Quick question . . . have you checked Facebook today? Chances are you have, and you’re not alone. Facebook reports more than 800 million mobile active users alone. For many, social media and social networking are synonymous with Facebook. Users range from pre-teens to senior citizens.
Now imagine being able to harness even a fraction of that interest and activity level for your religious education program. Believe it or not, it isn’t as tough as you think. Facebook can be your “friend!”
Getting Started with Facebook
To begin, your program will need a Facebook presence. If you’re a Facebook user, you are familiar with starting a personal profile. Joining for your organization is just a bit different. You will need to choose between creating a Page or starting a Group. While each has slightly different features, a page gives you access to a wider audience.
People “Like” Me
Individuals using Facebook “friend” people, or ask them to join their social network. As an organization, you seek people to “like” your page. This means getting the word out in your parish.
- Announce your page at Mass.
- Post the page name in the bulletin.
- Link the Facebook page to your parish website.
- Use word-of-mouth to alert parishioners.
- Encourage catechists to participate.
- Include your Facebook page or group name on registration materials.
- Encourage those following your page to invite friends and family to join. (Social networking at work!)
The People Are Here . . . Now What?
Once your network is in place, it’s time to start connecting.
- Post short announcements and reminders in the status bar. (ex. Remember your food pantry donation this week.)
- Create an event using the Events option to invite families to religious education-sponsored activities. This is also a great reminder for mid-week meetings and special sessions, and a free way to publicize volunteer opportunities and fundraising events.
- Provide parents with formation tools and tips by linking to Catholic websites, instructional videos, and reflective blogs.
- Share short inspirational messages. Short is key. Don’t extend to the “Read more” area. Remember, most users frequently check their page throughout the day. A quick word of encouragement or inspiration can be spiritually enriching, while also reminding families that they are part of a community.
- Post links to the upcoming Sunday readings with a message encouraging families to take a sneak peak.
- Pose questions for reflection or dinnertime discussion.
- Feature words of wisdom from saints. Also highlight links to the biographies of saints on their feast days.
- With parental permission, post photos of group events, projects, and class activities.
These are just a few of the ways Facebook can help you engage with families. Test them yourself. Then share with us your results along with ideas of your own!
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.