We’re in Jesus’ Marketing Department
Communications plays such an important role in the Church. In the past couple of months our own Presiding Bishop has brought the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement into the spotlight. There have been many attempts to use Bishop Curry’s newfound fame to bring people to church: life-size cutouts of him, t-shirts, stickers, banners, etc. While it’s a great opportunity, the work of communicating goes on as always—and for those of us in Spanish or bilingual communications, it has its own challenges.
Social media and the search for a place to belong
Araceli Ma says that her life changed when she found the Episcopal Church. She had been searching for a church community when she came across a picture of a mom and her children dressed up as part of a Nativity scene. That photo spoke to her as the mother of two young girls, and she thought, “That is what I want for my girls! I want one of them to carry the cross and the other to wear angel wings at church. I want to raise them in a church that is like a family.” She visited the church because of that picture, felt very welcome and has never left. She now works in Latino Communications for the Diocese of Washington.
Araceli says that we can help change people’s lives by sharing the spirit of service and love in our churches on social media. At first, she just posted content on the diocesan webpage, but when people began asking if she had a Facebook page, she realized that it could be an evangelism tool. Araceli attended the eFormation Conference at Virginia Theological Seminary, where she heard the Rev. Alex Montes-Vela’s presentation on the Facebook page he created for Saint Mary Magdalene in Manor, Texas. He said that after about a year, the Facebook page readers began coming to Saint Mary Magdalene.
Araceli says that many Hispanic people in the U.S. are looking for an extended family, since most of their families are in other countries. She’s convinced that we are all in Jesus’ Marketing Department, and she encourages everyone to share photos and videos on social media that show that church is family. “Everyone is looking to belong,” she says, “and seeing people who are smiling and enjoying church will bring visitors to church.”
Evangelism takes funding and a heart for communicating God’s love
The Rev. Edgar Giraldo, Director of Communications and Digital Evangelism in the Episcopal Church in Puerto Rico, says that evangelism is communicating God’s word to the world. He says that asking your diocesan bishop to include a budget line for communications is one step toward being able to do that. While he is aware that this may not be possible for some dioceses, Edgar is grateful that his bishop understands the essential role that communications plays in evangelism.
Edgar also knows that many people think that having a communications director or team requires a lot of money and time, but he says that what you need most is to have an interest in it. He says, “If you are interested in sharing God’s love with others, you will be able to publish very beautiful things. If Jesus were here today, he would use social media to share his word, love, and hope in all the corners of the world.”
A few months ago, Edgar started a video series called Three Minutes with God that has become a great evangelism tool. The series shares brief reflections on a Bible passage from people from around the diocese that reflect God’s love and hope. He encourages all of us to use our cell phones to take pictures or record short videos that show God’s love at work in the world and in our lives.
Language is a challenge
Hugo Olaiz is Assistant Editor for Latino/Hispanic Ministries at Forward Movement. He says that we are to be like the angels, prophets and disciples in the Bible who shared good news with others. Even in bad times, we must always share the good news of hope and love, because our sight is on Jesus who often said, “Do not fear.” Hugo says that one challenge in Spanish-language communications is the actual language. Spanish-speaking countries have different words for the same things. “We don’t have one country that has the perfect Spanish,” he says, “although many would vote for their own country.” (I vote for Perú!)
Part of being a communicator in Latino/Hispanic ministries is realizing that there will be times when nobody can agree on the right word to use. The message of the Bible is sometimes hard to understand, and Hugo says that if we are thankful and appreciate what we have and what we receive and then share it with others, we are practicing the Gospel. A firm believer in the power of using digital and social media, he also says that while a great camera and perfect grammar are, wonderful, neither of those will inspire or transform people like the authenticity of our message.
Bi-lingual communications are more important in our church than ever
Paulette Martín, Hispanic Communications Specialist, Diocese of Texas, feels it is important to have a communications team for Spanish language ministries because it addresses the needs of one of the fastest growing populations of the Episcopal Church. “It is crucial,” she says, “for the Hispanic population to be aware of the Church’s stand on issues of immigration and the separation of families.”
She describes publishing content in both English and Spanish as a “fun challenge” that has helped improve her bilingualism. “It forces me to use my brain more,” she says. Her advice for bilingual communicators is to know your audience and to connect with the people when you are trying to get a story. While she knows that there are times when a story can be easily translated from one language to the other, she believes that you need to understand that it may affect congregations or groups in different ways. Paulette says that being a Latina, a former DREAMer and an immigrant have helped her because she knows and understands a lot of the issues that most Latino/Hispanic church members face and can build rapport with them.
A few tips from our experts
- Keep your webpage or social media pages up-to-date, especially your calendar and contact information.
- Use social media, including WhatsApp, to share the good news easily, inexpensively and in a timely fashion.
- You do not need expensive equipment to start sharing God’s good news.
- Watch/read the news—including church news—and stay informed on current events that affect your target audience.
- Read in both English and Spanish to keep your language and grammar current.
- Stay connected with clergy and lay leaders who are part of Latino/Hispanic ministries and be aware of the issues that their members are facing.
- Follow social media pages of Latino/Hispanic Ministries of the Episcopal Church.
Sandra Montes is ECF’s Spanish Language Resources Consultant. She serves the Church as musician, translator, speaker, consultant and writer. Sandra taught for 21 years in public education and has a doctorate in education.
- God, It’s Your Church by Alfredo Feregrino, Vestry Papers, November 2016
- Evangelism for the 21 Century by Day Smith Pritchartt, Vestry Papers, May 2017
- God Revealed… by Ema Rosero-Nordalm, ECF Vital Practices Blog, January 4, 2013
- Mission of Union and Integration by Daniel Vélez-Rivera, Vestry Papers, May 2011
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