While we can't replicate in-person connections through digital means, Elizabeth Tomlin explains how we can make the most of virtual conferences.
As an author and speaker, one of the things I love to do is attend Catholic events. Whether I’m speaking or signing books, attending a talk by a fellow worker in the vineyard, or taking time out for a quiet retreat, in-person gatherings renew my spirit. I look forward to meeting new friends, re-connecting with old friends, being inspired, and attending Mass or liturgies with other Catholics.
This year of COVID-19 has certainly upended how we interact with one another and attend events. However, we are people of faith and will not be deterred from spreading the Gospel or growing in faith, even during a pandemic. To that end, it’s heartening to see so many virtual Catholic conferences, summits, and retreats popping up around the internet.
While COVID-19 numbers continue to fluctuate, I think we can expect virtual events for a while yet to come. Although we can’t entirely replicate the connection and energy that comes with in-person events through digital means, we can certainly invest in these events to help them succeed and to get the most out of them. Here are a few ideas for making the most of a virtual Catholic event.
Treat virtual events as if they were in-person
When we attend in-person events, we block off our calendars, make plans to meet friends, and even dress for success. These COVID-19 days have left Catholic moms multi-tasking to extreme degrees. Many moms are working from home, schooling children at home, caregiving, and trying to maintain some order in the house. When a digital conference comes along, instead of adding the conference into an already overloaded schedule, take some time away to focus on the event like you would if you were attending an in-person. If possible, ask your spouse, older child, or babysitter to care for the kids while you focus on the event.
It’s okay not to attend everything
Many online events have extensive schedules with upwards of 80 talks. What’s more some of these conferences have multiple talks occurring on different digital channels simultaneously. Take a look at the conference schedule ahead of time and pick the talks you will attend. It’s okay not to attend everything.
Get social with digital events
We are social beings, and we crave connection with other people. If small gatherings are safe in your area, meet at a parish or a friend’s house to watch parts of a digital event together. Afterward, spend time discussing what you took away from the talk. If gathering in-person is not possible, hold a digital watch party on Zoom.
Take time for prayerful reflection
Listening to someone talk about our faith is educational and inspirational, and virtual events are a great opportunity to hear from lots of different people in a very short amount of time, but be sure to take what you’ve learned to prayer. Give the Holy Spirit space to speak to your heart.
Be willing to take action
When we feel inspired by an experience, we often feel nudged toward making a change in our lives in order to walk closer to Christ. After a digital event, be willing to take action to grow in your faith. Whether that action is to start praying a morning offering for the first time, or to develop a habit of spiritual reading, taking just one action will help you put the great messages of these events into practice.
Share the good news
If you enjoyed a virtual event or found a certain talk inspiring, share it. Share it on your social media, text a few friends whom you believe would benefit from the event. Many of these virtual conferences are free, but some of the conference have a pass for a small fee that allows your replay the talks later. Consider purchasing a pass to support the speakers or gifting a pass to someone whom you believe would benefit from the material.
Copyright 2020 Elizabeth Tomlin
Image: Chris Montgomery (2020), Unsplash
About the Author
Elizabeth is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups (Ave Maria Press), General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and director of stewardship for the Military Council of Catholic Women, where she previously served as the president and as director of faith formation. Elizabeth is a catechist and speaker, and blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org.