Social Media and the Church

Seventy-five years ago, The Northwest Kansas Register was started in order to deliver the news of the diocese to the people of North Central and Northwest Kansas.  From 1930-1950, Archbishop Fulton Sheen hosted a radio program called “The Catholic Hour” that was broadcast to the people of New York.   In 1951, he took his message to the nation through the medium of television, where he spoke on the theology of the current topics of the day.  Today, those messages are being spread on a new medium, social media.

There are many definitions for the term “social media”, but one consistent theme is that it is a “… blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.”  In other words, it is a way of stimulating dialogue between its participants.  It can be used to connect people with similar interests, allowing them to share information and communicate viewpoints.

This year, in the 44th World Communication Day message, Pope Benedict XVI said this new form of media “can offer priests and all pastoral workers a wealth of information and content that was difficult to access before, and facilitate forms of collaboration and greater communion that were unthinkable in the past.”  With that said, the point should be made that social media communication is not meant to be a replacement for face-to-face interaction.  Rather, it should be used to engage its participants into thoughtful and friendly discussions.

Recently, the Vatican established the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.  In the Apostolic Letter establishing the council, the Holy Father specifically tasked them “to study and to encourage the use of modern forms of communication as instruments for the new evangelization.”  Bishop Coakley shares in this same vision through “Stewards of Hope”, the new pastoral plan for the diocese.  The plan calls for the establishment of the Office of new Evangelization.  Specific objectives for the new office point to the use of new technologies in performing its mission.

Through the use of Facebook and Twitter, the Diocese of Salina is currently using social media to reach out to parishioners and interested people.  The Chancery is using the sites to quickly inform its followers on topics such as “Stewards of Hope”,” Yesterday, Today and Forever”, and the recent Office of Family Life event that featured Christopher West.  In a matter of a few minutes, the staff is able to send news and information to its followers, often with links to the diocesan website where they can get more information or even register for events.

The use of social media should not be limited only to larger organizations.  Buzzplant, a social media firm, recently conducted a survey on how Churches (not just Catholic) use social media.  They found that 61% use social media.  It also found that use was not dependant on the size of the Church.  Use was relatively equal for churches of all sizes.  When asked what the churches used their social media sites for, the most popular were friend connections, event announcements and youth ministry.  Prayer and volunteer needs were also indicated.

While most people associate the use of social media with younger people, there are currently a great number of adults who are following us.  To follow the diocese on Facebook, go to www.facebook.com/SalinaDiocese and click on the “Like” button.  To follow us on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/SalinaDiocese.  You can also go the homepage of the diocesan website, http://salinadiocese.org, and click in the Facebook or Twitter logos.  Not only can you access these sites on your home computer, many of them offer applications that can be used on your mobile phones as well.  Contact the Office of Information Technology if you have any questions about how the diocese is using or how your parish can use social media.