I have had many discussions with youth ministers and those providing outreach with young adults about using Social Media. Those conversations though have seemed to focus on either how to get started or how to work on privacy issues and the Diocesan Child Protection Policy. Today, though, I'd like to just discuss a few positive practices for generally using Facebook and/or Twitter for your ministry(ies).
1. Find out from your target population (the teens, young adults, parents or larger parish community?) which they use and like. There is no sense setting up a Twitter account if no one will follow it. So, please ask key people in your target audience. If you find they use neither, ask what they do use. Perhaps your area isn't as in to Social Media, then you can stop reading this article! Or, perhaps they are using a lesser popular platform, They can teach you how to use it! You may also find they use both. Please know it is fairly easy to link your Twitter to your Facebook page (as a "person" who accepts Friends, your tweets can post onto your Newsfeed.)
2. Select a profile or cover picture that "says" something about your ministry, parish or the Church season, and do not be afraid to change it up every so often as it shows movement on the page with a quick glance.
3. Images seem to drive social media these days, so it is good to include them.... just make sure that they are appropriate, are forwarded from a trusted group/person/entity, and that they only include youth whose parents have authorized it (via the diocesan form for Direct Contact with Minors or as specified on event permission forms.) If it is a Pulbic page, it is a good practice not to use the full names of minors. If you allow them to tag themselves, that is their decision, but you need not list them.
4. Videos are also images, so let me add that you should fully review any and all videos before you post them. Make sure the entire video (including bumper ads at the end) are consistent with Church teachings. Add a comment about why you are sharing it.
5. Post or Tweet regularly - not 100 times a day where you may annoy people, but at least a couple of times per week so that you keep in your friends/followers/likers newsfeed and notifications.
6. Do not be afraid to include catechetical moments, like forwarding Saint of the Day, readings of the day, reflections by theologians and Catholic authors, etc. Even with Twitter, you can make a brief comment then link to a site/video/page with deeper content.
7. When people comment, like or post, be sure to like or reply so that they know their presence was noticed.If someone posts something inappropriate or out of line with Catholic teaching, be sure to follow up with that person one-on-one to discuss it (and possibly why you had to remove the post/comment.)
8. If possible, have a team working on the social media or at least ask key members of your target audience to post and reply regularly so that it does not all fall to one person. And make sure that your pastor/supervisor is aware of your social media efforts, even if he/she isn't personally connected, they should be aware of this aspect of your ministry.
9. Include things that will help readers live lives of faith! That is the point, right? So just be sure not to forget that. While you may want to promote programs and services or build virtual relationships to strengthen face-to-face relationships, we are in ministry to help people see Jesus at work in their daily lives, so our social media efforts should support this!
"The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God." ~ Pope Francis, From the Vatican, 24 January 2014, the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales.
10. I'll leave this one to you...what would be one thing YOU would add to this list? (Post in the comments below). Since we are in this together and exploring this new world for evangelization, we learn from each other and support each other.
If you are not already connected with the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry social media, please do so. You can follow on Twitter:
and on Facebook, there is an office page to "like":
and groups for Youngstown Youth Ministers, DOY-YAM for young adults, and some program specific groups. Check them out or "friend" me at:
Want to read more about the Church and Digital Evangelization? Check out these resources:
1. "Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization."
Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Communications Day 2013
2. Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter
Pope Francis, Message for World Communications Day 2014
If you are looking for guidelines and information shared at diocesan conferences and trainings, look at the office page on Technology and Ministry:
As I read Heidi Schlumf's column in the National Catholic Reporter, "Why More Catholic Parishes Should Offer Vacation Bible School," I found myself not only agreeing with what she wrote, which you can read online at:
but also with how it can be such a great outreach to older kids. I know that many parishes already have been utilizing the energies and ideas of teens for VBS, but I'd like to see EVERY parish do so! SO I would like to list just a few reasons why more parishes should offer VBS and invite teens to assist:
> It helps connect the teens to the parish community in a different wa.
> It gives the teens a way to contribute to the larger community and live out their Baptismal Call
> It lets teens try out some skills that they may want to build upon for future vocational or hobby choices. For instance, if they are considering majoring in elementary education, child care, parish ministry, recreation or even parenting, they will get to try out working with children to see if they like it (before tuition dollars are spent!)
> It allows the teens to share gifts such as music, story-telling, crafting, food preparation, or office duties (if they assist with attendance check lists, making copies, etc.)
> It gives YOU more help and this help has more energy than the lovely grandmas and mothers that may already be part of the program!
> It gives smaller children the chance to see older kids staying involved at Church, which may help them desire to stay involved as they age.
> It provides something useful for the teens to do for a few days of summer break, so perhaps the parents can have a few hours of relief from hearing: I'm bored!
> It provides Service Hours for teens who need them for school or National Honor Society, and it can be done within a faith context which can enrich the volunteering experience.
> It is just fun to see the teens get into the music, stories, crafts and other activities of VBS!
> It is youth ministry as you are providing an opportunity for the teens to be involved (but it doesn't take another evening or weekend out of your schedule!) Consider the 8 components of Comprehensive youth Ministry.... The teens learn with the children (or perhaps learn more when they prepare to teach a lesson for the VBS). IF YOU CHOSE to have the teens stay over lunch for a discussion on how the morning went, you could then dig deeper into the topic/theme of the day on the adolescent level which would then bring catechesis into the session. Asking them how they saw Christ that morning allows for evangelization. Praying for the blessings of the day and the VBS kids incorporates prayer. The teens working with the younger kids and serving with older adults builds community life. Plus, they are offering service which is part of Justice and Service. Trying out new skills and helping them prepare to lead sessions are elements of leadership development, and their mere presence is a source of advocacy to those who see how they contribute to the community.
For those of you that do incorporate teens into your VBS, what other reasons might you add?
Just a reminder that teens should not be left solely responsible for minors, in complying with our Diocesan Child Protection Policy, a back-ground checked adult should be supervising. However, smaller groups can have teen facilitators that are supervised by an adult! Teens, with guidance and preparation can be great at leading music, crafts, discussions, and helping teach lessons, serve snacks, and organize games.
I was recently in a discussion with a Coordinator for Youth Ministry about various roles a facilitator takes during a retreat, which reminded me of the handout (copied below) prepared by Sister Mary Ann Spangler, HM as we trained young adults to lead youth retreats. I share this now for your use, not only in regards to preparing leaders for retreats, but also to consider when planning a class, meeting or other gatherings.
Simple sharing is a group process in which each person is invited by the facilitator to share for about one minute without interruption from anyone else. Each can make statements based on facts or personal opinion. Questions for clarification can be asked after all members of the group have finished speaking. It is not the time for debate, discussion or other comments. If a person is not ready to share, they are permitted to pass and the facilitator will return to them after the last person in the group has had an opportunity to contribute.
Silence, although not popularly recognized as a “group process,” is a very important group technique. At various points, the facilitator or participants may request a moment or more for silence. This is a time of quiet for reflecting and integrating what has been heard or presented. It is especially important for introverts to have this time for internal processing.
Active Listening calls for total attention and openness to the speaker or input. It is a receptive stance that is non-judgmental and is often followed by other processes such as reflection or critical analysis.
Reflection is usually accompanied by silence. It provides a time to integrate information and refocus, to ponder meaning and implications. Reflection can be an invitation to place ideas and insights into a broader context and a chance to explore the application of values, as well as imagine possible consequences.
Shared reflection provides the opportunity to share personal insights within a group context. It is usually accompanied by active listening, critical analysis and in a Christian context, may include prayer.
Critical Analysis is an active process in which input is integrated into a context which includes, but is not limited to: social, economic, emotional, financial, spiritual, global, and historical realities. It is an opportunity to integrate what is known, in order to best recognize next steps.
Discussion is a conversation, back and forth, respectfully sharing factual information and opinions. This is not the same as debate (forensics) or argumentative conversation (conflict). This is an opportunity for strengthening understanding, seeking clarification, providing rationale and listening attentively.
Brainstorming is a process which encourages many ideas to be shared without judgment, clarification, discussion or comment. It is a method which generates many ideas in a very short period of time. It is a way for stretching, expanding and visioning new possibilities. It is helpful to have a secretary or recorder list the ideas for further analysis, reflection and discussion.
Resistance can be an internal or external pulling away from the central focus. It may involve slowing down or stopping a process and the flow of energy. It can be subtle and even unrecognized within an individual or group.
Consensus: (Developed by Dobie Moser, March, 2004)
Building Consensus is understood as a state of shared commitment regarding a specific statement within a group of persons. It is not a number indicating winning and losing, it is not the same as unanimity, nor is it a majority rules process. It is a process for listening, reflecting, and discerning how a group’s decision or direction reflects the values that it expresses as its own.
Consensus requires having a specific statement representing the group to consider. Here are the ingredients of a well developed consensus statement
1. Focuses on a specific aspect of the topic
2. Takes a clearly articulated position
3. Reflects community identified common values
4. It is a statement of vision & direction - action steps come later
Prayer is a conversation with God which involves speaking and listening. It can be formal, informal, personal or communal and provides the faith foundation of mission, discipleship, and the eschatological mysteries.
Discernment is a process which leads to a faith-based decision. It incorporates a series of steps or phases some of which include: statement of a question or listing of options; openness to any possible outcome (freedom); gathering of data or information on each option; prayer for guidance; recognition of personal gifts, talents, and skills; recognizing the right “fit”; and a commitment to that choice which leads to inner peace.
Dialog is a more complex, in-depth conversation around questions or issues which incorporates many facets, perceptions and attitudes. Many of the processes identified above would be foundational when engaging in an honest and sincere dialog.
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.