The Ten Commandments of Digital Discipleship

by Sr. Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOFF


Thou Shalt “Participate!”

Have you ever paid attention to the phrases we often hear in our daily conversations: “Come and participate on my Facebook page by “liking” it.” Or “Come and participate on Twitter.” Or “Come and participate on Instagram.” What does it mean today to participate? Probably more than you imagined!

Back in 2009, the MacArthur Foundation released a white paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Recently, Eileen D. Crowley – Catholic Theological Union’s Associate Professor of Liturgy and Workshop Arts, reflected on this white paper. As I read her response, I echoed a resounding “Yes” to her article. Let me share the following with you:

This white paper has very big implications for educators of any age group.**[1]**While this report is focused on the education of children and teens, I see the implications of its findings for theological educators of adults and for ministers and religious educators who teach and communicate with any age group. “According to a recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life project, more than one-half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one-third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced. In many cases, these teens are actively involved in what we are calling participatory cultures.”

Recently Delwich and Henderson, authors of The Participatory Cultures Handbook (New York: Routledge, 2013) say that “Our world is being transformed by participatory knowledge cultures in which people work together to collectively classify, organize, and build information – a phenomenon that the philosopher Pierr Lѐvy characterizes as the emergence of collective intelligence.” (4)

So, the world around us is changing, which means that methodology is changing. As ministers we need then to ask ourselves – How is this participatory culture changing our methodology of teaching and learning our faith? We now live in an age, where with mobile and digital tools; I have almost instant access to information about my church – its history, theology, and spirituality in seconds and 24/7. What does that mean? How, when, and who teaches about our faith is shifting daily whether we are ready or not.

Are we ready to adjust and participate? Of course not! Do we need to learn all that we can about today’s participatory culture? Of course we do! You can begin by reflecting on the MacArthur Foundation white paper, Eileen Crowley’s article “Participatory Cultures and Implications for Theological Education,” and Delwich and Henderson’s Participatory Cultures Handbook. These items are easily located by using a Google search.

After reading and reflecting on this material, ask yourself – Are you ready to teach and learn your faith with the methods that are being adapted daily in the learning world around us? We need to be seriously
engaged in learning the best practices of what is and has been happening in the area of educational technology over the last 35+ years. The methodology of teaching and learning is changing. Are we?


Thou shalt be a “Digital Citizen”

Yes, we are in an ever evolving digital world. How we behave and express our faith in this ever evolving communications environment is important to the teaching and learning of our faith.
In 36 seconds, I just located over 35 million results for “Digital Citizenship” in a Google search! Today, in a world that is becoming more and more digital, how we behave with one another in this digital environment is very important. Today, one of the top websites focused on this topic is – Digital Citizenship: Using Technology Appropriately ( ). As you engage in visiting the pages on this website you will learn:
  • Digital citizenship involves applying the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use,
  • Nine ( 9) themes related to digital citizenship, and
  • Abundant engaging resources to help you both learn about and teach this area to students
There is some debate about the exact definition of the term. I like the one found on a blog attributed to Anne Collier ( ): “Critical thinking and ethical choices about the content and impact on oneself, others, and one’s community of what one sees, says, and produces with media, devices, and technologies.”
In today’s faith community how we are able to engage one another in sharing our faith through social media, blogging, and more always need to reflect our ethical values. Thus, how do we use or misuse these tools in our everyday lives? Are we doing any of the following?
  • Using digital cameras to take pictures of a test to distribute to others?
  • Copying materials from the Internet without giving credit?
  • Logging into programs with another’s username and password?
  • Leaving cellphone ringer on during public events?
  • Text messaging others during times we should be paying attention to those we are with?
So when we are teaching the 10 Commandments, how are we weaving in the everyday digital experiences (the misuse) that are now an integral part of our everyday lives? What Commandments are represented in the above examples? Have our text materials caught up with the rapid change we are experiencing? If not, how do we teach digital citizenship within the framework of the Ten Commandments?
Are we able to reflect on the 10 Commandments, and show the best as well as the undesirable side of the digital world for each of the commandments? It is essential today that we use 21st Century tools to enhance and share our faith with others in a responsible way by being Digital Citizens!

[1] Jenkins serialized this paper in his weblog. The entire document is also available online as one of the eleven MacArthur-funded “Reports on Digital Media and Learning,” Jenkins is also the principal investigator for Project New Media Literacies (NML), a group which originated as part of the MacArthur digital Media and Learning Initiative.


Thou shalt be a Digital Disciple with Facebook.

Facebook is the mother of all social media websites that we either love or hate. This most popular social media provides a platform for folks like you and me to connect with our family and friends to share our thoughts, photos, and more. But have we considered the opportunities to be a Digital Disciple through our Facebook sharing?
I would like to suggest that following a Digital Disciple for several weeks, offers one way to become aware of how others choose to be a digital disciple for the sake of evangelization in the 21st century. Here are a few disciples that you may wish to follow:
  • Jesuit Jim Martin, for being real and authentic in sharing simply where he has been and what he is doing. Offering simple reflections on a daily basis.
  • Mary Amore, Executive Director of Mayslake Ministries, bringing us into her everyday ministry, and sharing simply about her family and friends, engaging us in praying for events and people in her life.
  • Sean Ater, Director for the Office of New Evangelization, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, in addition to meeting his family and friends, Sean draws us into what is happening in today’s church with a variety of articles and videos he has discovered.
Depending on who you follow, you will experience them being very engaged and relevant digital disciples in a variety of ways. What stands out most for me is that they are comfortable in saying that they are followers, they share their gifts and talents willingly with others, and they share what they have in order to build the kingdom of God.
During the 2014 Lent season, I wondered how I could be a Digital Disciple with my friends and followers. I decided to change my FB Covers throughout lent with a Lenten Theme/Message/Image, weekly I shared a meaningful inspirational LENT video, if I discovered a Sunday homily reflection that was meaningful, I shared that as well, and I just shared meaningful messages that I felt reflected me.
In paying attention to the messages appearing on my FB wall, I was struck by a message Fr. Bill Swengros of Tampa, Florida shared on his birthday:
Today, I give thanks to God for the gift of my life, my faith, my family and my friends, and for the grace to love and serve Him. I especially thank my Mom and Dad for their "yes" to The Lord. Today, I thank God for all the blessings of my life and pray that this year I may be more faithful, more loving, more holy ... Please pray for me and thank you for your birthday wishes. You are the best.
Yes it is possible to be a Digital Disciple each in our unique ways. I discovered that it does not take a lot of time. Once you are comfortable with the tool, you can easily discover covers with a faith theme that you could use for your FB Cover. If you are a member of Digital Catechesis, you can search our video library for Lent videos that others have found meaningful. And, just simply sharing what it means for you to be a follower of Jesus. When we are filled with faith, we are like the Samaritan woman at the well who is excited to tell those back in town, whom she has met and how this Jesus changed her life!


Thou shalt be a Digital Disciple with Twitter and Instagram

Social media tools surround us and often baffle us! So I’m going to take the liberty to invite you to explore how others have used some of the most popular tools for sharing their faith. Check out the following models for Twitter and Instagram.
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read "tweets", which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Wikipedia Check out the messages!
Faith in God @PrayInFaith - Quotes and Biblical Passages about Faith and Prayer
Twitter for Faith Based Organizations - or
Pope Francis @Pontifex - Official Twitter page of Pope Francis
Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, and then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever. Instagram-FAQ Come and explore how digital disciples are using Instagram.
What is Instagram – video -
Using Instagram in Church Ministry - or
12 Ways to Share Your Faith Using Instagram - or
Instagram and Ministry: Telling the Story - or
Hopefully the examples you have explored here allow you to see the exciting possibilities for using these amazing tools in your ministries. Overall these tools are easy to learn and what you create can be easily completed using mobile tools like iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets. If you need some mentoring, ask your son or daughter or some other Digital Native for help.
Overall these communication tools that allow you to communicate with others in new media ways. Instead of sending a postcard, you will be sending a photo with a wonderful message or in 140 characters you will be sending a thoughtful and refreshing reflection.
May you be blessed as you share your faith with others!