One of our most popular articles was one I wrote a while ago about how to improve what we say about RCIA in our parish bulletins. Almost every parish has something in their bulletin that invites seekers into the RCIA process.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who we are writing to in those announcements is not reading them. People who have no faith or are indifferent to faith are not coming to church. Even those who are curious about faith are probably not in church. Most of the people who are reading our bulletin announcements are a.) already Catholic, b.) married to a Catholic, or c.) dating a Catholic.
When I started out in this ministry in the 1980s, the ways to use the written word to invite people to our parish included the Yellow Pages, ads in neighborhood papers, and posting flyers on the community bulletin board at the grocery store. Today, we have a many more options through social media. And if we use social media well, our efforts will be much more effective than our old Yellow Pages ads were.
I want to share with you some ideas for getting social media for attracting seekers to your parish. If you are not comfortable with social media, it’s time to take on that challenge and put your toe in the water. Young adults, in particular, are completely immersed in social media, and if you want to talk to them, you need to be where they are.
And you need to be there regularly. I suggest you make an appointment with yourself or schedule members of your team to post something on your social media channels at least once a week — more often if you can manage it. Pope Francis posts once a day on Twitter. If he can manage it, so can you. Okay, so here are four ways to attract more seekers using social media.
A blog is the easiest way to tell your story. Think of your blog as a hub and all your other social media channels as spokes. Your goal is to use your spokes to lead people to the hub. When we started TeamRCIA, we started with a free blog service from Google. To start your own click here.
When you write for your blog, imagine an actual person you are writing to. Give him or her a name, physical description, job, hobbies, age, and lifestyle. Make the person real. Then write something short, 250-500 words. Don’t write more than that. What to write about? Try some of these topics:
- Today’s psalm
- A line from today’s gospel
- A faith moment you had recently
- How you know your children or grandchildren love you
- Why you love your spouse
- How prayer did (or didn’t) help you when you were sick
- The first time you felt free
- What worries you
Some people are afraid to get on Facebook because they want to maintain their privacy. But there are more than 1 billion people on Facebook right now. That’s more than three times the population of the United States. Your evangelization efforts can have a huge impact on Facebook. And you can adjust your Facebook settings to stay pretty private if that is a concern for you. Just follow the six steps listed on this page:
There are many ways to be active on Facebook. I suggest you start a Facebook group. Facebook has instructions here.
It will take a while to build up your group. Again, think about who you want in your group. Get specific, like you did for your blog audience. Post content from your blog, from other Catholic websites, news clips, and summaries of your pastor’s homilies in your group. Ask group members to share their thoughts on each thing your post. Get members of your RCIA team to prime the pump by sharing their own thoughts.
Twitter users can “follow” other Twitter users. This is helpful to you because you don’t necessarily have to come up with your own content for your tweets. You can retweet what someone else has posted. So, for example, to follow Pope Francis, google: What is Pope Francis’s twitter account? It will be the first choice. Click on it. That will open his Twitter page. Then, if you already have a Twitter account, click on the Follow button. Now the pope’s tweets will show up in your feed every day. Click on the retweet icon at the bottom of a tweet to retweet it in your feed. Here are some other accounts to follow on Twitter:
Instagram is the second largest social media site, second only to Facebook. It is a photo and video sharing application that emphasizes visuals over words. (You can also link it to your Facebook account.) Think of your Instagram account as a place to post beauty. Here again, imagine very specifically who you are posting for. Then go and find beautiful moments in your life to share. For some examples, see:
Simple next steps
If you have little or no experience with social media, don’t try to do all this at once. Start slowly. Begin by opening an account on Facebook and maybe one other platform, such as Instagram. It is likely some of your friends or family members are already on Facebook. Have them help you get started. Then just explore for a week or two. Get the feel of how Facebook works. If after a while you aren’t getting the hang of it, try one of the other platforms to see if you like it better. Whatever you do, though, don’t give up on social media as a tool for your RCIA ministry. If you are not able to get comfortable using social media, recruit someone to your team for the exact purpose of getting your story out into the world through social media.
Share your ideas
Do you currently use social media to attract seekers? What are some of your success stories? Please share in the comments box below.
See also these related articles:
- Blogging to evangelize
- Four ways to attract more seekers using social media
- Why your RCIA bulletin announcement isn’t working — and what to do about it
- The RCIA in a digital world
- New tools for RCIA
Yoel Ben-Avraham | Flickr