Lessons from the Public Ministry Learned in a Social Media World


My job at the diocese is focused on forming Catholic adults. As St. John Paul II told us, adult catechesis is actually the principal form of catechesis in the Church, “because it is addressed to persons who have the greatest responsibilities and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form.”  Many of our parishes spend most of their time and money trying to catechize the children of their parish, only to send the children home to parents who have either forgotten what they learned as children or who have been victims of bad catechesis themselves.

What is required?

I soon discovered that these problems are not solved overnight nor by one person or one program. Something else I soon learned, though, was that I needed to think outside the box.  As much as I love to teach adults in a classroom-like setting, and for many reasons I think that can be the most effective way to learn, most adults are not coming to diocesan lectures and classes.  They have busy schedules, their children have busy schedules, and most adults are not convinced they even need to pursue ongoing learning in the faith.

I was going to need to reach them where they were. I wasn’t going to give up lectures and more traditional forms of teaching. But I would need to supplement them with something else. A colleague approached me with an idea:  What about going to people where they are—their devices and social media—and trying to give them small bites of Church teaching each week?  Thus, about a year ago, “Three Minute Theology” was born. Every Tuesday, a new three-minute video is posted on Facebook and YouTube. They aren’t flashy or dramatic, but simple explanations of some aspect of Church teaching, whether it’s connected to the liturgical season, the moral teaching of the Church, the saints, or Church practice.

In general, beginning the job at the diocese was a good lesson in humility for me. I didn’t quite know where to start, nor did I have immediate success once I started. But, with the creation of Three Minute Theology, I received even more doses of humility—both in expected and unexpected ways.

First, perhaps the most obvious lesson in humility: getting used to seeing and hearing myself, no matter what funny faces I made or what words I accidentally overused.  Producing the series requires sitting in front of a camera, but it also includes watching myself over and over again during the editing process. We all know what it’s like to hear our own voice and stare at our own face. Not always a pleasant exercise. But for the sake of the message, I was going to have to get used to it.

Secondly, I was opening myself to criticism and opinions from people, Catholic and non-Catholic, local and all across the world. Would we get trolls? Probably, but we would just need to learn how to filter and how to respond.  After all, that fear hasn’t kept Pope Francis off Twitter. Many in the Church have been reluctant to embrace social media for various reasons, one of which is because it’s often the Wild West. You put something out there, unsure of how it will be received. It requires a great vulnerability. Does that mean we shy away from it? Or do we go forward with fortitude?

I also had to have the humility to accept that I couldn’t cover everything about every topic.  The very first video we tackled, I thought I was going to address the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother. Guess what? Three minutes is not long enough to explain everything and respond to every criticism or question.  I had to realize that it was okay to start small and gradual. Saying something was important, even when I couldn’t say everything.

Yes, I am annoyed that our attention span has decreased to such an extent that we only read 140 characters or watch one minute videos. But I had to put some of that annoyance aside. I had to put aside my pride.  I had to meet the world where it is.

Lastly, with the growth in popularity of the series, I had to learn how to accept compliments and feedback. Humility is not about beating yourself down and telling yourself you are terrible. It’s about accepting the truth about yourself and recognizing that if you are doing anything well, it is actually God doing it.

Looking back at the last year with Three Minute Theology, I realize I was learning the lessons of the public ministry of Christ. Here is a man who went to the lowest place on earth to be baptized by his cousin John. His ministry concentrated on the essentials with a small group of people. The Gospel is spread gradually, in humility and in vulnerability.  It meets the world where it is. If Three Minute Theology touches anyone, it is because it is the work of God and not me.  Those funny faces or awkward moments? Those are me. The souls being touched?  That’s all Him.

Three Minute Theology can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/3mtnashville and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/CatholicNashville.


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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