Propose an Extraordinary Product – Guest Post by Elaine Menardi

Today I wanted to share a guest post that Elaine Menardi of LanePlane was so gracious to write for us here at My Catholic Blog. I highly recommend reading this post and also heading over to Elaine’s site afterwards to download a copy of her free eBook Theology of Social Media.

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Confessions of a Science Nerd

I am often asked how I got into all this tech and social media work. I try to be honest from the get-go by confessing that I am a science nerd at heart. I started my professional career in corporate engineering. Then I accidentally stepped into the ministry world and never got out.

Retreats, camps, youth groups and sacramental classes became my work… but it was inevitable that science would break through at some point. Plus, I have two young adult daughters who are themselves, digital natives. The best chance I have of maintaining strong relationships with them is to be interested in what they are interested in. Most of that comes from what is happening in cyberspace. So I try to keep up because it’s important to me that we stay connected.

As my years have passed in ministry, it’s also been a valuable learning curve that has helped me stay in tune with young people. One of the key elements to successful youth ministry is understanding youth culture. It’s vital to be able to speak the language and know the popular themes going on in their world. It creates common ground to walk on and talk about. If you know Gangnam style dancing these days, then you have lots of fuel to make jokes with teens and young adults.

How the Relationship Changed

The internet has changed our world profoundly. We already know and feel this intuitively. Online shopping and buying alone created an entirely new model of business and competition is fiercer than ever. Do you know that even the US Postal Service has online pricing that’s cheaper than going to the walk-up window? I was astounded to discover this.

Comment boxes on websites and blogs turned Web 1.0 into Web 2.0, giving people the opportunity to engage the conversation with businesses where they made purchases. Then social media took off and transported us to a whole new level and the ability to converse online blew everything right off the charts.

The result of all that momentum eventually changed our everyday relationships. When computers and internet became more generally accessible, companies designed more portable devices that allow us to take our instant-internet-access with us everywhere. Where we were once satisfied to interact with one person or even a small group, now we have the ability to invite the whole world into our lives and friendly coffee chats at Starbucks. Where it used to be us and a friend or two, now it can be 10 or 20 or 100 people, from all kinds of places all talking at the same time.

And I’m personally grateful for those evolved technologies. It gives me an inexpensive option to connect with my family when we live in four different places, including a college student who is currently studying abroad in South Africa this semester. Technology and social media are gifts!

While there are unhealthy ways to consume this gift, on the whole, many would side in favor of the great advantages these tools give us in everyday life and work. The ability to spread information and opinion adds value to our lives.

How does this relate to New Evangelization?

First of all… what is New Evangelization?

The Synod on the New Evangelization just concluded at the Vatican last October and the world is eagerly awaiting the written documents that are expected to come. In a nutshell, the goal of the New Evangelization is ‘re-proposing the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith… a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.’ Go to the USCCB site for more: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/.

The call to every Catholic is to renew our relationship with Jesus and the Church.

Some will be quick to point to technology and social media as the cause of this crisis of faith but that’s not accurate or fair. The whole of American culture has shifted over the past couple of decades. Many factors have contributed to changing values and beliefs including: transient lifestyles due to economic crises; separation of extended families; declining marriage rates and increasing divorce rates that change family structures; affluence and expanded social circles; and an ever-widening gap between poverty-stricken and economically-viable income classes.

Technology and social media have allowed us greater immediate access and awareness about how all of these factors have affected culture and contributed to a crisis of faith.

So how do we turn the tide?

Propose an Extraordinary Product

One way is to start using social media to connect the Cyber-Body-of-Christ. To take our values and our faith out into cyberspace in a whole new way. You might be thinking: There’s already a lot of religious talk out there on the web. Yes… there is… and much of it is very good and changes people’s lives.

But the goal of the New Evangelization is to make it personal. To ‘re-propose’ the Gospel in such a way that our relationship with Jesus is renewed. Status updates and links to Scripture verses, even YouTube videos with insightful wisdom are all wonderful and necessary. But until we make it personal by investing our time and energy in the relationships with our family, friends and those we serve in ministry, even good media just becomes consumed media.

If we put ourselves in the Parable of the Sower, we must become sowers ourselves and prepare the soil and nurture the seeds so they will sprout and grow.

This is how the New Evangelization will come to life. When we go to people one-by-one like Jesus did and invite them to ‘Come follow me’. It starts with relationship. Social media gives us a great avenue to develop and nurture those relationships.

Auxiliary Bishop-elect of Malta, Charles J. Scicluna, gave this quote to The Sunday Times (Malta) {http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20121123/the-new-bishop/-The-Church-is-here-to-propose-not-impose-.440902} on October 14, 2012: “We have a product which is extraordinary and we have to get our act together to bring it to as many people as possible. The way we [communicate] things at times is a total disaster and we have to be humble and say, ‘we need to do better’. We need to start using language that people understand… We need to tell people we are not here to impose, but that we are here to propose.” Great words timed perfectly just as the Synod was occurring.

Feed Their Hunger to Change the World

The best homilies that I ever hear tell me who I am in light of the Gospel. A few Sundays ago, we had readings from Isaiah 62—You are my delight; 1 Corinthians 12—There are many gifts but the same Spirit in all; and John 2—the Wedding Feast at Cana. The message I heard that day was: Offer your gifts to God and they will be transformed from water into wine. God changes the world when I give my best gifts.

Most people have a deep desire to make the world a better place. It requires all of us giving those gifts to make good change happen.

We must share our extraordinary product in a new way for the New Evangelization to become vibrant and dynamic in this post-modern age. How do we do that?

1. Feed people’s hunger to change the world. Keep sharing media that fills and inspires the heart and soul. Not only quotes or pictures or Scripture passages… but also look for motivational speakers and humorous wisdom.

2. Tell our personal stories. This is one of the most powerful evangelization tools. Share the highs and lows, the success and failures, the doubts and discoveries. Be sure to highlight where God was present in all these hidden corners of life.

3. Invest in the relationship. Relationships are not all about preaching. Be personal and whenever possible, make if face-to-face. Don’t let social media be the relationship, but use it as a tool to deepen the relationship.

And finally, a great quote from Fr. Ed Hays. Even though he didn’t say it the context of New Evangelization, it fits well in our discussion.

“Any dream worth giving your life for that you can see in your lifetime isn’t worth giving your life for. So you’re always living out a dream, a hope, an aspiration, that you won’t see, but if it’s a great one, worth your life, then it’s worth it.”

Such is the call of the New Evangelization.

Elaine MElaine Menardienardi is a tech-geek and Catholic ministry social media strategist. She solves problems and makes ideas happen. Her prime directive is to connect the Body of Christ online.
She is a seasoned ministry veteran who has served in Catholic parish/diocesan/national youth ministry circles for 23+ years. She has great expertise working in mission dioceses in rural and small town ministry.

Elaine works with Catholic parishes teaching the theology of social media to help them create strategies that connect the Body of Christ locally and globally. You can reach her at: http://laneplane.com/ and receive the free eBook: Theology of Social Media.

Comments

  1. “The call to every Catholic is to renew our relationship with Jesus and the Church.”

    Love this post. What you write has been very much on my heart lately! Thanks!

  2. “Some will be quick to point to technology and social media as the cause of this crisis of faith but that’s not accurate or fair.”
    Completely agree. How long has the crisis existed? Since before the micro-processor!

    I think you are right on the mark when you wrote “…social media gives us a great avenue to develop and nurture those relationships.” Social media is merely the tool or the distribution channel to get the Word out to many more. We now have an opportunity to cast a wide net — where Web 1.0 was more “info-educational” Web 2.0 is more “community-driven.” Look at what recommendations we read on sites like Yelp and Facebook can do for businesses.

    We have a great opportunity, and a great responsibility. Thank you Elaine!