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Toward a New Communications Ecology

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural McGrath Institute for Church Life’s Church Communications Ecology Program at the University of Notre Dame.

The program provided a learning community in which parish leaders, communications professionals, pastors and educators develop a deeper understanding of the social and psychological effects that digital tools are having on individuals and communities.

It was a fascinating week, and our teams learned so much I am eager to put into practice through our work at KPC. Some core takeaways from my reflections include:

  1. Be authentic and vulnerable. In our communication efforts, it is critical to be accessible and real. Lead with truth in love, by shifting to a “lived” religion which moves from an institutional communication to a more individualized approach.

  2. Be more intentional about staffing and training. Ideally, every parish should have a communications staff person with proven experience and expertise in the profession. Giving parish communications and digital creativity higher priority universally will help each parish community, and ultimately the archdiocese as a whole, project a brighter image. Rising tides lift all boats.

  3. Think like a hybrid church. During the pandemic, we saw religious groups’ relationship with technology and the internet experience a seismic shift, moving from a bounded to bridged relationship, causing some interaction between online and offline experiences, but still seen as distinct contexts. As we move into the post-pandemic phase, we should continue the development of this multi-site reality and enhancement of digital literacy. Being flexible and experimental will lead us towards a more blended and, ultimately, blurred integration where online and offline communication inform one another, creating a new context. The internet is a supplement, not a substitute, but we should lean into the opportunities it provides ministry.

  4. Embrace co-responsibility. We must be more intentional about providing practical tools for the laity to have an “algorithmic authority” alongside the “traditional authority.” Rather than deferring to the priest to oversee all major decisions, provide every final decision, and/or lead every prayer intention, we are called to own our baptism in a new way!

  5. Build connections. Effective digital creativity and technological experimentation thrives within a collaborative framework. A hybrid church requires a team-based approach, yet we so often work within silos and divisions that prevent innovation. Creating opportunities to pull together digital creatives and communication leaders to build connections and community will ultimately lead to a closer communion, a culture of fellowship and harmony, that will enhance the image of our “institution” through personal networks and relationships.


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