October 10, 2014

Dedicating a Parish Resource Center

One of the rewards of entering the third year of our “digital mission” in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching is getting to witness some of the fruits of our colleagues’ labors. Recently at St. Columba’s in Washington, DC, I had just such an opportunity.

It had been more than a year since I met with Peter Antoci, one of St. Columba’s associate rectors, who wanted to start thinking about supplementing the parish library with online faith formation resources. In the intervening months, Peter and the adult formation committee at St. Columba’s have been hard at work discerning the kinds of resources that might be helpful for members of the church, and the ways those resource might best be accessed.

On September 7, in prime “adult forum” real estate at the beginning of the program year, Peter gathered the parish to dedicate Spirit Link.

If you’re a regular reader of CMT publications, you’ve been hearing more and more about church leaders curating faith resources on custom sites, pages, or social networking groups. What we haven’t talked much about is how to launch such an initiative with maximum excitement and momentum.

That’s why I’m particularly grateful for Peter’s invitation to be present at Spirit Link’s maiden voyage. Here are a couple of observations and appreciations from my experience:

Pray without ceasing

Peter cleverly began the proceedings with a “virtual ribbon cutting” and prayer of dedication. He adapted the prayer for “Setting Apart Secular Space for Sacred Use” from the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services. I believe this choice will help parishioners see Spirit Link for what it is, an online annex to the faith formation spaces members of St. Columba’s know well already.

Tour de resource

While it’s true that the appeal of online resource centers is that users can make their own choices about how to use them, we also know users are up against limitations due to technical anxiety or time available to explore.

So another advantage of gathering for an event like this is the chance to get everyone up to speed with the best ways to use the site. Peter showed people around the site and highlighted some of his favorite links.

Instant feedback

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the time to fill out online feedback forms, even for sites I really care about. And yet they’re often the only direct way for curators to hear from users about what’s missing from a particular collection. An in-person launch creates another avenue.

For instance, one participant raised his hand after Peter finished the guided tour: “I noticed that you have the link to an online Book of Common Prayer but not a Bible. Are there any online?” There sure are, and I’m sure one will enter the Spirit Link fold very soon.

Point being: An event like this also serves as a built-in focus group. Would that the church took better advantage of such opportunities to what we education geeks call formative evaluation.

Has your congregation built a resource site or page to help members access spiritual resources? We’d love to see and hear about more examples!

Peter Antoci shares how to create an online parish resource center here.

This post first appeared on the Key Resources blog September 8, 2014 and is reposted with permission.