Catholic YouTube junkies of the world, unite – you are needed for the New Evangelization. That was essentially the message of the recent Catholic YouTubers Hangout, the first-of-its-kind online meeting of dozens of Catholics from around the world who last month about bringing the Gospel to their YouTube channels.
About 50 channels logged on to take part, hailing mostly from the United States, but also with channels joining from places like Italy, Brazil and Spain. The hangout started as the brainchild of Daniel Glaze, who is one-half of the channel “That Catholic Couple” – the other half is Daniel's wife, Ana. On their channel, they show their followers (dubbed “The Donut Squad,” a play on Glaze) all about their life as a young Catholic couple and first-time parents.
Daniel said the idea for the hangout came when he was watching a Catholic YouTube video one day and wondered whether Catholics on YouTube knew each other or ever collaborated together.
Steve the Missionary (aka Steven Lewis) of the “Steve the Missionary” channel, and Maria Mitchell, the producer of the “Ascension Presents” channel, had similar questions. Why weren't there more Catholics on YouTube, the way there were on other social media platforms like Twitter? Why wasn't there a Catholic community on the platform?
“(We all) noticed that there really wasn't a cohesive community of people who create together, react to each other, or collaborate with each other,” Lewis told CNA. “Daniel was the one who was smart enough to start calling his friends and asking what we wanted to do about it.”
And that's how the Catholic YouTubers Hangout was born. The free online conference was open to any channel that was in some way, shape or form, Catholic – meaning either the content explicitly talked about Catholicism and the Catholic church, or the creator of a channel is a Catholic who is letting their faith influence their work.
The goals for the hangout were twofold: to create a community of Catholic YouTubers, and to encourage further collaboration within that community. Each host of the hangout also gave a keynote address, the main ideas of which can also mostly be found in this collaborative by Daniel, Ana and Lewis: https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=inXOliuYdQk&t=21s
This community of Catholic YouTubers is necessary, Lewis said, because “Catholics need to get their voice in the hyper-progressive, strictly materialistic, and atheist and agnostic conversation happening on YouTube.” He said he wants there to be a “Catholic YouTube” of sorts – a corner within the platform dominated by explicitly Catholic conversations and creators, like there is on Twitter or Instagram.
“But I know that that's not enough,” he said. “The second thing I want is for Catholics to be a part of every other corner of YouTube. We should be earning our rights to be heard in the conversations happening on 'Gamer YouTube,' 'Politics YouTube,' or 'Movie-Nerd YouTube,'” he said. “Having both of these is important to spreading the Gospel. The first is important for answering the explicit questions of people interested in the faith, the second is important for putting the Gospel in new places among the people of the world.”
Lewis, who has been creating videos for his channel since 2013, said he was inspired to start making videos because he was already a major YouTube junkie, as well as a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at the time. He realized there was a need for the Gospel to reach one of his favorite online platforms.
“I love trying to say old truths in new ways. I love seeing and explaining the new ways that deep truths percolate into our lives,” Lewis said.
While many of his videos could fit in a category of apologetics and faith conversations geared towards millennials, they also include things like Lewis' thoughts on the World Cup, eulogies for closing coffee shops, or his ability to eat bacon on certain Fridays in Lent when some dioceses were granted dispensations and others were not.
Daniel noted that even within his own Catholic-themed channel, the conversations are not necessarily explicitly Catholic, but are about life as a young family, informed by a Catholic view. “We need more variety of Catholic content on YouTube, which means we need Catholic content creators living out their faith and showcasing it through video.
For example, my channel 'That Catholic Couple' is a vlogging (video blogging) channel where we regularly share what it means to be a young family. Yes, we speak about our faith, but our content isn't always explicitly Catholic. Plus, we need different perspectives on the platform to put the Gospel in the niche corners of YouTube,” he said.
During the hangout, Lewis said he challenged Catholic YouTubers to do two things: first, to watch and subscribe to each other's channels, because it helps build community. Secondly, he encouraged them to keep watching their favorite secular videos on YouTube, because it can help creators to hone a more professional style.
“Don't be afraid of the secular influences on your style,” Lewis said. “We think of Audrey Assad (a Catholic singer/songwriter) as writing in the tradition of modern praise and worship writers. While that's true, if you ask her what her musical and lyrical interests are, she'll tell you about artists like Paul Simon: a secular artist of such quality, that anyone can learn from him,” Lewis said.
Daniel added that the community is important, because it will allow Catholics to push each other to be better. Creating great art is something that the Church used to lead the world in, but has fallen behind in recent years, especially when it comes to creating good video.
“To be frank, the time of bad Catholic video content needs to end,” he said. And the need for good Catholic video has never been more urgent, as video streaming has exploded in recent years with the boom of smartphones, Lewis added. “The explosion of streaming video, especially through our phones, means that people are open to the possibilities of what a video can show them.
Like any media, streaming videos can be baptized and used to glorify God. Let's not waste our time!” Lewis said. “It's tough because we are currently outnumbered on YouTube, but so were the Apostles, so we're in good company,” he added. “Also, I really like this new bromance I've got with Daniel.”
Daniel said that the hangout was only the beginning, and that he plans on continuing to look for opportunities to provide resources to foster community and collaboration among Catholic YouTubers, ultimately to help further the message of the Gospel. “A good friend of mine once said, ‘conversion of the heart isn't fostered by one video, but it can start one.’”
Lewis urged all Catholics to share videos and blogs that further the Gospel message. And, if they find a gap somewhere, to fill it. “Online evangelization is not about getting famous, it's about seeing a need and addressing it,” he said. “If you find a video/post/blog that says what you need to say right now, like and share it! If you can't find that video/post/blog, I guess it's time for you to make it yourself!”