The leaves are falling, days are getting shorter and nights are turning downright chilly. In short, it’s time to sit down in your favorite chair with a hot beverage and dig into a good book.
Don’t know what to read? Don’t worry, Our Sunday Visitor staff members have done the research for you and have come up with a selection of books that might be worth a look this season.
On the following pages, we feature tomes that delve into the history of the papacy and explore Pope Francis’ theological insights while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Important family issues such as the genius of women and Catholic fatherhood also are addressed. Yet we make space for spiritual growth and the all-important topic of humor. What follows is a variety of books that we hope will appeal to diverse tastes.
Click the book images below to read the reviews.
Digital ministry tips
By Cathy A. Dee
When Pope Benedict declared the Year of Faith in October 2011, he called for a “New Evangelization,” writing that it would be a “good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith.” Catholics around the world have responded, finding new ways to share the good news of Christ, from websites, to Twitter feeds, to smartphone apps.
Pope Francis has continued that effort, and, following Pope Benedict’s lead into the brave new world of social media, has shared his teaching and faith through his Twitter account, @Pontifex, and recently surpassed the 10 million follower mark.
How do busy Catholic pastors and parish leaders, juggling duties, schedules, liturgies, planning, budgeting and more, fit Facebooking, tweeting, pinning, Googling and general updating into their day?
Author Meredith Gould — who is not Catholic, but says she’s “committed to working across denominations” — has written a book designed to help.
Gould is a sociologist and self-described “digital strategist” who has worked with a number of industries, especially health care and church-based organizations. In “The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways,” she shares a blueprint — with background — for incorporating social media into evangelization and church community building and communication.
Gould begins her book by establishing a framework for social media, which will be particularly helpful for those just beginning to explore its possibilities. What makes a method of communication social? How does reaching parishioners with social media, say, Facebook or Twitter, fit in with traditional methods?
She also addresses the theological concerns a pastor might have. Is social media biblical? Is it a worthy way to share the message of Christ?
As a social media enthusiast, of course Gould’s answers are yes, and she does a good job of supporting the use of new tools — or, “seeing social media through the God-lens,” as she puts it.
In the second section of the book, Gould addresses the who, what and when of social media use in clear, well-organized chapters. Who should drive social media messages in the parish? Who creates and curates the content? How should a social media message fit in with a parish’s traditional (usually print-based) methods of communication?
In an especially helpful series of chapters, Gould offers advice for choosing social media platforms — blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and more. She emphasizes that each parish should make social media choices that are right for them, and each one will be different.
In the last section of the book, Gould tackles the really hard stuff — integrating social media into your parish life. She has advice for managing multiple social media accounts, and the advisability of using personal social media accounts for church use. Gould recommends having an official social media policy in place and has advice for setting one up; she also has help for controlling any conflict, or “trolling,” that might occur.
Gould ends the book with the most useful chapter: “Best Practices for Digital Ministry.” It’s a checklist for making social media work that’s comprehensive and not overwhelming, from “fully integrating social media into all other church communication plans” to “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes 5:16-18).
The book’s appendices are also useful: checklists for strategic choices, social media policy and a communications audit.
Reading ‘The Social Media Gospel’ won’t make you a social media expert, but combined with hands-on experience and parish participation, it will help build a solid foundation of communication and evangelization for the Church well into the future.
Cathy A. Dee is social media editor at Our Sunday Visitor.