There’s lot of speculation about the role new media will play in the New Evangelization.
Some think it’s the key to making the New Evangelization new. New initiatives in media like the VCAT video above certainly are compelling and really make an impact.
Others see it playing a smaller role and feel the traditional forms of evangelization will be more crucial.
So, is new media the whole of the New Evangelization? Or, does it need something more?
What is the VCAT?
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia just launched an ambitious project called the Video Catechism or VCAT.
It’s really just what it sounds like, the Catechism in video. Created for teens, VCAT will consist of 48 videos launched one per month over the next four years. The first one went live a few weeks ago and the last one is scheduled for September 2016.
The first year concentrates on the Creed, and then covers each of the four pillars of the Catechism (Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer) in successive years. This is great because not only is the Creed the first pillar, the Pope asked everyone to focus on the Creed during the Year of Faith.
The first VCAT video is so well done. It’s fast moving and very engaging. It really illustrates the point emphasized at the beginning of the Catechism–God has revealed himself to us. We run from him because of sin, but he’s always searching and wants us in relationship with him.
The VCAT also includes an teen Discussion Guide and Family Guide with Scripture quotes, Catechism quotes, prayers, and discussion questions. Also very cool.
The power of media
New media, like the VCAT videos are definitely powerful.
More than any other medium, video takes advantage of the principle of Transportation. It’s visceral. You’re swept up and transported into the world of the story.
Video can make you feel certain emotions and influence your decision making ability. Did you ever notice how you’ll cheer for the Indians when you watch a movie like Dances With Wolves, but if the hero is a cowboy or cavalry man, you’ll probably think they’re the enemy?
If it’s done well, movies and video greatly influence your behavior. That is powerful for evangelization.
Is VCAT the future of evangelization?
The great potential of new media for evangelization is it can reach into uncharted areas where priests and parishioners probably wouldn’t be. Anyone who’s curious can watch a You Tube video.
The atheist that stumbles on a You Tube video and becomes interested in learning more. The empty person seeking more from life who’s not yet ready to walk into a parish office but will watch hours of programming on EWTN.
But in the end, video is just not the same as human contact. It’s only one-way. The video can’t ask questions and engage in dialogue. It can’t call the person to more. It can’t build the trust that allows someone to open up about the deep hurt that needs healing before growth and change can happen.
Why the new media is new
But there’s the power of new media. It’s interactive.
Online communication (meaning relationship) is the hallmark of the social web. With new media, a priest or parish staff member could develop an online relationship with someone before they actually meet.
They could interact on blogs. The parish might offer an online course with dialogue through email. Or, a webinar that allows participants to text questions.
This interaction could build enough trust and relationship that the person would contact the parish for a face-to-face meeting and eventually to join RCIA.
New media will be an integral part of the New Evangelization. The missionary potential is staggering.
The key, I think, is to have a progressive strategy for engaging people online with the goal of bringing them into personal engagement. Relationship is where real change takes place.
We have to learn how to make that happen regularly…not just by accident. We must have an intentional new media strategy that gets people through the door and worshipping in the church building. Our evangelization efforts must lead to personal contact.
After all, you can not receive the Body and Blood of Christ online. There is no virtual Eucharist. Click to tweet
And the Eucharist is where the life of God is poured out for the reconciliation and healing of mankind.