Parish life is unique in today’s world. Where so much around us is constantly changing, the goal of the parish is the same: accompany souls to Christ. There is a huge comfort in that consistency, in knowing that whatever parish you go to the Sacraments will be celebrated and Pastoral Care will be provided. However, that same consistency can also lead to complacency and stagnation. We can become so used to our processes and “the way we’ve always done things” that we start caring more about protecting the process than asking the question: are we effectively accompanying people on their journey with Christ? The fact is, many parishes have used the same administrative processes for decades. While these processes may have been highly effective at one time, the simple truth is that most of them are now incredibly outdated and it is high time for a technological upgrade.
Within the Church, the idea of bringing more technology into parish life can often bring out some… negative emotions. Maybe it seems too expensive or complicated. Maybe it seems unintuitive or cumbersome to use. Maybe you’ve tried but found that it over promises and under delivers. So why bother? Why change? Because parishes don’t exist to maintain the status quo, they exist to be beacons of Christ in the world. We are called to save souls and that means utilizing the most effective means possible to bring as many souls as possible to Christ. Despite any misgivings about implementing something new, the technology of today provides an unprecedented opportunity for parishes to be more present and more intentional in building the relationships that bring people to Christ.
There is no relationship without presence. With outdated filing systems, far too much time is wasted on tracking down information whether it’s figuring out if a couple preparing for marriage has their birth certificates in, or finding the address for the next pastoral care visit. As a result, opportunities are missed to be present with people. When Christ called the Apostles, he didn’t have a checklist of items they needed to submit. He engaged in their lives, spent time getting to know them around a campfire, and invited them into His life. This is the model we need to emulate in our sacramental preparation and pastoral care. To do so, we need the help of technology. Through the proper use of the right tech, we can make information more easily gatherable and accessible, so that we can spend less time on paperwork, and more time being present to people.
Relationships also require intentionality. If people simply feel like another face in the crowd, or even worse, just a wallet waiting to be emptied, they will never engage in parish life. People respond to particularity, to knowing they have been seen. This is why following up with parishioners and remembering important anniversaries in their lives is absolutely essential. If your dentist remembers your birthday, why not your parish? Not to mention your wedding anniversary, baptism anniversary, the passing of a loved one, etc. Given the hectic nature of parish life, it may sound like an impossible task to remember every anniversary of every parishioner, but this is another way technology can be used well. With the right tools, gentle reminders can be set to encourage sending (or even automatically send) personalized messages to parishioners so that they know they are seen. This kind of intentionality can change lives and transform parishes.
The point is, we need to overcome our fear of technology and use it to build real relationships that matter. Yes, it might be painful for a time. Yes, there will be a learning curve. Yes, it might even be expensive. But, what is the price worth paying to do a better job of accompanying just one soul to Christ? Our current systems and ways of doing things are not working. We know this, we see the data. Yet, too often we continue to do the same old things because even though they are failing, they are comfortable. It’s time to make ourselves uncomfortable for the sake of the Gospel. With today’s available technology we can be more present and more intentional in building relationships than ever before in the history of the Church. Now is the time to embrace that technology, build better relationships, and renew parishes in their fundamental calling: to accompany souls to Christ.