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:
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.