One of the oldest institutions has turned to one of the newest social media sites to help spread the Good Word.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton decided to join TikTok after noticing a drop in engagement on other social media sites like Instagram.
It is one of the first religious organizations to use the platform in Canada. Officials told Global News the decision was not an easy one, but that it is a natural step.
“Evangelization, you know, in different mediums is not a new thing,” social media strategist Lincoln Ho explained of the decision.
The app is one of the fastest-growing social networking sites in the world, accumulating 500 million active users worldwide since launching in 2016.
In fact, it beat out a few of its more seasoned competitors, like Twitter and Snapchat, which boast about 330 million and 203 million active users, respectively.
The mobile TikTok app allows users to shoot and edit short videos set to music and has been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times.
The videos range in length from 15 to 60 seconds, and feature an array of content from comedy sketches and dance challenges to lip-syncing celebrities and pranks.
Many of the videos are adaptations of other trends on the platform. For the Archdiocese, the first video posted was meant to promote their Day of Confessions.
It showed St. Joseph’s Basilica pastoral counsel Scott Jenken walk into a confessional wearing jeans before coming out in robes.
“I was serving for the Archbishop Sunday and my good friend Lincoln had approached me and said, ‘Scott, you’re going to do this.’ And I said, ‘Oh. Okay,’” Jenken explained.
The video has only been viewed a modest 300 times (as of Monday morning) but Jenken said it’s made its way to parishioners.
“I have heard a few people come and say, ‘I saw you on that TikTok’ and I thought, ‘Oh! Goodness!’”
While they’re happy to share the message with Catholics, the idea is to also break through to those who aren’t frequent attendees.
“You never really know who you’re going to reach with this and so you might capture someone’s attention who says, ‘Hey, I should go and maybe do confession,’” Jenken said.
Ho plans to use the videos to do just that. He has already created others including a video based on a so-called Paper Towel Challenge spreading on the app.
It sees users write on two sides of a paper towel then put it on water, revealing two messages.
Spring be late… typical #Edmonton weather right?#papertowelchallenge #timechange #yeg #pourtoi #archedmonton #catholic #alberta #tiktokcanada
♬ Originalton – qwestar
That kind of creativity doesn’t come easily.
“A TikTok actually takes way more planning than other ones that I’ve done.”
But Ho believes it is worth the effort.
Using social media to evangelize is not unprecedented — Pope Francis joined Twitter in 2012. In that time, he has amassed more than 18 million followers.
It’s why the Archdiocese of Edmonton believes he would be on board with their latest venture.
“I think he’d approve, certainly,” Jenken said.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton can be found on TikTok as @ArchEdmonton. You can also follow Global News @globalnews.ca.
TikTok and its parent company, Chinese technology company Bytedance, are not without controversy.
In early December 2019, TikTok admitted to suppressing the content of users it deemed ‘susceptible to bullying’, namely people with disabilities or those in the LGBTQ2+ community.
It also faced public scrutiny over allegations that the platform removed politically-sensitive content for users in China.
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— With files from Sara Hussein, Global News
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