One of the concerns I often hear when talking about digital tools and faith formation is that it’s impossible to form relationships online. I this this is a false assumption with a grain of truth — in fact, I think the internet can form and strengthen relationships in two ways.
First, new media helps connect people who may never have an opportunity to meet face-to-face. My own experience on Twitter and blogs has led me to connect with dozens (maybe more) of catechists and catechetical leaders from all over the world. The insights, resources, and support I have received from them — and I hope returned — have been invaluable to my work and ministry.
Second, new media helps us to strengthen existing relationships by connecting us to our friends and family even when they are physically removed. Stefana Broadbent offers some examples in the video above; personally, I love the story of the family who uses online video to have dinner with family members on the other side of the world!
Of course, neither of these types of connections are as intimate or strong as true face-to-face interactions. But in an increasingly mobile world they are better than being completely disconnected. (I recently heard someone say that we may be entering an era when we no longer have “former friends” — just people we moved away from and now connect with online!) Managing these new forms of relationships will be tricky, but they demonstrate the power of new media to form and strengthen relationships, even if they don’t reach the “more perfect” types of face-to-face relationships we need in our lives.
Last year I had the opportunity to listen to Fr. Martin Pable, OFM Cap, talk about how Catholics can reach out to their family, friends and others in order to share their faith. His approach, which he calls “relational evangelism,” consists of three parts:
- Listen with respect to the stories that other people share with you. This could be your cousin who has fallen away from the Church, a co-worker with a broken relationship, or even a stranger in the doctor’s waiting room. By listening you enter into a relationship with the person and demonstrate your concern and love for them.
- Share your own story. In particular, share a time that you had a similar problem and talk about how your faith helped you. Fr. Pable suggests three phrases to use in sharing your story: “Once I was…”; “Then God did…”; “Now I am…” For instance, if you are talking to someone who has lost their job, you might say something like: “Once I lost my job during a series of layoffs. I was really scared and wondered how I would make ends meet. I asked my friends and family to pray for me, and although I didn’t find a job for a few months, knowing that I was being supported and prayed for by so many people made that tough time much easier. God really helped me make the best of a bad situation.”
- Extend an invitation to the person. You might invite them to pray with you, to attend a parish mission or just over to your house for dinner and further conversation! The point is to encourage them to take a step towards a deeper relationship with Christ, no matter how small.
If you’d like to learn more about how to share your faith with others, Fr. Pable’s complete presentation can be viewed online courtesy of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association (free registration required).
Every time I read an interview with Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, I like her a little more:
Men and women were asked, if they [had] any deal-breakers for going on a second date, what would those be? And men named three. If she’s cute enough… warm and kind… and interesting enough to talk to, she gets a second date. Men are not going, “Am I going to marry her?” Men are like, “Do I want to spend another two hours with her?”
Women named 300 things that would be deal-breakers for a second date. We’re talking a second date, another two hours with the person. And they were things like, “You know, we were having a really good time, but then he did this Austin Powers impression, and it just so turned me off. I can’t get that out of my head.” Well, if she goes on a second date with him, and he starts doing Austin Powers impressions, then dump Mr. Austin Powers guy. Don’t go on that third date. Absolutely not. Who wants that? That’s annoying. But the thing is, there’s no correlation between the guy who’s the nervous first dater… and the guy who’s going to be the great life partner that you’re going to fall in love with.