Historically, Catholics have been at the forefront of scientific, educational, medical, and technological innovation. Ironically however, the Catholic Church is sometimes one of the slower adopters of this same innovation. This has proven true of the adoption and effective use of both websites and social media by most parishes.
Why have our Catholic parishes been so slow to embrace the evangelical, catechetical, and discipleship opportunities that lie at the heart of the internet? I believe it is for the same reason that any of us fail to do something well – a lack of vision and thus motivation. In other words, without understanding the potential and importance of an idea, it is unlikely that we will be empowered to implement that same idea.
Below are what I believe to be the top 7 reasons that our Catholic parishes desperately need a dynamic website. Feel free to leave comments to add your own reasons or feedback!
- First Impression
- When someone moves into town and they are looking for a Catholic parish, what is the first thing they do? They google “Catholic church, name of town, name of state“. So what is their first (and possibly ONLY) impression of our parish? The parish website!
- If our parish website is ugly, looks like it was made in the 90′s, or is poorly maintained (ie, it still has information about last year’s Fall Festival on the home page), that new parishioner will probably be a new parishioner at another local Catholic parish whose website reflects “we are a beautiful, dynamic parish with a flourishing faith community”.
- Primary Source of Communication
- What is one of the most important principles of evangelization and communication? Meet them where they’re at. If we want to be faithful and effective evangelists and catechists, we must go where the people are.
- So where are the people in our parish? Answer: online. The internet – websites, blogs, social media – are the primary source of information and means of communication today. If we embrace these mediums of communication, they will help transform the life of our parish.
- Increase Active Participation
- How often do we spend countless hours creating and preparing for an awesome youth night, bible study, or other parish activity and then wonder why nobody (or very few people) show up? Often, the problem is not that people are not interested in the events or ministry that we provide, it’s that they do not know about them!
- Let’s be honest – most people do not listen to announcements at the end of Mass or read the parish bulletin. However, a dynamic parish website, combined with the effective use of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter and a robust communication tool such as flockNote, will engage the majority of parishioners and increase awareness of the spiritual, social, and services opportunities available at the parish. And if we increase awareness, we will ultimately increase active participation!
- As a former youth minister, DRE, and music minister, I know first hand how much time is spent on administrative work each week. Flyers, permission slips, volunteer recruitment and coordination, tracking down payments…all tasks (important as they were) that required time that I would have rather been spending doing “ministry”.
- With a dynamic parish website and by utilizing social media, a parish can greatly reduce the amount of time spent on traditional administrative tasks through more efficient and streamlined forms of communication. Ultimately, this means more time for ministry!
- Better Stewardship
- A great parish website improves stewardship. Firstly, we are more efficient (see #4 above), so we are better stewards of our time.
- Secondly, we can greatly reduce the amount of paper used for mail-outs, permissions slips, flyers, etc. by embracing digital communication. This will save the parish thousands of dollars a year, thus being better stewards of the treasure entrusted to us.
- Thirdly, by freeing up more time, we are able to spend more time using our talents in ministry.
- Finally, if our parish website gives a good first impression (see #1 above), we have a better chance of growing the number of families in our parish, which ultimately increases tithing.
- Go Green
- By creating a dynamic parish website and using social media, we can become a more paperless parish. Thus, we will be doing our part to be a good steward of the environment.
- Open 24 / 7 / 365
- Regardless of how many hours we work and serve at our parish, we cannot be available around the clock. Not true of our parish website.
- The parish website is the one part of our parish that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. By creating a beautiful, dynamic website, we have an opportunity to evangelize and catechize at all hours of the day…even while we are sleeping.