In May of 1998, shortly after returning home from my sophomore year of college, I walked into the dining room and calmly told my parents that after two years I was switching my major from elementary education to theology.
My parents, thanks be to God, didn’t cringe or gasp. In fact, their only real question to me was what I planned to do with this major. (At the time I assumed that I would teach religion in a Catholic high school. What’s that line about telling God your plans?) They also asked me to do one thing: before I turned in the paperwork, they wanted me to talk to our parish’s DRE, Debbie.*
I don’t remember much of the conversation I had with Debbie, but I do remember one piece of advice she gave me: if at all possible, do a double major. The point wasn’t so much the academic titles as the fact that having a skill unrelated to theology or pastoral ministry adds a whole new dimension to what you are able to bring to your ministry as well as increase your marketability. Drawing on a perspective outside of traditional ministerial practices is a useful corrective to the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality that can creep into parish life.
I wasn’t able to do a double major since I switched so late in my academic career, but I held on to Debbie’s advice nonetheless. And, indeed, my knowledge of technology and social media has proved to be a great boon to my ministry and opened doors to speaking and engaging with other catechetical leaders that might not otherwise have been available to me. It has also helped me think about catechesis, evangelization, and parish ministry in different ways as the shifting cultural landscape reacts to these new technologies.
Even these many years later I remain grateful for that piece of advice and the fruit it has born in my ministry!
What “extra” skills or knowledge do you possess that could be used to enhance your ministry?
* I later found out that my parents had talked to Debbie in advance and told her to dissuade me from changing my major. She says that she’s very happy to have failed!
Here’s a little secret: I don’t read a whole lot of “tech advice” pieces on the internet, especially those about social media with titles like “Using Facebook in the Classroom” or “Five Tips for Maximizing Twitter Engagement”
“But wait a minute.” I hear you saying. “You write about tech and catechesis; surely you find these things interesting?”
Secondly, while many of these articles have good intentions, I don’t find many with good practical advice. Many are too general to be of much help, with “advice” like “be sure to check your privacy settings” and “stay up-to-date as the technology changes.” Unless the article includes step-by-step instructions on Facebook privacy settings or concrete examples of places to go for current information, it’s just giving more work to educators and catechists who already find social media and technology overwhelming and off-putting.
See, most of these articles are written by techies who don’t know how to write for non-techies. They don’t understand non-techies’ fears and trepidation about technology, so they breeze past it. But if we want the “average” teacher or catechist to adopt these amazing new technologies we have to take their fears seriously, address them, and show them how to mitigate the worst-case scenarioes that go through their heads every time we use the words “computer,” “Facebook,” and “privacy controls.”
So this is my plea: if you write about technology and pedagogy, take time every once in a while to address a real concern and move past platitudes to give concrete examples and instructions. I think it will go a long way towards helping everyone else see the great potential we do in technology.
Again make sure of a coherent narrative – burial in a rock-hewn tomb, sealing of tomb, the guards, the Resurrection early on Easter morning, the holy women, Magdalen, the disciples on the way to Emmaus, the appearance to the Eleven in the upper room. Don’t do this casually – get your facts right – this is the event on which Christianity is built.
– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Doctrine for the Juniors (1933)