Planting Grant Missions: Digital tools for the “Modern Fishermen”

Author: 
Fr Andre Paez

Fr. Andre and parishioners join forces to minister to homeless.Fr. Andre and parishioners join forces to minister to homeless.As a mission priest for the last three years, Priest Andre Paez, Rector of Saint John the Evangelist Mission here, states that his greatest joy has been helping people “come into Christ’s Church and participate in the mystery of His divine resurrected life.

“As a ‘fisher of men,’ I am always looking for ways to accomplish this and help our mission grow,” said Father Andre, who enthusiastically shared some of the latest and most effective digital tools he employs in reaching out into the wider community.

“One of the first administrative tasks I accomplished at Saint John’s was to get set up Google Apps,” said Father Andre.  “Google Apps offers users access to Google’s robust suite of cloud based tools, like Gmail, Google calendar, Google docs, YouTube, and more.  It is very important for the priest’s church e-mail address to match the church web site domain, which helps to ‘brand’ the church and build awareness in the local community.”

Father Andre adds that maintaining an up-to-date parish web site is also important.

“In 2015, we updated our mission’s web site by purchasing the #1 WordPress template called ‘X Theme’ from Themco,” Father Andre continued.  “The template was very easy to customize and included a one-time $64.00 charge.  Saint John’s new WordPress site is hosted by Go daddy, which is also the company we used to purchase our domain name.  For those who are less tech-savvy, professional freelancers to help with web site and other projects can be found on Fiverr.com and Upwork.com.”

Father Andre explained that Saint John’s uses a cloud based Church Management System from ACS Technologies called “Realm.”

“Realm is a very effective tool for monitoring church attendance and other metrics, creating a private on-line community and collecting tithe contributions on-line,” Father Andre noted.  “Most of our parishioners give to our church in this way and set up automatic giving on a schedule of their choosing.  Of all the church management systems I’ve researched, Realm offers the greatest features at the most cost effective price.”

To help manage Saint John’s plethora of projects, Father Andre uses Asana.com, which is free for up to 15 people.

Faithful and guests attend Vespers during recent mission open house.Faithful and guests attend Vespers during recent mission open house.“Asana enables effective communication for project team members in monitoring the accomplishment of project tasks and goals,” Father Andre said.  “For mass communication, we use MailChimp as the primary tool for our digital newsletter and mission-wide communications.  One can send 12,000 e-mails each month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers at no cost with MailChimp’s ‘Forever Free’ plan.  This has served us well as we send a weekly newsletter, which highlights the upcoming liturgical schedule, showcases ministries, and promotes upcoming events, and a newsletter on our Facebook page.  People always enjoy seeing pictures of our church feasts, men’s and women’s group activities, our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Church School program, and more.”

Another very powerful tool Father Andre uses is “Facebook live.”

“Using an app called ‘Facebook Page Manager,’ one can easily stream an event live from a mobile phone,” said Father Andre.  “We currently stream the Sunday Epistle and Gospel readings and sermon live, which is helpful for parishioners who may be sick or who live in distant areas.”

Father Andre, whose mission is one of five which currently receive Church Planting Grants from the Orthodox Church in America, emphasizes that “having organized local church communities will empower the priest and the faithful to help newcomers get connected and acclimated to church life.

“An active web site and a Facebook presence with videos and images of church life helps people experience the community before they make their initial visit,” Father Andre stated.  “Ultimately we pray that what they see will encourage them to discover Jesus Christ in the life of His Orthodox Church.”

Follow the growth of Saint John the Evangelist Mission at www.stjohnaz.org.

[Text and photos used with permission from oca.org]