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Embracing the Digital World With Ministry
As the drizzle began, I immediately foresaw a hiccup in our check-in process. Not because we were hosting our children's faith formation check-in outdoors, but because our WiFi tends to act up whenever it rains. The temptation to forgo the electronic check-in was palpable, yet we knew we had to persevere. Despite the process being far from perfect, it was a step towards improvement.
We did face some delays, but managed to navigate through the morning. Despite a clunky process, the fruits of our technological investment were evident. We acquired cleaner data on our families which in turn, would offer us a better understanding of their engagement levels. Over the years, I’ve come to realize the importance for a parish to connect with its members and meet them where they are in their faith journey.
Investing More in Technology
I believe that parishes and dioceses need to delve deeper into the technological realm. This is not about having screens in the sanctuary or more social media spokespersons, but acknowledging that we are living in a digital world that holds immense potential to enhance our mission. While it's tempting to delve into specific aspects like database management and artificial intelligence, it's vital to grasp some basic rules for employing technology in a parish setting:
It's an Accelerator, So Proceed with Caution
Technology affords us the luxury of accessing information, entertainment, and much more at an astounding pace. It's exhilarating to know that answers and services are available instantly. However, this immediacy leaves little room for error.
A year ago, while experimenting with our new database system at the parish, I was thrilled about employing shortcuts to draft a single email template, inserting unique attributes to personalize each message. Unfortunately, an incorrect setup led to the dissemination of hundreds of emails bearing incorrect information about children's small groups. Correcting this mistake proved more time-consuming than creating it.
Did I stop using the technology because of this mistake? Definitely not. However, it served as a reminder to thoroughly test things out and seek additional eyes for review before proceeding.
The agility of technology enables scheduling reminders ahead of time, lessening screen time, and effortlessly managing unexpected scenarios like ordering extra food for surprise guests at an event. While the speed of technology is a positive, it also calls for better preparation.
Dedicate Time to Learning It Correctly
Although technology is swift and potentially costly, learning to maximize its features renders it invaluable. I wouldn’t label myself technologically savvy; nothing comes naturally. Allocating a few hours each week to learn various technologies beneficial to my ministry, like the database system and audio-visual equipment, has been a necessity.
Mastering technology is essential to learning a new language. It involves learning the terminology and building muscle memory so that you don't forget how to perform certain functions. It's exhausting for the mind, but it's a gateway to navigating the frontiers that new tech unveils.
The tech realm may lack captivating workshops or webinars, yet their value is undeniable. Familiarizing oneself with the technological tools at your parish's disposal will not only expedite your workflow but also grant you the freedom to focus on previously neglected bigger-picture items.
Everyone Needs to Be Onboard and Buy-In
It's risky when a parish invests in novel technology but only one person knows how to operate it. While not everyone needs to be IT certified, familiarizing and garnering buy-in from all is crucial.
An enthusiastic collective around technology facilitates optimal utilization of both equipment and software. Moreover, collaborative troubleshooting and exploration of new features often yield surprising and beneficial discoveries.
Whether you are a pastor or a team supervisor, having everyone on board is essential to ensure the correct usage of equipment, preventing both time and resource wastage.
It's Not a Silver Bullet
The uproar surrounding technology is often loud. Be it parishes clamoring for live streams during the pandemic, youth ministries yearning for a new social media platform to better connect with teens, or religious educators advocating for a shift from textbooks to videos. While these technologies can aid your ministry, they aren't a panacea.
Technology is a tool, not a silver bullet. It's fast-moving, requires training, and demands buy-in from your peers. Like any tool, effective utilization of technology requires a cohesive, healthy, and Christ-centric parish staff and volunteer teams.
The allure of new tech and its potential in enhancing parish engagement is undeniable. Innovations like blockchain technology and artificial intelligence intrigue me, yet I’m cognizant that these are mere tools. To accomplish what God has called us to, placing our trust in Him is paramount.