By day, he's the social media coordinator for a large sports association in Florida. But in his "free" time, you'll find today's Catholic Techie, Brad West, maintaining his parish website and Facebook page. He also helps his wife (who's a realtor) with her website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
Like so many of the Catholic Techies I've interviewed, Brad is passionate about his faith and about sharing his faith using the tools technology has made available. He gets as excited about it as some of us get by farm equipment, and you'll see that in today's interview. Enjoy!
Tell us about yourself in five words or less.
Passionate about serving.
Of your pursuits, what's your favorite?
Leveraging the digital and online tools to help my parish and sharing that experience to help others have been my favorites. One of the great things about this experience has been the opportunity to connect with so many other people working to do similar things all over the country and world.
In the business world you have to be careful how much you share about what you are doing because of competition, but in the world of churches you really don’t have to worry about that. There is a lot of opportunity to bounce ideas off of others and people are very willing and open to sharing their experiences.
When I started getting involved with these things in my own parish, I often felt like I was out on an island by myself. It’s such a unique environment in many ways and a lot of the “tech talk” is about business and a selling type of approach. When I started doing some searches online and through social networks I started finding people like Craig Berry who started CatholicTechTalk.com; Domenic Bettenelli, Ashley Collins, and Joyce Donahue who all have experience in Dioceses; bloggers like Lisa Hendey, Brandon Vogt, and Sr. Susan; and so many others doing this work in parishes and churches all over.
Those online discussions have been great help not only with finding out how at times but why we’re doing these things. Many of those conversations go beyond mechanics and technicals to strategy and best practices. All of that has been a huge benefit to me when working in an association setting which in many ways is very similar to our parishes in terms of structure and functions.
I also love learning not only how to use these tech tools, but finding out their benefit. There is always something new, and the learning never stops. I love that.
When you think of the New Evangelization from your approach as a "Catholic Techie," what excites you? What makes you want to continue?
To me, the foundation of any success with evangelizing is good communication channels. To get people going out from the pews and sharing the good news and being that light in the world to others, we need to not only deliver that message well from the pulpit but we need to connect with and engage our parishioners often throughout the week. We need to feed them first, right? We need to truly become a part of the everyday lives of the parishioners. That’s been a huge challenge for parishes today with things like both parents working, kids involved in more activities than ever before, and so on.
Right now we have such an amazing opportunity to leverage these online tools like websites, social media, email, and especially social networks putting them together to enhance and expand our current communications functions to overcome so many of those communication barriers we’ve faced for so many years. We can connect with parishioners almost daily and use these channels to build stronger communities.
Pastors aren’t restricted to Sunday homilies to share their thoughts. They can do that through blogs or Facebook posts, and we can have real discussions that help us grow bringing Christ into every aspect of of our lives. We can serve our parishioners and feed the sheep in ways that have been challenging for us for many many years.
But the real exciting part to me is that when we put all of these things in motion with them working together as an overall communications function that they are, we are truly opening our doors wide to outsiders and inviting them in. We can be a light as a community online through our websites, Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, etc.
How many people may want to know more but are intimidated or have preconceived notions? Today we can break down those walls and say, “Come and see.” Come and look at the inside building and happenings of our parishes through online photos, videos, blogs, and other social media. Come ask questions and share your thoughts. And when they are ready, they come and we are here to welcome them.
And we don’t have to wait for them to come to us either, we have opportunities to go out into our communities as our parishes through things like Facebook pages and Twitter accounts everyday and go to people in new ways and engage not only individuals but be that voice in our local communities (i.e. towns, cities, etc.).
What's the most rewarding aspect of your work?
That’s such a tough question because there are so many rewarding aspects. I have definitely gotten this great hands-on education and am learning new things every day. I learn things in my full-time job that I can apply to our parish efforts, and vice versa.
I’ve gotten to connect with such amazing people and have even built great friendships locally (and others I would like to meet from around the country I’ve had interactions with) that started online.
Working on parish websites and social profiles has provided me this really unique opportunity to be exposed to so many different aspects of parish life and the Church at-large helping me grow in my faith.
But the biggest reward for me is when the work has made a difference for someone else. Whether it’s been helping a Pastor blog when they thought they couldn’t. Or making it a little easier for a Youth Director to get information out to parents and students. Or brightening someone else’s day by sharing things out like photos or messages. I love when I share photos out and you see those conversations begin to evolve with people from all over around those simple moments and being a part of helping bring them together for a while is a really wonderful feeling. For me, that’s the good stuff.
In your spare time, what are we likely to find you doing? Do you have a gadget in hand or do you go native and screenless?
A lot of times, yes, I have my Motorola X in my hand or it’s in my pocket. Managing social networks for an organization doesn’t really ever shut down. You have to keep an eye on things not only with the networks themselves and the activity on those accounts, but you really need to be aware of what’s going on those industries and your surrounding community.
I also love learning. So often times I am reading news articles, blogs, and having personal interactions through online communities.
Want more Catholic Techie interviews? Here you go.
Copyright 2014 Sarah Reinhard
About the Author
When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.