McCormick’s Center for the Study of Latin@ Theology and Ministry is helping Latin@ churches expand their reach by teaching pastors and ministry leaders how to use social media platforms and video conferencing technology to reach those inside and outside their congregations.
Pastors have always experienced restless nights, praying for parishioners’ needs, pondering the state of the church’s finances, and questioning whether Sunday morning’s message is theologically sound and communally relevant. But for many pastors, the newest and most pressing concern is how to unmute Zoom or which social media platform to use.
Such were the findings at a series of workshops that were offered by McCormick’s Center for the Study of Latin@ Theology and Ministry, which were facilitated by Rev. Alexandra Zareth of the Office of Leadership Development and Recruitment for Leaders of Color at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, PC(USA).
“More than 40 pastors gathered online to re-imagine how they would minister during the global pandemic,” said Rev. Dr. Leslie Diaz Perez, director of the Center for the Study of Latin@ Theology and Ministry. “Our Latin@ students helped us promote these events within their churches and with denominational leaders they knew. We had participants from across the U.S. and from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.”
During those workshops, the Center learned that pastors had anxieties and questions about what they would do now that they were unable to meet in churches. “Pastors wanted to stay connected to their congregations, and they wanted to know how to do that by using technology,” she said.
Students like, Leuyin Garcia, who is in his first year at McCormick, stepped up to help out. A minister at Capilla Cristo Redentor in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Garcia offered to share his expertise in videography and the use of social media platforms to engage audiences.
“Since being at McCormick, I’ve felt that the seminary is very committed to the well-being of the church,” said Garcia. “Latin@ churches need support so that they don’t become disconnected or discouraged. I wanted to be part of the solution; I want to help Latin@ churches become virtual evangelists.”
Garcia helped design the curriculum for the four-part Spanish-language online series, “Virtualizing the Church,” that rolled out in October. It covers the technological skills and equipment needed to produce online content, offers best practices for conducting online worship services, provides the pros and cons of various social media platforms, and shares trends and ethical considerations for using social media and video conferencing technology.
Pastors quickly saw that moving online could help to build bridges across generational lines and erase boundaries that are drawn between those with knowledge of new technologies and those without it, noted Rev. Diaz Perez. They also realized that social media platforms could help their churches reach people who might never come into a church building but who might drop in an online service.
“Even in a pandemic, there are opportunities,” said Rev. Diaz-Perez. “God is still doing new things, and we have only to listen and look for the Divine who is always present, even in the challenges we face.”
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