We all have our comfort level with technology. However, we may feel a little out of our comfort zone when we use it in our ministry. So what are the best practices for using technology in our work with youth and children? Let’s explore them to increase our level of confidence and competence.
IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS
“Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way, he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life.” (Christus Vivit, 1). So keep in mind what you are doing: to continue to help young people encounter Christ and grow in their Catholic faith. Appropriate professional behavior and a Christian example are the hallmarks of great digital ministry and any ministry!
USE THE RIGHT ACCOUNT
Make sure you use a parish account when using Zoom, Flocknote, Facebook, or another medium. Our Safe Environment Policies require using a parish account rather than a personal one. In addition, the pastor or designated staff member should have administer and log-in rights to the Zoom account.
GET THE PARENTAL OKAY
This is a new way of engaging young people, so parents/guardians must give permission for youth to participate. This can be done via an online form that the parent/guardian fills out.
DON’T GO IT ALONE
Like in-person safe environments, online live events must have at least two adults present. In addition, any break-out groups (e.g., breakout rooms in Zoom) should also have two adults.
Access to online sessions must be controlled (e.g., by registration or password). They cannot be open to anyone. Attendees must be specifically invited and approved by the adult minister. The adult minister has complete discretion to exclude any person from an online session.
The chat feature in Zoom is great for youth to ask or answer questions, but all chats must be viewable to all participants. Disable the private chat feature when setting up the Zoom meeting. The chat feature on Facebook and direct messaging on Instagram should never be used. Only the adult minister can screen, image, or document sharing. If you do a Q & A or have a group chat, save the file at the end of the session.
PLAN FOR SUCCESS!
Effective virtual ministry needs to have a plan, from the opening prayer to community building to the videos you may show. Young people genuinely seek opportunities to connect with God and each other. So when your gatherings start, stay focused and on topic.
SAVE A RECORD
Always record the session when meeting with children or youth online. Save the recording on a flash drive, not a personal computer, and store it at the parish. Inform participants that the session will be recorded at the beginning.
SAFE ENVIRONMENT RULES STILL APPLY
All interactions in online environments must comply with Archdiocesan Safe Environment Policies. Know that failure to abide by the policies may result in disciplinary action, including, but not limited to, banning minors from further participation in online sessions and adverse employment action for adult ministers.
Following these best practices will instill confidence in your online ministry with children and youth and create a safe and welcoming environment where they can flourish in their faith formation.
Digital Learning and Technology Specialist