At Christ Our Light Parish, we are fortunate to have a paid staff position that can focus on communications. In this role, I am constantly seeking new ways to engage parishioners and faith-seekers alike in worship along with the activities and ministries that our parish has to offer. This year, I thought it would be fun to put a social media/ technology-spin on an event we typically put on for young adults — a Theology on Tap-style gathering led by our pastor, Father Kevin Anderson.
Typically at such a gathering, Father Kevin would present a thought-provoking, faith-related topic at a local restaurant and invite participants to engage in a Q&A session. It was fun. They could ask questions, maybe enjoy a beverage and enjoy some meaningful discussion. The gatherings were usually only attended by a small group of people — given hectic schedules and, let’s face it, Minnesota’s unpredictable weather. The event itself and the content were always good. A lot of preparation would go into it, so we hoped the revamp would revitalize this fun and informative format for a wider audience via social media.
I proposed moving the event online and calling it “Theology on Tech.” I planned to use our parish’s Facebook page to “Go Live” — broadcasting a video in an interactive way that shares what you are doing while you are doing it. People could attend this online event from their computers and mobile devices — in their homes or wherever that evening found them. I figured, if people can use social media to host parties to promote and sell things like kitchen items, handbags or jewelry, why couldn’t we use that same media to engage people in faith by encouraging questions and allowing for a faith dialogue?
I pitched the idea to Father Kevin. He was excited about the idea and willing to give it a go. I then invited our parish’s operations coordinator, Teresa Callison, to the mix to interview Father Kevin for the online event. He provided a list of questions that were unanswered from a recent faith formation session, which provided Teresa with good starting content. I set up our iPad to record, while I monitored the proceedings and sent additional questions to her phone as they came in the live feed and through Facebook Messenger. I had a plan and a team; the next step was to promote the event and see how it all would fall into place.
We added the event to our parish calendar for 6:45 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 2, with the day and time selected to benefit from the higher level of traffic we normally receive at that time on our page according to Facebook statistics. We created a Facebook event and promoted it online. Altogether, we spent a total of $20 to “boost” the ad, which is Facebook’s form of paid advertising. I figured that as people were searching for Christmas Mass times, our advertisement for Theology on Tech would pop up in their news feeds. The event was also promoted in our parish bulletin and during the announcements, with a special invitation at our Christmas Masses.
On the first Thursday of the new year, we went “live” on Facebook just before 6:45 p.m. to allow a little extra time for people to join us for the live broadcast. This was a good thing since we quickly learned our video was posting sideways (but, sometimes with technology, you learn as you go!).
Father Kevin was engaging and did a great job answering a variety of questions that covered topics like the sacraments, Church teachings and his vocation as a priest. His responses were informative and easy to understand. Teresa was an excellent moderator, asking questions and entering into dialogue all while receiving additional questions that I was sending to her phone as they were submitted. The pace of the talk went remarkably well, and the 45 minutes seemed to fly by with only a few questions not answered due to time constraints.
“Theology on Tech was a success. It proved to be a great vehicle for our parish, encouraging people to grow in their understanding of the Church and its teachings.”
Theology on Tech was watched “live” by roughly 55 people representing a wide spectrum of ages. Since posting Theology on Tech to our Facebook page, it has gained over 1,000 views and counting.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, too, with posted comments to the video like, “What a nice way to encourage a community to get closer to God,” “This is great. Thank you for taking your time to do this,” and “Do this again!” With additional positive feedback after Masses the following weekend, along with parishioners without Facebook expressing an interest in seeing the event, I also downloaded the video and edited it for our YouTube channel so those who do not have Facebook could easily view the engaging Q&A session online.
Theology on Tech was a success. It proved to be a great vehicle for our parish, encouraging people to grow in their understanding of the Church and its teachings. It also demonstrated how the Church is a relevant place with relatable and approachable people. I am so glad we were able to connect with, and reach out to, people in faith using social media. We discovered a new avenue to enhance our ability to evangelize with the help of today’s technology.
We are looking forward to doing this again, so check out Christ Our Light’s Facebook page and join us on Thursday, March 5, 6:45–7:30 p.m. to catch it “live” and perhaps get some of your own questions answered!
Jennifer Adams is the communications and office assistant at Christ Our Light Parish in Princeton and Zimmerman.