Once upon a time, 15 or so years ago, when you wanted to learn about a church or business, you checked the phone book first. Today, you’re probably hard-pressed to locate a phone book. Websites are the phone books of the 21st century.
If you want to know the phone number of a local church, you find its website. If you need Mass times, you check the website. Need a copy of the latest bulletin—website. The website is often the first place we go for information about a parish.
In past articles, we’ve discussed a variety of interactive tools to improve your communication with parents. If we view these tools as pieces in a puzzle, we can think about the parish website as a mat upon which all those pieces can be fitted together.
Are you fully using the power of the parish website for your religious education program?
Know Your Website Options
First, make sure you have a Web presence. Get to know the webmaster, or person who develops and maintains your parish’s site. This person can fill you in on the amount and kind of content you can add. In most cases you’ll find you have quite a bit of freedom. You just need to ask, and have ideas in mind for what you want to accomplish online.
Ideas for Parish Web Content
Here are some ways your religious education program can effectively make use of the parish website:
- Add religious education events to the online calendar.
- Prominently list staff and contact information, and update information as changes occur.
- Link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts for easy connection.
- List times, dates, and locations for all religious education classes.
- Include all registration forms, parent permission slips and releases, and the program handbook as downloadable files. In addition, consider offering forms that can be filled out and submitted electronically.
- Offer families the ability to register for religious education classes online. If acceptable in your diocese, link with an online payment site to give parents that option for paying fees.
- Allow families to sign up for events and activities via the Web.
- Clearly spell out all requirements and procedures for sacramental preparation. Include fees, registration information, and a person to contact with further questions.
- Provide appropriate multilingual content to address the needs of non-English speaking Catholics in your parish.
- With proper parental permission, post pictures of events.
- Feature videos or slideshows of activities. Encourage parents to share the links with long-distance relatives.
- Request donations for items needed for use in the religious education program. Keep the list up-to-date.
- List links to trusted Catholic websites. Periodically check to make sure all links remain active and appropriate.
Choose one or two ideas to get started. Then let us know how they impact your connection with families in your parish.
Dee Skomer is a writer and editor in the Chicagoland area and co-founder of Bound By Grace Press. She has been involved in various projects with Loyola Press including Finding God and Christ Our Life, and has written the “Family as a Spiritual Path” column for the online parent newsletter. As a former teacher and catechist, Dee is very interested in faith formation at the parish level.