Carol Zimmermann of Catholic News Service recently wrote a great article which gave an overview of this year’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate report to Catholic press on the current state of communications efforts in the Catholic Church:
Most U.S. Catholics are not looking for spirituality online, in fact, half of them are unaware the church even has an online presence, according to researchers at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
The most widely used communication tool in Catholic Church is the parish bulletin, followed by a diocesan newspaper or magazine — in print form — which one in four adult Catholics have read in the past three months, CARA reports.
Narrowing the focus on Catholics who attend Mass each week, CARA said 13 percent of them read Catholic blogs and 17 percent view religious material on YouTube.
Anyone who spends time working in Catholic new media might look at this report and despair. We bloggers — so steeped in the Church’s “inside baseball” — often forget that the average guy in the pew sometimes has very little clue about much that goes on outside his parish. I do have to say that since the election of Pope Francis, mainstream media reports on the Church seem to be having an impact. I’ve noted an uptick in family and friends asking about news coming from the Vatican. They are more tuned in to their Church, and that’s a good thing.
So what do I think when I read this update on the most recent CARA study? It actually makes me realize that perhaps the most efficacious tool in the technological realm of the New Evangelization is our own Facebook pages. The average Catholic may not be reading Catholic blogs or watching videos promulgated be official Church sources, but plenty of us spend hours each week on Facebook. According to an August 2013 Pew Internet resource, 72% of online adults use social networking sites.
So our friends may not read Catholic blogs, but they are more likely than ever to find faith-based content on social media. In a way, this makes me more excited than ever about the role of the average Catholic in the pew to have an impact in the New Evangelization. I know this to be the case with my own non-Catholic friends: when I share news related items on my Facebook profile, they are noticed and commented upon by a broad variety of folks, not just those who share my faith background.
This puts a burden on all of us to be careful with our social media efforts. We have to avoid being obnoxious, overdoing the “holy roller” stuff in our zeal. We also have to err on the side of caution — when we spread unreliable or malicious information in social media about our Church, there are repercussions.
Now, more than ever, we have new and exciting tools to share the faith we love with the people who matter most in our lives. Let’s not rely on them picking up the Church bulletin (although that’s obviously still a great tool!) Let’s each embrace the power of social media to share the Good News of the gospel in our own way. Let’s let our joy shine through like a light in the darkness.
A question for you: Do you consider your social media platforms to be a tool for sharing your faith?