A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

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Creating Text Conversations

Here’s a quick and fun tool for getting attention in a classroom:  a SMS Generator.  It’s a website that allows you to create text conversations, and then save it for future reference with a link or by embedding it in a website.

sms-generator

This type of graphic could be a great way to introduce a topic.  For example, if your lesson features the classic parable about the Prodigal Son, you could work up a chat like this one:

prodigal-brothers

Present it to the group, either by projecting onto a screen if you have web access (wall screen or even a mobile device) or by printing a copy and hanging it up.  Without mentioning the actual Scripture, ask the students to read the chat and figure out what they can about it.  After hearing their ideas, ask someone them to read the story that inspired the chat:  Luke 15:11-32.  Revisit the discussion to see how the students’ perception of the chat – as well as the parable- changed.

The SMS Generator can also be a way for students to unpack the Scripture.   Pair up the students and give them each a character from the parable; for instance, Dad/ Older Son, Dad/Younger Son, Older Son/Servant, etc.  Ask each pair to create a chat between their two characters, based on the text they just read.  If you have internet access in the classroom, they can create and save the chat online and send you the link. If you don’t have internet access in the classroom, have the students use your example as the model to write out their chat, and you can enter them online later, or you can assign this as homework.

You can post these on the church Facebook page, a class blog, send the links home in a parent email, or even save a jpg to use in the church bulletin or print out for a class bulletin board.  Be sure you know what any acronyms mean before sharing a chat, though.  Try this list to decipher any that come up.  (Fair warning that some of the explanations are not suitable for children or church situations, so please use it only for your own personal development!)

sms-acronym

Whether you use the SMS Generator to create chats based on Bible characters, saints, or even the Pope and your Pastor (!), and especially given the popularity of texting among kids as young as 10, this exercise will be a great way to grab their attention on almost any topic, just by changing the “characters” involved!

Finding and Following on Twitter

The power of Twitter is two-fold:  the people and the information.  First, you can find and connect with others who share your interests, developing appropriate online relationships with peers.  By contributing and “listening,”  you can become part of a professional or ministry network.  Second, through your newsfeed or by searching for specific #hashtags, you can stay on top of news and trends in any particular interest or industry.  This is especially true for niche interests, like Catholic ministry or catechesis! 

So the best way for beginners to leverage their Twitter account is in their list of who they are “following.”  The most recent tweets of people you follow will show up in your news feed.  The more people you follow, and the better their content, the more useful Twitter will be for you.  How do you find such folks? (more…)

Twitter Chats

Most of us have heard of Twitter, the social networking site where users post updates (called tweets) in 140 characters or less.  Professionals love to use Twitter for networking, celebrities for self-promotion, and ministers for evangelizing!  With the use of a shortened url, a tweet becomes a launching pad to send people to an image, a website or a blog post… there really is no limit.  A Twitter chat can build up your ministry by encouraging community among members, helping you identify areas to focus on teaching, or even promoting special events.

But what IS a twitter chat?  This is simply a way to have a conversation online, on a specific topic, gathering many varied folks together over a similar time period (generally a specific hour or over the course of one day).  These chats can be regularly reoccuring ones, or once and done (for a special event).  Tweets are linked, as usual, by the #hashtag, but because people are online at the same time, it encourages more interaction.  The sponsor or leader of the chat generally starts things off with a specific question or set of questions to which people respond.  As the tweets start flowing, the conversation begins with users asking or commenting on each other’s tweets.  A good place to learn is to follow the Tuesday night chat for the Church Social Media – learn more here.

Warning:  twitter chats do not flow as regular face to face conversation does!  If you’re logged into Twitter and following the #hashtag your newsfeed, a number of tweets will pop up – some replying to each other, others asking or commenting to the group.  It takes a little practice to follow along… but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a lot of fun.

Besides being fun, what good could a twitter chat be for your ministry?  Imagine inviting parents online once a week to ask a faith-sharing question:  “who is Jesus to your children? #catholicparent.”  It’s another avenue to begin talking with each other… and as a bonus, it could help you see what they really understand, or not.

Or perhaps following up an RCIA session with a conversation about the topic of the week:  “how do you experience Jesus as another human? as God?  #stceciliaRCIA.”  This gives your participants a chance to reflect on the Church teaching within their daily prayer… and may surface additional insights or questions.

Or church leaders could survey general parishioners after a specific event, such as an Advent Taize prayer service:  “which Taize song means a lot to you?  #sun5pm.”

The goal, of course, is using a twitter chat as another method of networking, all to build up the face to face ministry that happens at Mass and Church.  If you haven’t tried it yet, where do you see it being successful?  If you have, what’s your favorite way to follow chats?