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.

Pope Benedict Knows the Importance of Evangelizing Online

Yesterday was the feast day of Saint Frances de Sales. Saint Frances is known as the patron saint of writers, and that pertains to authors and people like me who simply blog on the Internet. Saint Frances’ feast day has also become associated with the Pope releasing his World Communications Day message. The Pope usually addresses some form of Evangelization in this message, and yesterday Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the Internet and social media. I thought this was so cool because it is specifically what I try to do. I think social media and blogs are some of the best tools we have to Evangelize with.

In his message the Pope touched on many points that you can read here. He acknowledged the great effort that many have already put into their social media efforts, and the commitment it takes to build online relationships and a following. Pope Benedict XVI also stated that unless the word of God is being spread on the Internet, it may not reach the large portion of the population who rely heavily on these tools. If you are a fellow blogger or just enjoy social media check out the entirety of what Pope Benedict XVI had to say.

Growing the Catholic Social Media Presence

As you know we have had several author interviews featured on My Catholic Blog. So many of them have talked about the different ways to Evangelize, and how important it is that we as Catholics do this. Part of getting the Church to grow is adapting to the new ways that people are now receiving their information. This certainly means the Internet, and not just blogs such as this one. People spend hours a day on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

I read a post about the theology of social media on Catholic Web Solutions. The post talks about ways in which Catholics can utilize social media to spread the word of God. It also talks about how huge of an asset a social media presence can have. They link to a free eBook that offers ideas and ways to use your social media presence for God. It seemed like a pretty cool idea so I thought I would share it with you all.

Growing the Catholic Presence on Social Media Sites

I was recently brought to realization that there is a glaring lack of Catholic presence on social media sites. Too much of the stuff seen on social media every day is negative and evil. Whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or whatever else people are using today there is an alarming amount of negativity. I feel as though it stems from the anonymity the internet creates. You can leave a hate filled comment on a Youtube video and nobody will ever know it was you, or you can tweet mean things at Pope Benedict’s new Twitter account and get away with it. I guess some people get a kick out of saying hurtful things online.

Anyway, what brought my attention to this issue was a positive story concerning social media. I was pleasantly surprised to read about a teenager named Dylana Smith who has taken it upon herself to promote the New Evangelization for the Year of Faith. Pope Benedict XVI called for Catholics to spread the New Evangelization in any way they could this year, and Dylana is using social media to do that. To get more specific she has been using Instagram to create a Catholic presence on the popular app. Dylana noticed a lack of Catholic presence on the app, and figured a good way to celebrate the Year of Faith would be to make a personal mission to create one. I am delighted to see such a young person trying hard to make a difference.

Much like Dylana I was also alerted that groups of Catholic bloggers have been uploading Advent photos of the day. These Catholics are using Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets to share their Advent photos each day. They also include a short Advent thought with their photos. This is a wonderful way to celebrate a season that often times goes overlooked by many people.

I was thrilled to see these efforts to make a bigger and better Catholic presence on social media. All of this news came the same week as Pope Benedict’s Twitter account was activated. I can’t wait to see what his tweets will be like next week!

How are you trying to help grow the Catholic presence on social media sites?

Was Joining Twitter a Good Idea for Pope Benedict XVI?

There has been a lot of controversy over the Pope’s new Twitter account. There seems to be two sides to this issue. One side is excited for the Pope’s tweets and can’t wait to see what they will be like. I thought I was completely on board with this side of the issue, however the other side makes a decent point. The other side thinks it is unnecessary for Pope Benedict XVI to have a Twitter account. Some of them feel this way because of the obscene and hate filled tweets that some people have been sending at the Pope’s account already. I never thought that people would tweet mean things at the Pope, but I suppose I didn’t think too much about it. If I had I would have known to expect it. The positive side is, even if these negative people are going to tweet bad things at the Pope they are still following him. Meaning even the worst people amongst us are still receiving the messages the Pope sends out.

Fr. Z recently weighed in on the topic over on his blog. The post was called “Are Christ’s mission and Holy Church well-served by ‘me-tooism’?” and gave Fr. Z’s interesting opinion on the matter.

Do you think it was a good idea for Pope Benedict XVI to start a Twitter account?

Pope Benedict XVI Twitter Handle Announced: Tweets to Follow

Today marks the beginning of Pope Benedict’s existence in the Twitter world. Pope Benedict XVI’s Twitter handle has been announced this morning (@Pontifex) and also news that he will tweet for the first time next week. The date that was announced is December 12, and apparently these tweets will be in a Q and A format. I know that I am thoroughly excited to see what the Pope will tweet about. It is very crazy that social media has become so embedded into our every day lives.

Read more about this story here: Pope Benedict XVI Launches Twitter Account