I found an interesting study last week that Jeff Geerling posted over on OpenSourceCatholic.com. It was a study of the “faith-based market” and how churches and their members use social media.
In this study “churches” is referring to all denominations. I assume Catholic parishes are a proportional part of the study.
Here are some of the major findings (in bold) and my comments after each one:
- 61% of churches use social media. That means 39% do not use it at all. I think it is fairly safe to say that Catholic parishes are disproportionately represented in the “do not use it at all” category. And that is sadly so for all of these stats.
- 62% of churches post homilies/sermons to a website as text or audio (podcast). This is a very easy thing to do for a parish. You just need to put somebody in charge of hitting a record button on Sunday and then uploading the audio to the website. Another point here is that every parish doesn’t necessarily have to upload their own homilies. That’s one of the great things about being Catholic, our homilies are (supposed to be) about the same thing no matter where you are in the world. So if you can’t upload your own pastor’s homily, share a link to somebody else’s homily covering the same readings.
- 28% of church pastors have a blog. A priest may think he doesn’t have time to write a blog. He’s probably wrong. In fact, he is probably already writing some really quality blog posts each week in emails he sends to parishioners or in preparation for his homily. He’s most likely already doing all the hard work. He may just need some help capturing an appropriate piece of it and posting it online.
- 25% of churches use social media to promote parish events. It really only works well to promote events if you’ve already built up the community somehow. There is a lot of potential here. I think most parishes would be doing well to just gather up everyone’s email addresses and start an emailing list (check flockNote.com for help doing that.)
- 71% of churches use video (all or some of the time) in their sermons. Of course, we don’t need or want video at Mass since we are blessed with something much more important to focus on: The Eucharist. However, how about some video promotion in the Family Life Center over some coffee and donuts? Or for other parish events? There are many effective and appropriate potential uses of video in parish life.
- 2/3 of churches do not use social media to get feedback from members. This is a most important stat, in my opinion. This hits at the heart of social media and the part that so many parishes haven’t caught onto yet. Relationships are two-way. Parish leaders are barely scratching the surface of the most powerful use of social media, and that is to enhance and build upon their relationships with parishioners. It’s a tool to listen and learn from your parishioners. By doing so, what you preach or teach to them at meetings, classes or in homilies will be that much more effective. Of course, pastors have a unique and powerful listening tool in the confessional. But only priests have that privilege and there is much more to be learned still from interacting with parishioners in their day-to-day lives online.
- 68% of local church members want to connect with their church via social media. This is the crux of the matter. And this statistic is only rapidly getting bigger and bigger. If you’ve been holding out hoping that this whole social media thing is just a passing fad, it’s time to wake up. Regardless of what you think about social media, how much you like using it, or whatever other hesitations you have about it, people want to connect with their parish using it. You can either help them out. Or you can deny them. Those are your choices.
Much more, parishioners need church leadership to help show them the right way to use social media. They need guidance on how to use it in a healthy way. Bottom line, they are looking for truth online - let’s help them find it.