Fort Myers, Florida, 2011
“Parent to Parent Podcasts: Using Technology to Help Families Discuss the Gospel”
By Kristine Neumayer Jenkins, Director of Faith Formation
This year, parents in our Faith Formation ministry here at St. Cecilia, in Fort Myers, FL, have been using free, readily available technology to create podcasts that help other parents share the Gospel with their own families. After meeting in small groups to read and reflect on the coming Sunday Gospel and their children’s Pflaum Gospel Weekly lesson, a parent uses a cell phone to call a toll free number and record a summary of their insights. They also use the cell to take a photo of a Gospel illustration. I then combine the uploaded audio and video on the website www.yodio.com, and post to our Formation blog. Before the non-class Sunday, other parents visit the blog and listen to the 2 minute Gospel podcast to help jump start their conversations with their own children before or after Mass.
There are a few steps in preparing and recording the podcast. First, using a quiet office while their children are in class, a group of 3-4 parents read and reflect on next week’s Gospel as it applies to their own faith. They then re-read the Gospel and discuss how it applies to their family, children or parenting joys and struggles. After everyone has had a chance to share, they begin the third part of the preparation: deciding what to focus on for the podcast. One parent is nominated to record their ideas, and he or she calls the toll free number and follows the prompts. They speak into the cell phone in the usual way, and their part is done! The process takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on how comfortable the parents are talking with each other.
The reaction from parents was initially hesitant, as they thought “podcast” meant they would be taped as a “talking head.” We’ve been running this project for two months now, with a total of five possible Sunday podcasts. Technical difficulties derailed two of those, but parents have enjoyed the faith sharing so much that they were not very disappointed by being “offline”! In addition, most of the comments I’ve heard so far are centered on their experience of preparing the podcast. One mom had reflected on the long version of the Gospel, but the short version was proclaimed at Mass. She emailed me because she was so surprised how much that changed the tone of the Gospel message, and it also began a conversation about why and how a parish chooses a certain version of a reading.
Other than the time invested in coaching the parents, there has been no cost to the project. It’s an exciting technological avenue to help form the faith of individual families and our parish community outside a traditional classroom setting.