Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Strengthening Our Families

Lake Barkley in Western Kentucky

Lake Barkley

I’m at the Mid-South Catholic Leadership Conference this week and living in the beauty of a fall hideaway – Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Western Kentucky.  Florida may be warm, but Kentucky is beautiful in late fall! Thank you for the opportunity to share not only in the beauty of this land and your friendships, but to also share in the reflections of these days – Strengthening Our Families.

Of course I’m here to give a couple of workshops related to technology.  The first is titled “Collaborating Parishes & Schools: Doing Technology Together.” The second will focus on Digital Discipleship.  So, how does technology strengthen our families?

As I/We explore this question in these two workshops, what needs to be remembered is that technology is simply a tool that may be used for communication, learning, and overall management of our parish and school memberships through our collective databases.  The challenge is that we are NOT just a number in the database!  We are humans seeking love and relationships with a parish community and our God.

But how do we do this with technology?  My response is – with a great deal of thought and careful reflection.  Technology is simply a tool!  It is NOT the messenger.  Technology can be the delivery system!  It is not the message!

However, the world and tools that surround us clearly expose us to a new culture and language.  If I were to travel in a Spanish speaking land, I would learn quickly that to survive, my ability to speak English would not get me far.  For basic survival, I would need to learn the Spanish words for – eating, housing, travel, to say good morning or please and thank you!   However, if I wanted to live in Spain for the rest of my life I would end-up doing one of the following (1) either learning the language and culture so that I would become a near native and be able to conduct everyday business as a near native, or (2) find an English speaking conclave where I would live in Spain, yet conduct my daily business through others who were bi-lingual or (3) I would live in a beautiful hideaway (maybe something like beautiful Lake Barkley) where I could survive and not immerse myself in the everyday world of Spanish speaking Spain.

There are always choices! And to learn anything new takes time and patience!  More importantly, you have a reason to learn about the rapidly evolving technology that is becoming an integral part of our everyday world. If you want to learn about technology, you will!  And once you have learned about technology, you will know when and how to apply it to your ministry!  Especially how to use it in the –  “Strengthening of Our Families.”

How will we use technology in catechetical ministry?  That is still a key question!  Unless we really learn what these tools are about and how they can assist us in enhancing the message, it is like knowing the bare basics of a new foreign culture and language.  Barely surviving!

I invite you to share your story of how you are learning more about technology!  For those who are already comfortable with technology and are finding success in using technology in their ministry, what is your story? How are you using it?  Has technology helped or hindered your catechetical ministry?

If you like this post, please remember to click the “Like” button.  And yes, do join in the conversation!

Comments on: "Strengthening Our Families" (6)

  1. I use a blog sort of as an extension of the parish bulletin. It is one more place to get the information out to parishoners. The nice thing about the blog is I can add links, documents and videos right to our posts and there is no additional effort on the parishoners behalf to access the information.
    We are also on facebook and twitter. Here I have a bit more fun. First because the majority of our friends are students involved in our youth ministry program. Second, because of the instant feedback potential and ease of interaction. I like to post trivia questions surrounding the liturgical season, specific feast days and saints. I use hootsuite to make better use of my time when it comes to trivia and fun facts. I post reminders of events, volunteer opportunities and Mass times for Holy days. Here is a funfact for you: the trivia gets more views. I do have our blog linked to post to FB, however that seems to be something that needs constant tweeking because it hasn’t posted recently. I also like to post pics from parish events directly to our FB page. I do get the okay from parents to post pics to FB. I do not tag the pics or use names. Other than describing the event and offering a caption to describe what is happening in the picture, I post the pics and if families want to tag themselves they are free to do that. In the five years I have been using these tools in ministry I have only had one family deny permission for pictures of their student. That got to be a little tricky, but we did accomodate.
    This year we are piloting a text messaging service for families involved in our religious ed program. In our small town icey, stormy weather often shuts down the freeway, closes roads and even schools. If we need to cancell class due to weather it often involves the DRE one by one calling all 200 families to notify of the cancellation. This is time consuming and not very effecient. With this texting program in place we will be able notify all subscribers with the ease of sending out one text message. The time consuming part is going to be informing parents of this program and helping them subscribe. I have no doubt that after our first storm parents and staff are going to see the true value of this tool. We also intend to use this tool to remind parents of important meetings or events. The important thing here is we don’t want to over use this tool so as to become “spamy” and as a result be ignored.
    My next goal is to video conference in some guest speakers during our workshop nights and maybe make these available on our blog.
    I want to take our religious ed program beyond the “time served: here is your sacrament” approach by expanding the opportunities to engage with families. Engaging with families is my goal and I accomplish this in a variety of ways, one being the use of tech tools.

    • Gina, Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights here! This is an excellent example of how you offer communications technology to your families. How are you engaging your catechists in learning more about educational technology which includes social media tools?

  2. angela ann zukowski said:

    Great article, Sr. Caroline! I look forward reading others insights here. Something I think what we need is a great ‘best practices’ e-book – or indexed site for catechists.

    It is not only knowing the tools (these are changing so fast that as soon as a reluctant catechist may want to learn it – it has changed – this becomes frustrating to them!) but having a very, very practical step-by-step guide for implementation.

    I often discover that those who are ‘into technology – the digital tools/techniques’ are the same people who in the past were eager to find a new methodology for teaching – learning. So, the milieu continues to be few vs. many. This has not changed.

    I would like to see more new catechetical materials that were totally digitally based with offering strong digital support systems in place to realize them.

    However, we know that the iGeneration, or, digital natives, are on our doorstep to become the next generation of catechists and they may have it resolved because the current catechists have figured it out! Humm!

    Just a few thoughts! Enjoy WK!

  3. Amy McEntee said:

    A “next generation” catechist (aka — one of the oldest Millennials!) here! We’re currently living in the middle space: We’re teaching older catechists/catechetical leaders, who understand faith formation, how to use technology and younger catechists/catechetical leaders, who understand technology, how to “do” faith formation. In terms of theory, we need to help educate people as to how technology, especially social media, changes the way individuals think, learn and interact. It’s not just a new method of teaching; it’s responding to the way individuals learn. Both older and younger catechists need to be aware of this. Technology has, to this point, been a pretty little add-on. We need to find it’s essential-yet-appropriate place in faith formation, which is well served by highlighting best practices.

    Part of that is helping families to understand the role that technology plays in our culture. There are moral and anthropological implications for the function of technology in our world. How do we help families to navigate through these questions? How does what we believe about the Divine and human dignity play out in our every day use of technology? Part of strengthening our families is helping to define what it means to be a strong family in the Digital Age, in very practical, every day kind of ways. It can even be simple: Am I checking in with God as much as I’m checking in on FourSquare?

    I love this quote from Blessed John Paul II from the World Day of Communications Statement 2002: “The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man. Therefore, on this World Communications Day, I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net, so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world “the glory of God on the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.”

    • Amy, Thank you for sharing the wisdom of being a “next generation” catechist. A wonderful reflection! And yes – “we need to help educate people as to how technology, especially social media, changes the way individuals think, learn and interact” This is what the field of educational technology has addressed over the past 30 plus years. Ed tech is an area that religious educators have often kept at an arms length distance. As a result, many religious educators are not sharing the faith with a digital consciousness that would enhance what they are doing!

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