Book Review: Connected toward Communion

Connected Communion Apprvd.inddConnected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age (Liturgical Press, 2014) is a positive contribution to the ongoing dialogue between Catholic thought and the rapidly changing technological frontier. The book offers an overview of the major ecclesial documents pertaining to social communication and the Internet from Vatican II forward. Zsupan-Jerome’s focus, however, is on how the Church can form lay and ordained pastoral ministers to use these technologies and serve the faithful in the digital age.

She refrains from offering concrete suggestions for the formation of pastoral minsters, which is both a strength and a weakness. While a more detailed plan for formation would have quickly become outdated as technologies come and go, readers may finish the book wondering “what next?”

Zsupan-Jerome augments her analysis with plenty of references to more recent works (both religious and secular) on technology’s effects on the human person and the book includes an ample bibliography.

Recommended for theological and academic libraries.

N.B.: I received a free review copy of this book from the Catholic Library Association. This review was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Catholic Library World.

How I Work: Office Edition

Thomas L. McDonald of God and the Machine recently invited fellow bloggers to post their own “How I Work” entry (modeled after the Lifehacker series of the same name) so I thought I would have a go. This week I’m featuring my work office; next week I’ll do the same for my home setup.

Location: Springfield, IL
Current Gig: director of catechetical services for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois
One word that best describes how you work: interrupted
Current mobile device: LG G3 running Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)
Current computer: Acer Veriton running Windows 7

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
Google Calendar: I keep separate color-coded calenders for my diocesan responsibilities, family (shared with my wife so she can add events), the liturgical year, and project work. I have a horrible memory, so this system helps me keep track of all of my responsibilities at a glance. The one hitch occured when Google discontinued direct syncing support for Outlook (which our office use), but I’ve implemented some workarounds so my colleagues still see my full work calendar.
Dropbox: Come, children, and hear tales of the days when we had to use floppy disks to shuttle files back and forth!
Evernote: I use Evernote for a variety of tasks, including organizing travel documents, maintaining a digital filing cabinet, and storing recipes. Most recently I’ve started dumping meeting agendas into it so I can access them from my phone instead of printing a paper copy. (The Outlook plugin makes this a snap.)
GoToMeeting: Our diocese covers 28 counties, which makes gathering people for meetings/training/etc. difficult. One of the first things I did when I joined the office was push to implement online meetings. Most standing groups still meet in person at least once a year, but using GoToMeeting allows more people to participate without burdening them with a 2 hour drive.
LibraryThing: I’ve tried a few other book cataloging sites before, but I love LibraryThing because it was built by bibliophiles for bibliophiles. With it I can quickly browse books by subject, keep track of all my book reviews, and remind myself who I’ve lent books out to.

What’s your workspace setup like?
0325151517

This is my desk on a good day. Not pictured are my four bookcases and meeting table (see below).

desktop

(I hide all icons on my computer desktop, so there’s nothing to see expect the pretty pictures I use as wallpapers.)

LGScreen

My phone screen is dominated by Google Now, with a few apps I use the most.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

Delegation. This is my first job where I’ve had a secretary and learning how to work with one well has been a huge boon to my productivity.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I’ve tried a variety and left most for pen and paper. Right now I’m using Trello.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
On the hardware side I love my Wacom Intuos Pen Tablet. It’s completely replaced my mouse at work. I also use it during presentations to transform PowerPoint into a digital white board.

In terms of my office setup, I couldn’t get by without my big wooden meeting table:

0325151518

I inherited it from my predecessor and, given the number of staff members in my department that I’m blessed to work with, it’s invaluable for one-on-one chats, small task force meetings, and sitting down with folks from outside the curia.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I’m really good at identifying the heart of an problem — peeling away the secondary issues and getting at root causes. I’m not sure what the secret is to that, besides being able to mentally categorize the issues on the table and sort through them in a systematic way.

What do you listen to while you work?
Most days it’s either classical or jazz, although Johnny Cash sees pretty regular rotation.

What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading Redeeming Administration: 12 Spiritual Habits for Catholic Leaders in Parishes, Schools, Religious Communities, and Other Institutions by Ann M. Garrido and Aquinas (A Beginner’s Guide) by Edward Fesser.

What has changed over the years since you started and what do you do differently?
I often say that one of the joys of my job has been seeing good collaboration between the offices in my department and the fruits of those relationships. I used to take that for granted but, as a colleague likes to remind me, “Collaboration is hard work.” So I’m trying to be more intentional about how I communicate with the people I work with and ensuring that tasks and responsibilities are clearly understood by everyone in the room.

Gigs, Geeks and God

Today I am giving the keynote address at the Archdicoese of Milwaukee’s Gigs, Geeks and God conference. The topic of my keynote — “The New Evangelization in a Digital Culture” — explores how the Church can adapt to the emerging internet culture and rethink parish life in light of it.

A video of the presentation will be added here early next week.

Slides

Notes

The notes for this talk are available in PDF format.

Recommended Resources

The Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger

“New Clues” for 2015 by Doc Searls and David Weinberger

The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet edited by Brandon Vogt

Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet by Sherry Turkel

Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith by Shane Hipps

Gutenberg the Geek by Jeff Jarvis

I Don’t Want the Best

Last year our diocesan department hosted a year-long discipleship program at a parish. At the introductory session the parish offered the use of a new LCD television mounted in the gathering space where we were presenting. It was obvious that the parish was very proud of the TV and wanted to make good use of it.

After that first session, our working group vowed never to use it again.

What we quickly discovered during that first session was that the LCD was inadequate to our needs — not because of the picture quality or a technological problem, but because we had grossly underestimated the number of people who would show up! The TV was too small for people in the back to see, mounted in such a way that only those sitting directly in front of it could get a clear view of the screen, and could not be moved to accommodate the entire group. In subsequent gatherings we brought our own portable projector.

My purpose here is not to put down the parish for purchasing the LCD television — for most of their needs it is no doubt perfect! But it is to point out that the “latest-and-greatest” isn’t necessarily the best choice for our ministries. Gains in one area (for instance, a sharper image on an LCD screen) sometimes mask drawbacks in other areas (screen size and usable viewing angles) that can limit the actual use. In our case, an older LCD projector turned out to offer us greater flexibility, which allowed us to respond in a more nimble way to actually meet our changing needs for this program. (Imagine if the number of attendees had exceeded the size of the room where the LCD TV was mounted — we would have had no way to display our presentation!)

This is true not just for technology, but also for catechetical programs.

It’s easy to be distracted by the new shiny and buy into a program, technology, or idea without considering how it fits into our established use patterns or weighing the pros and cons in real-life ministry settings. As catechetical leaders who are called to steward the resources we have been entrusted with, it behooves us to do our due diligence before investing time and money into something. For me, this includes asking my colleagues for their input since they bring experience and perspectives very different from mine. They often see things that I am blinded to — this is one reason having a good braintrust is so valuable!

Again, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t explore new possibilities or dismiss new programs and ideas. But it is to say that we are called to exercise the discretion called for by Christ: “Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:52)

Have you ever been suckered in by the new shiny? How can we exercise good discernment in bringing out the new and the old in our ministries?

Are Your Tweets Putting Your Ministry at Risk?

5897611358_5c15cd6f87_bYesterday I ran across a story about a recent Federal Trade Commission settlement with Deutsch LA, an advertising firm, regarding their social media marketing on behalf of a client.

Long story short: Deutsch LA a) tweeted information for a client and b) encouraged employees to do the same on their personal accounts, c) without disclosing the business relationship between the client and the company or the employee and the company. The FTC ruled this a violation of their disclosure rules. These rules state that if you promote something for which you have a vested interest (including, but not exclusively, a monetary interest) you must disclose that fact. This is one reason, for instance, I always state in my book reviews if I received a free review copy — that fact may color my perception of the book and readers should be aware of that fact.

Similarly, if an employee tweets or blogs something on behalf of their employer, they have an interest in it and that fact should be disclosed. These rules have been in place for years, but with the advent of new media the boundaries are a little blurry about what constitutes adequate disclosure.

This got me thinking about implications for employees of Catholic parishes, schools, and other ministries who use blogs, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media to promote their activities.

(Here’s where I add a disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and don’t play on on TV, so don’t take any of the following as legal advice.)

I regularly tweet and blog about the activities of my diocese. As I read the issue (and the original FTC rules about disclosure in social media), I should be disclosing in the tweet or blog post (or whatever social media I’m using) my relationship as an employee of the diocese. It’s not enough to state in my bio or elsewhere on the page that I am employed by the diocese, since this does not meet the FTC’s “proximity and placement” rule. (I also don’t see any exemption for nonprofit organizations.)

So, for instance, this tweet would be a violation of the rule, because “our” does not clearly name the relationship between myself and the diocese:

But this one would include proper disclosure, since it references “our office,” making it clear that I work for the sponsoring organization:

(The FTC says you can also disclose through the use of hashtags such as #client or #ad.)

Obviously this has big implications for those who work in Catholic ministry and how they promote their ministry’s events and interests. Our diocese is already working to make sure we can give good advice to help priests, deacons, consecrated religious, and lay employees follow these disclosure rules in their blogs and other social media.

In the meantime, I would recommend everyone keep an eye on their use of social media to promote their ministries to ensure that we are following “best practices” and not inadvertently misleading people regarding our relationships with them.

Photo Credit: daniel.d.slee via Compfight cc

Evangelizing and Catechizing the ‘Net’ Generation

Today I’m offering my talk “Evangelizing and Catechizing the ‘Net’ Generation” at the Indiana Conference for Catechetical Leadership. Below are my slides, notes, and resources for the session. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Slides

Notes

Web Resources

Books

Videos

Tools

7 Sources for Parish Social Media Content

Whenever I talk about parishes’ use of social media I always try to point out that a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram profile won’t do much good if isn’t being updated regularly with new content. Fresh content shows that your serious about reaching our with new media and worth following.

But creating content isn’t always as easy as it sounds. And while posting announcements from the bulletin is certainly appropriate, finding other easy, free sources of useful content can help supplement in-house content and keep a parish’s social media accounts fresh.

With that in mind, here are some easy-to-use sources of content for your parish’s social media:

  1. Sunday Homilies: If the pastor’s homilies are written out: Great! Set up a blog and post them there every week. If the homilies aren’t written out: Great! Post two or three “big ideas” from each homily on the parish Twitter feed and Facebook pages.
  2. The Pope: Whether it’s retweeting his daily messages, posting videos of his daily audiences, or sendig out short quotes from his major teachings, the pope always has something new and interesting to say.
  3. Kids: Ask them to record short inspirational video messages on their phones to post to the parish social media sites. You’ll get content and involve youth in the life of the parish.
  4. Google Alerts: Getting customized search results emailed to you means you don’t have to go looking for what people are saying about your parish; you can have their thoughts delivered directly to your inbox and then share them online!
  5. USCCB Resources: The USCCB has gotten pretty savvy about producing social media-friendly resources for parishes. This year’s Nine Days for Life campaign included daily messages and images (in English and Spanish) designed specifically for Facebook. These resources are not always easy to find, but perusing the USCCB web site will usually turn up something interesting.
  6. Blogs: Do you follow Catholic bloggers? Don’t be afraid to share a post that speaks to you with the rest of your parish!
  7. Free Stock Image Sites: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Search for “church” or “Jesus Christ” on sites like Morguefile and post the beautiful results. (Just be sure the pictures aren’t subject to copyright restrictions!)

I hope these ideas are helpful and help you think about other sources you can use for your parish’s social media outreach. Do you have a source I didn’t list? Share it in the comments!

Notes – How to Host Online Meetings

Today at the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership convention in St. Louis I am offering a breakout session demonstrating three methods for holding online meetings. Below are my slides, notes, and additional resources for those who may be interested.

Slides

Notes

The notes for this presentation are available as a PDF file.

Other Resources

Manager Tools has three great podcasts on how to run effective teleconfrences:

Notes: Where Two or Three are Texting

Thanks to everyone who joined me for today’s Ave Maria Press webinar “Where Two or Three are Texting: Incarnation and Sacrament in a Virtual World.” Below are my slides, notes, and links to related articles. I will post the video of the webinar here as soon as it is available.

If you have any questions that I wasn’t able to address during the session, please feel free to add them to the comments and I’ll do my best to respond with an answer!

Video

Slides

Outline

The notes for this presentation are available to view in Google Docs.

Resources

Upcoming Webinar: “Where Two or Three are Texting: Incarnation and Sacrament in a Virtual World”

mobilephone

I’m happy to announce that I will be giving a free Ave Maria Press webinar on Tuesday, February 18, at 2p (CT):

Where Two or Three are Texting: Incarnation and Sacrament in a Virtual World
The young people in our schools and parishes are increasingly citizens of a virtual world where they carry out many traditionally “physical” activities, including living out their faith! Other Christian communities are experimenting with “online church.” What is an “online church” and is it an option for Catholics? How does the “digital continent” influence the way we prepare young people and catechumens to receive the sacraments? This webinar will explore these questions and offer some avenues for appropriate use of digital technologies in living our faith.

The webinar is co-sponsored by the National Conference for Catechetical Leaders, the National Catholic Educational Association, and the National Association for Lay Ministry. You can sign up for this free webinar at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/307966088.