Parish staffs always face challenges keeping their people informed. Right now it is very difficult to ensure that critically important information will consistently make it to those who need it. There are many forms of communication, but one useful tool right now is social media.
Social media is internet technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information both to other individuals, and the social groups they form online. Social media promotes electronic communication of content, including personal information, documents, videos, and photos. One communicates with others using a computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, The power is in the social aspect of this technology – information tends to move most quickly among those who have a common interest ot factor, such as the members of your faith community.
Currently, some of the most important information might be the status and schedule of parish liturgies and activities, in a time or rapid change.
The most widely used social media platform is Facebook, and this is a brief guide on how to quickly set up a Facebook page for your parish.
Note: This is a brief informal statement of background, guidelines and best practices on a topic of interest to those who use internet media to support Catholic ministry and education in the Diocese of Fresno
It is not:
- a statement of Diocese of Fresno policy;
- formal technical advice about a specific technical problem, or
- civil or canon legal advice.
Always use proper prudence in making decisions.
If you are an old (or new) pro at Facebook, skip down if you like.
If you don’t have one already, you will need an account. Each person using Facebook has to first create a free account, each person must have their own account, and each account has to be connected to one real human being. Once you have an account, you can
- post content online for the world or just your friends to see,
- read public posts or other’s private posts if given permission,
- make comments, indicate that you like or dislike a post and share links to a post you like.
The collection of the information and content you have made available is known as your profile, and parts of it can be either private or public. Each change in your profile is stored and can be displayed on your timeline, in the order in which it happened, or by how important other Facebook users think it is.
Once you have your account, you can request that Facebook create a page for a business or organization – or your church – that you can manage. This kind of a page is not the same as a user account, but you can make posts on a page just as you can on your own account, and you can allow other accounts to contribute to the page.
When you open up your profile, you will usually see your news feed, or a list of posts that Facebook thinks you will find interesting. Among a lot of other factors, Facebook uses the history of what pages and profiles someone has already visited, and those other users that have an declared relationship, often called being a friend. You will see your friends posts more than other posts. And posts that many (often millions) other users are reading and sharing will be more likely to show up in your feed. What you want is for all those people that need the information you post to know it is there.
See Technical Assistance below for more resources on creating and maintaining accounts and pages.
Their are some basic organizational patterns for a parish Facebook effort:
- The pastor maintains his own personal profile, and uses it to post information for his flock;
- A parish member with some Facebook experience creates or maintains a page, hopefully with the pastor’s involvement;
- A team of two ore more parish members maintain a separate parish page, under the direct supervision of the pastor, especially concerning choice of content.
The first approach is simple, but it depends on the amount of time a pastor has to spend on Facebook, and most pastors are very busy indeed. Also, that means that the parish’s Facebook contact moves away when the pastor is transferred. In some cases the page is abandoned — you can find it, and then notice that it has not been updated for two years.
The second approach is not all that unusual, but has several problems. Good communications between the parishioner and the pastor is essential. This approach is an easy one to start, but it also can result in abandonment, or at the worst, conflict over content and control.
The third approach is more complicated, and everyone involved has to cooperate to make sure that things happen, and only that which is approved by the pastor. However, this third approach is more resilient — it adapts to change, ranging from someone going on vacation to changes in pastoral staff.
In an emergency situation, you work out things as best you can, making sure the pastor is involved. But once things settle down a little, consider how you should organize your social media effort.
- Identity – First off, of course, you need to put your name up. You also may want to put a profile image, a picture that is displayed next to any content you post. Also, you may want to upload a picture of your church for the heading of your page.
- About – Your address, phone number, email address, web address etc. Note: including your parish’s web address, if you have one, is important as that is another indication that the Facebook page is authentically connected to your parish.
- Posts – The reason for your parish to have a Facebook page. These are messages with other conent included with the person who posted them identified and a date and time. It is a good idea to
- Other Content – You will find sections of your page where you can upload all sorts of things.
This is social media after all. In the current situation, you need to establish your page, then distribute that address to all your people so they can receive what they need. (You may find that half your flock already use Facebook on their phoens.) Also, encourage your members to share the information you send out, so that their entire social circle gets the message.
Here are some brief resources on setting up and using Facebook for parish communications to address the challenges of the effects of coronavirus in our local communities. These resources include:
- General content guidelines for using social media in the Church, as well as current Diocesan releases;
- Technical resources on using Facebook;
- Other Resources.
- Facebook Help
- Facebook for Business
Public Information Resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Presention
- California Department of Public Health
- Local Health Departments