Using social media as a tool for faith formation

By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant

DUBUQUE — Whether it’s to look for a new cookie recipe, or to seek inspiration when planning a wedding, a growing number of people today turn to the social media platform Pinterest to find creative ideas on a seemingly endless number of topics.

Attempting to tap into the potential that Pinterest offers for the sharing and saving of information, the Education Re­source Center for the Archdiocese of Dubuque has recently joined the social media site and is using it as a tool to provide Catholics with helpful ideas for faith formation.

Pinterest is, according to its website, “the world’s catalog of ideas.” It could be thought of as a visual tool for “bookmarking” or saving sites and resources that are found online. Those individual sites and resources are called “pins,” which can be saved through collections known as “boards.”

Kim Feldman, the director for the Education Resource Center (ERC), said she and Tricia Tranel, the center’s media specialist, received a suggestion earlier this year that they look into using Pinterest as an easy way to share with the people of the archdiocese the information the center has available.

Feldman said she and Tranel liked the idea and were excited about the possibility of making reliable Catholic resources accessible to local families, parishes and schools, especially in a social media format with which so many are familiar.

After collaborating with the communications division at the archdiocese, Feldman and Tranel launched into the world of Pinterest in August of this year. The ERC now has about 150 followers on Pinterest; staff said they continue to regularly receive “likes” and “saves” and “pins,” indicating that individuals are utilizing the platform.

The Resource Center maintains a grow­ing number of Pinterest boards that are meant to appeal to families, as well as teachers and catechists who work with children, youth and adults in the archdiocese. The boards include a number of topics central to the Catholic faith, including the sacraments, the liturgical year, prayer, the saints and vocations, among others. New pins and new boards are posted frequently.

The pins offer online access to resources such as videos, downloadable activity sheets, lesson plans, PowerPoint presen­ta­tions, crafts, infographics, games and music. The pins also showcase items that can be borrowed from the Resource Center such as DVDS, books, posters and other useful materials.

Feldman said she believes the Resource Center’s presence on Pinterest is proving to be helpful to Catholics who are looking for information about their faith online, but might be overwhelmed by the quantity of the information out there and uncertain in the value of what they stumble across.

“There are so many wonderful things available on the internet, but people get frustrated trying to sift through the multitude and find sites, resources and activities that are both useful and in conformity with Catholic teaching,” Feldman said. “By having a presence on Pinterest, the archdiocese can provide a ‘safe,’ easy way for people to find some of those quality online resources.”

Jessica Schneider, the associate director of communications for the archdiocese and one of the members of the communications staff instrumental in getting the site established, said she is already utilizing the ERC’s resources in her own personal life.

“I am so excited that the Resource Center has joined the Pinterest world!” Schneider said. “As a working mom of two young children, I regularly use Pinterest as a source of inspiration. Kim and Tricia have done a fantastic job of finding resources that make my job as a parent raising children in the Catholic faith so much easier.”

And “the best part,” she added, “is knowing when they pin something, I can trust that it is coming from a reputable source.”

The Education Resource Center can be found on Pinterest at Pinterest.com/DBQArch. Individuals who would like to use the site but do not already have a Pinterest account can create one there for free.

In addition to Pinterest, the ERC offers many other resources and services and lends out DVDS, books, games, posters, CDs and other items with no rental fees. The center’s web-based catalog, found at the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s website, can also be used to access materials.

Feldman said anyone interested in learning more about the ERC’s presence on Pinterest or wishing to browse its other resources should feel free to stop by its Archdiocesan Pastoral Center location at 1229 Mt. Loretta Ave. in Dubuque.

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