve as parish webmaster and my role is shifting more into optimizing our social media presence. I love your emphasis on the fact that Thomas will be engaged in informing and educating families on the use of technology. I feel like this is a huge need for our families as we become an increasingly digital culture. Thomas, I would love to chat about your job by email and feature an interview with you on CatholicMom.com if you would have time. Feel free to email me at lisahendey@gmail.com to get in touch! Good luck and prayers!

  3. Yep…I guess they are a changin.

    Congrats on your new position Thomas.

  4. Thomas, I’m with you and hoping to see more positions that are related to New Media in our parishes. When I research what other organizations are doing in this area there are a variety of positions. My hope is that parishes see this as a time of “clustering” and sharing personnel in these ever evolving areas. It is so easy today to collaborate electronically and to serve more than one group. However, that means we need to imagine that our parish is part of a network of parishes. Otherwise, we will “duplicate” and “duplicate” and “duplicate” more than we have the available resources. I feel that it is time to imagine new ways of sharing resources with one another.

  5. Electronic Evangelism Director–brilliant! It’s great to see a parish prioritize their online engagement by committing time, money, and resources to it.

    And you’re right around the corner from me! I live in Casselberry, FL. I’d love to get together sometime. My email is bvogt1(at)gmail(dot)com.

    • Do it, Tom! Do it! 😉 So glad for you…congratulations on the job. By the look of your model, you’ve got a great gig and a solid foundation.

    • Thanks Brandon,
      Now I just have to clarify what it is that I do, and what I do not. That’s the biggest danger, becoming the ‘tech guy’ and not having time to upkeep the outreach side of things. The website is also a difficulty. I’ll shoot you an email soon and we can meet up.

  6. Okay, shameless plug:

    linesinthearena.wordpress.com

    First post up there about rethinking website design.

    • And I notice that this is your first post! Congrats! As I pondered your comments, I have the following questions:
      1) Who is your audience and what do they need? Are there some parishioners who are NOT comfortable with FB and would prefer to get their parish information from the parish website?
      2) In Brandon’s New Media book, there is a wonderful section about how a university parish engaged their members in choosing how they wanted to be communicated with. That is one indicator that our members have preferences. How do we provide the type of communication that parishioners will want?
      3) How do we utilize the website (a Web 1.0 technology) and social media tools like FB, Twitter, Flickr (really any Web 2.0 style tool) to communicate and engage our parish members?

      • That’s actually the other end of the Blog I’m going to be writing. I’ll have a new Update on Saturday about the 2.0 stuff. I hit all three of those very questions.

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