Sharing Everyday Sacraments in the Digital Space: back-to-school
We tend to focus our digital efforts on broadcast communications – logistical details of service times and event dates, recordings of sermons, or digital storytelling with pictures of parishioners engaged in ministry. All are good and valid uses of our technology platforms. But digital ministry also offers us other rich opportunities to engage even more deeply in our faith. Digital platforms offer us the gift of sharing with one another in those everyday sacramental moments, those…
…glimpses of grace, where God breaks through. Those times of shared hope and joy (which) can be almost impossible to articulate…
...that we desperately yearn to celebrate with one another.
As so often happens, I stumbled into this realization in a moment of desperation. I was a parish communications coordinator and responsible for designing service bulletins. That week I faced a particularly difficult Gospel story, one that did not lend itself to a good bulletin cover photo. Making matters worse, this Gospel story was scheduled to be read during the Blessing of the Backpacks back-to-school service, so our church would be full of young people and their families. While I’m not one to shy away from sharing difficult scriptural stories with children (see http://www.buildfaith.org/challenging-stories/ ), timing is everything. On that day, I knew we wanted to celebrate our children, their families, and the new beginnings represented by a new year of school. We would still read the story, of course, but I needed a different focus for the bulletin cover. In a flash of inspiration, I recalled that I’d seen a zillion “back-to-school pictures” shared by parishioners on social media. I emailed our Sunday school parents asking them to send me their photos. Within minutes I was overwhelmed with images. People responded more enthusiastically than they ever had to any request I'd made. Big kids, little kids. Seniors with cars, pre-schoolers with brand new backpacks. Family pets and little siblings lurking in the background. Front doors and bus stops. People wanted to share those pictures. In the same way that people wanted to share these moments with their family and friends via social media, they wanted to share that special moment with their church community. In each picture, I witnessed the irrefutable grace of a parent…
…blessing that child forward. And in that moment, so pregnant with hope, pride, excitement, joy, nervousness, and expectation, we (found) our everyday sacrament.
Since that day, our church has made it a practice to share back-to-school pictures on the bulletin cover. At your church you could do likewise, especially as part of a back-to-school blessing service. You could create a physical display of photos on a bulletin board or on your altar. You could project images during the prayers of the people. Assuming you adhere to your social media policy and respect parents’ wishes for privacy, you could even share the pictures on social media with a prayer request for your children and for all young people headed to school.
As I suggested in an article for Building Faith,
For me, these gestures are my way of saying to our families that the church cares about their children. The hopes they (as parents) hold so dearly – the church shares them. The secret fears and anxieties that parents have – the church holds them in prayer. We, collectively as a faith community, want to help our children grow and move forward in love, learning, and grace.
Digital ministry is never a stand-alone initiative. When used in deeply relational ways, it allows us to extend our connections to one other beyond the confines of church walls and outside the hour set aside for weekly worship. It can help us share the sacramental moments of everyday.
- Lisa Brown
Our goal at Membership Vision is to help churches and other faith communities to tell their stories in the digital space. Each church, irrespective of size, has a living and active story to tell, and technology provides an opportunity to share that story in a way that is welcoming and engaging. We ease the burden of keeping communications current, by leveraging content, and harnessing the many ways that members of our communities connect with each other, both inside and outside of the church walls. We aim to remove technological hurdles and allow churches to communicate online in an effective and sustainable way. Contact us at email@example.com or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.