As you read this blog we will be celebrating the season of Christmas. Yet, most of us will be focused on celebrating the new calendar year ahead. Just as we connect shopping with Christmas we attach resolutions with the new year.
When it comes to ministry there are cycles in the year that we must prepare, plan and perform to engage members of our communities. The Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day and ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Last year, my pastor posted a picture of a discarded Christmas tree on the curb waiting for trash pick-up, with a caption “Remember don’t throw Christ out with the Christmas tree”. Sharing contemporary messages on social media is a super way to engage the unaffiliated. A few weeks ago at the Bishop’s Assembly where the USCCB elected my Archbishop Jose’ Gomez as its new president was the big headline. However, the address by Bishop Barron at the assembly on the “Five Paths to Reaching the Unaffiliated” should be a New Year’s Epiphany for all of us.
Bishop Barron recommends creatively using new media to reach the masses who have become disengaged with the Church. “Using this tool, which didn’t exist even 10 years ago, we can now reach into their world,” he said. “We should invest a lot of time and money in getting really good people to work our social media.”
For the past five years I have shared Church Social Tips to help followers to practice digital discipleship, spoke at conferences and served as the social media manager at my parish. On the dawn of 2020, we should have a clear vision for creating a strategy for reaching the unaffiliated that includes social media.
Our church is a well of content that can be shared as simple posts on parish pages to inspire, educate and engage followers about the Catholic faith. My favorite shares are about the Saints who are the models for us to live faithfully. In the month of January a number of our models of the faith are connected with the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week. Mary Mother of God (January 1), St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen (January 2), Holy Name of Jesus (January 3), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (January 4), St. John Neumann (January 5) St. Andre Bessette (January 6), St. Raymond of Penafort (January 7), St. Anthony, abbot (January 17), Sts. Fabian and Sebastian (January 20), St. Agnes (January 21), St. Vincent of Saragossa (January 23), St. Francis de Sales (January 24), the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25), Sts. Timothy and Titus (January 26), St. Angela Merici (January 27), St. Thomas Aquinas (January 28) and St. John Bosco (January 31). These are the easiest shares personally or through a parish page because there are so many pages who will design and post about the feast day of the saints and you just have to share from another page to your own - easy peasy! My favorite resource to share about the saints is Portraits of the Saints. They have a website and on it you will find links to their various social media pages that you may share from. The graphics include a picture and brief description of what actions of the the person garnered them sainthood.
Courtesy Portraits of Saints
Social consciousness has always been at the forefront of our church’s faith traditions. In January there is a focus on right to life events. On January 24th the March for Life in Washington draws hundreds of thousands of pro-life Catholics to the Nations Capital. The USCCB provides pre-designed downloadable graphics to be shared on parish websites and social media pages to participate in the 9 Days for Life novena.
The annual Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles draws Catholics from all over the world to connect with other catechist and learn new trends, techniques, tips, tricks and tools for teaching the faith to the next generation. In fact, I will be presenting a session titled “What would Jesus Post”.
Creating options for a parish to participate as a community to help others is also something social media can help to amplify a message of giving. There are many month long observances to hang a project or drive of some sort. January is designated as Blood Donor month and sharing opportunities with your followers to give the gift of life through blood donations extends the spirit of giving. Our parish is hosting a blood drive in connection with our Knights of Columbus.
Our prayer practice of saying the rosary shines a light on the luminous mysteries as the Christmas season concludes with the Baptism of the Lord. We will invite our followers every Thursday to say the rosary. We will do a slide show of saying the rosary on Facebook, an image on Instagram and multiple posts on Twitter every Thursday of the month.
If you or your staff is not familiar with social media enlist members of your parish to help you, by asking them to volunteer their time and use tools to help develop a plan. Bishop Barron suggest the following guidelines.
This person should be someone who can use this tool effectively — that is, someone who knows the culture, knows how to reach it, but also knows the Catholic tradition.
Lastly, as we begin a new year sharing options for Catholic resolutions should be a part of what you share with followers. My number one option is to head to Mass for first Friday or Saturdays. Second starting a Sacred Heart of Jesus novena for a special intention for the year. Third downloading an app that provides daily meditation on scripture, virtues or other traditional prayer practices - I like Hallow! You can also ask your followers to share resources.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!