By Traci Osuna
ARLINGTON, Texas, AUG. 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In a world where young people are perpetually texting, “tweeting” and connecting on Facebook, it can seem that the modern technology of social networking is more of a distraction than a benefit. Matthew Warner, however, sees the technology as an opportunity to reach out to youth, and to unite parishes.
Warner is the founder of flockNote, an Internet-based networking tool that aims at making communication within ministries, parishes and dioceses more effective.
A former parish youth ministry leader, Warner noticed that there was no easy way to communicate with his group members. He developed flockNote to keep them informed and up-to-date on parish activities.
In this interview, Warner shares with ZENIT how he came up with the idea for flockNote and how he hopes it will help to facilitate communication within and among parishes.
ZENIT: What is flockNote and how did you come up with the idea to start it? How long has it been in existence?
Matt Warner: FlockNote is a communication tool for Catholic parishes. It basically allows parish/ministry leaders to manage their communication channels. And it allows them to post information in one place and have it reach people via e-mail, text message, Facebook, Twitter, RSS and more.
I came up with the idea for it after many years of volunteering in my own parish — especially youth ministry. There just wasn’t a simple, universal tool to let us all communicate effectively. Some people liked e-mail. Others the phone. Others Facebook. Etc. So it was difficult to keep up with it all. And it was hard for everyone to have a common interface.
FlockNote tries to bring all of those communication mediums together into one tool. And it lets pastors or other leaders who may not use Facebook, Twitter or text messaging themselves, to actually communicate with their parishioners using that technology. FlockNote bridges the gap.
The first fully functional flockNote site launched at the beginning of 2009. <br>
ZENIT: Today’s youth is so technologically inclined. How has flockNote helped to bring their Catholic faith more into the forefront of their lives?
Warner: I think it’s really important for the Church to “speak the language” of the youth. These kinds of tools are how the youth communicate. They get it. If we want to reach them most effectively, why not meet them where they’re at?
ZENIT: Is your service used primarily by youths or do Catholics of all ages use it?
Matt Warner: FlockNote is for all ages. That was part of the design. If we are going to make a communication tool that works in a universal Church, then it had better be something that everyone can interface with. So we try to make it very simple to understand and use.
And we offer multiple forms of communication and ways users can interact with the same information; that way parishioners can choose the form of communication they are most comfortable with and in the habit of already using.
ZENIT: FlockNote has just received a makeover. What kind of changes did you make to make your program more user-friendly?
Warner: We just released a totally new and updated version of flockNote that incorporates the last year’s worth of feedback and suggestions we’ve received from our members. I really think we’ve got a product now that serves a real need within the parish, and we’ve had a great response so far.
The latest changes involve some features like embedding the registration process into your parish Web site (it doubles as a parish registration tool), easily importing and adding your existing e-mail list, scheduling notes ahead of time, creating events and polls, exporting your parishioner data to sync up with your existing database, a mobile interface, integration with Twitter and Facebook and much more.
ZENIT: FlockNote is a Web-based program that helps parishes maintain open communication within themselves. How has it helped to open up communication between parishes? Dioceses? Do you have members from outside of the United States?
Warner: One of my main passions for creating flockNote was to improve communication among area parishes, the diocese and beyond. There is no need within the Church that can’t be met by some other resource we already have in the Church. We just need to do a better job of connecting the two together. And so often parishes operate in their own bubbles, oblivious to the nearby parishes around them. There is a lot of opportunity for collaboration that we are missing.
The big picture for flockNote is that it can be a tool for helping do just that. If, for example, an entire diocese and all of its parishes were using flockNote, the capacity to share information from parish to parish, to get regular information from our bishops, to promote common events and to leverage all of our distribution channels together would be tremendous.
It would be an organizational force like the Church has never seen. That’s where we’re headed. It’s only a matter of time and effort for us to get there. I think flockNote can play a big role in getting us there. These are very exciting times in the Church.
— — —
On the Net:
For more information: www.flocknote.com