“It’s amazing and speaks volumes to me in regards to evangelizing as a Parish Community. We speak a great deal about evangelizing and the role technology and the internet plays, but it’s often from and individual aspect and sometimes a bit too technical. What can get lost in the conversation is how we evangelize online as a Parish and some very simple ways you can light up the internet with the Light of Christ as a community leaving many to want to come and see.
- The Parish website. We talk a lot about the benefits of a Parish website in regards to improving communication within the community, providing new avenues of service, and education. All of those components put together make your website a means to evangelize. This is also why so many of us are so passionate about design of parish websites. How they look, the navigation, the content, etc. are important. I think a lot about the website like the Church building. There is a lot of care that goes into our Church buildings and their appearance and design. The Church building becomes a beacon of hope in your community and your parish website can serve as a beacon of hope online to your local and possibly a much larger community.
- Online Photo Sharing! I know a bunch of you reading this have (and might just have) taken photos of the great meal at a restaurant or something you prepared. Why do we do that? It’s simple, because we want to show others this great meal we’re going to have. The restaurants love us doing this. Why? Again, it’s simple, we’re marketing for them. In essence we’re telling others to “come and see”. Our personal Facebook pages are filled with photos of all kinds of our life events and experiences. So why wouldn’t we take as many photos possible of all of those wonderful parish events, the Church building itself, and show off the life of the parish to the world? So often I’ve gone to parish websites and there is only a few photos of events or the interior.
- Social Networking Pages and email. More and more parishes are coming on board with social networking through avenues like Facebook Pages and Twitter. What to do with those pages and the real benefits can sometimes be confusing. One of the biggest benefits of these pages are how they evangelize to your immediate community. We forget that sometimes don’t we? Evangelizing within our own parish is extremely important. One of the biggest challenges parishes always has is staying connected as a community throughout everyday life. With the ever-growing adoption of mobile devices and use of social networks on those devices we have a unique opportunity to stay richly connected to our communities all week long keeping that Gospel message alive in everyday life. Likewise, outsiders are seeing the life and light of your community online and what do they want to do . . . come and see. Share those photos on these pages, link back to blog posts on your parish website, ask for “Likes”, encourage others to invite their friends and family to “Like” “follow” “circle” or connect with your page.
- The online “Check In”. This is the same concept with the photo of your meal. Checking in says, “I’m here!” Not because you have to, but because you want others to know the great place you are. Think about it for a moment. What if everyone at each of your Sunday Masses had a smartphone and all “checked-in” and it sent a message to all of their contacts? Not only is each individual saying, “I’m here!”. As a community you are saying, “We’re here! Come and see.” Lisa Hendey (http://www.CatholicMom.com) had a great idea with this and actually advertised in the bulletin encouraging people to “check in” when they came to Mass. The response I remember her saying was great and also served to bring attention to their Facebook page as well. Fun and evangelizing inside and outside.
The point being here is to not just think of evangelizing as something you can (or need to) only do on your own, or that it’s as simple as the SEO conversation when it comes to the internet. Being discovered online is great, but if I just walk into a dark dingy building with one little candle flickering how long do you think I’ll stay? It’s when we put all of these online things together working in unison as a parish community that the real Light comes on . . . both online and offline.