It’s not really surprising … over the last dozen years as a youth pastor I feel like I’ve constantly been learning and dropping social media outlets as I try to keep up with the latest and most effective way of communicating to adolescents – lately, I find myself leaning on things like Instagram and Twitter more and more. It seems like social media designed for and native to a mobile device has the most appeal, as opposed to Facebook, which is designed for a PC and crammed into an app. In reality, Facebook is still a great tool and has lasted longer than anything else … but it feels more and more like it’s days are numbered. Check out this graphic I recently stumbled across and what it says about young people and Facebook.
Archive for category: Ministry
Sticky Faith is an amazing, amazing resource for parents and youth leaders. For a while now I’ve been talking a lot about the research by Christian Smith and his team on spirituality in young people. Kara Powell and her team have also done similar research, and while Smith does a great job of pointing a lens at the issue, Powell takes it a step farther and gives practical ideas and resources to do something about it with, hence the name – Sticky Faith, in other words, building a faith in your kids that will stick. For a limited time, they are doing a huge sale – the lowest price ever – on the Kindle versions of the books and curriculum:
For parents with kids of all ages, and youth workers, this is a MUST read. Grab it while it’s cheap!
Was totally caught off guard the other day in the best kind of way when one of the eighth graders in our church posted this video to his Facebook. I thought it was awesome – and I love that he blasted it out there for everyone he knows to see and hear about his faith in Christ.
One of my favorite moments in it, though, comes part way through when he calls his small group leader his pastor and then corrects himself. The reality is, small group leaders do function as a pastor, and I love that a part of him views his leader that way! Leaders shepherd, guide, love, instruct, and disciple the people in their group. Sounds like a pastor to me!
We had a blast at Planet Wisdom, the conference for teens in Washington DC a few weeks ago. Here are a couple videos that some of the kids shot; the first one is by Tommy Neilson (I had no idea he was filming all this!), the other one was shot with Rachael’s phone in the van ride. It’s a goat/weird internet thing that’s apparently hilarious.
An interesting article exploded across the internet yesterday talking about the dangers of middle schoolers dating. It was fascinating to see a lot of worries I’ve had and heard documented in this long running study. Basically, they found that the sooner kids began dating, the more likely they were to have negative behavior in dating, school, academics, drugs, alcohol, etc.
Check out this snippet:
Middle school students who habitually date are twice as likely to use alcohol and drugs and often have worse study habits, prompting researchers to say that ‘dating should not be considered a rite of passage in middle school.’
Ah, young love.
Tweens are practically bursting with feelings of possibility and new-found joy when they discover that “special someone.” Then again, when you’re fresh out of puberty, love is awkward and can be heartbreaking.
New research from the University of Georgia (UGA) paints a grim picture of middle school daters—they are four times more likely to drop out of school, twice as likely to drink and smoke marijuana, and tend have worse teacher-reported study habits.
And this one:
“A likely explanation for the worse educational performance of early daters is that these adolescents start dating early as part of an overall pattern of high-risk behaviors,” Orpinas said in a press release.
Other amplifying factors include the emotional difficulties teens often face in middle and high school: bullying, depression, and anxiety. All of these have been linked to higher rates of smoking, drinking, and drug use.
You can read the full article here. What do you think? It certainly challenges parents to think through a strategy when it comes to our own children and the guidelines we set for them. For me, having some concrete information documenting the dangerous negative impacts of dating too young really helps bring some clarity to the issue.
I love this TED style talk from Amanda Drury on congregations where teenagers have a voice. Some really great stuff in it; I was particularly challenged by the questions she posed about teaching teens to articulate their faith … but our tendency to do so only when they come back from something away. While we do have some opportunities for teens to share about what God is doing HERE, there isn’t enough!
The talk was part of the Summit, a fantastic event put together by the Youth Cartel. You can find all the videos/media from the event here; check ‘em out! I’ve listened to the audio from all 19 talks and absolutely loved them. I’m thinking about buying the videos as a training resource for my youth leaders; at 10-15 minutes each, they’re the perfect length for watching together as a team and then discussing them.
A little music video from our mission trip to Jamaica last summer … that I finally finished putting together! It is no exaggeration to say that every where we went these guys started dancing around. Not only was it an amazing, exhausting, moving, spiritually challenging experience … there was also a lot of joy and fun!
And yes, they call me Big Bird. Because I had a yellow work shirt that I will never wear in public again!
This past weekend a couple van loads of us went down to Washington DC to the Planet Wisdom conference … and it was amazing. If I’m honest, I went into it with a lot of high expectations; a lot of my personal philosophy of youth ministry has been heavily influenced by the team behind the event, I love their books, their training, and the goals of the event itself. And the reality is, part of me thought it probably wasn’t possible for it to live up to what I thought it would be. I was absolutely wrong. It was an amazing balance of teaching (our teens experienced six plus hours of preaching … and ate every minute of it up), worship (HOURS of worship with The Digital Age), comedy (the Skit Guys – do I need to say more?).
There is something truly, truly moving to stand in a room with thousands of teens worshiping God at the top of their lungs. The messages were great; while designed to be heard by middle school and high school students, as an adult I thought there was tremendous content. I loved that the theme for the weekend moved through all the sessions, with a larger picture being painted and completed (as opposed to other conferences where the sessions are generally stand alone one shots).
On Sunday I spent some time debriefing with a bunch of the students who went; they loved it, they want to do it again, and their only wish is that we would have had more time on the weekend to debrief and process together all that we heard!
All that to say, if you’re a youth worker … check out Planet Wisdom. They host the conference in eight cities each year. It is an amazing value, miles ahead of anything else I’ve experienced for teens, and a great, great catalyst for discipleship in teens. And if you’er wondering, that’s our group below with The Digital Age. That poor, poor band ended the weekend with us attacking them …
Instagram is the ‘it’ social media go to place for teens these days, which means lately I have been trying to use it more and more. Here’s what I’m thinking and playing with …
I created an account for our student ministry separate from my personal account. You can find it here. I would like to get to the point where we’re uploading content to it all the time – it’s a little challenging since that can only be done from a smartphone. I have it linked to our student ministry Facebook page so everything we upload also gets posted there (as well as our Twitter account).
The thumbnails above (click ‘em to get a bigger picture) are something I’ve started doing recently. I create an image, either with an app or on my computer (I have an Instagram folder setup that automatically syncs with my phone – whatever I click and drag into that folder transfers to my phone when I sync, and then I can use it in Instagram), which I then post with details about the event or the Sunday morning teaching. It only takes a few minutes, but seems like a good way to get kids thinking about upcoming events. Some of the more popular ones get reposted and shared by kids which is GREAT. If I’m honest, using it this way to promote regular events as well as special events is what has finally made Instagram something worth putting time into in my opinion.
I would like to get in the habit of posting photos every Sunday and Wednesday night from our church meeting times – kids love getting photos out there and it seems like a great way to use the app. I just need to remember better!
I do use it to post photos from events and trips, which has been popular.
I intentionally setup the account with an easy password with the thought that I could give access to other leaders and trusted students so at certain times or events we could really go to town with uploading photos and generating excitement.
What other ways are people using Instagram with their student ministries? I’d love to get more ideas!
I’m constantly tweaking how I use social media as a youth ministry tool. It’s constantly changing, which means over the years I’ve used a lot of different platforms. What’s really changed from my perspective is that this year I think I’m using my phone as my primary tool for accessing and using all the accounts below vs. the past when I did it primarily from my computer. Wherever possible, I have linked the different accounts so that when I update from one it updates the others – it looks like a big list but actually uses less time than it would appear. Here’s what (and how) I’m currently using based on what’s popular and working in our church:
SMARTPHONE APP: This is new so I’m still waiting to see how it plays out. I used Conduit to put it together. It literally consolidates every other social media outlet we use into one location, so it seems really, really practical. You find the iPhone version here, the Android version here.
TEXTING: Whether we think of it this way or not, texting is a form of social media. I use an app on my iPhone called Group Text which allows me to create different lists and blast out texts to large groups of people. My personal rule is to keep myself to one or two texts per week – otherwise I think I would drive people nuts!
TWITTER: I have a Twitter account for the youth group, you can find it here. The teens are using it more and more, however it’s still not as big as other platforms like Facebook. I currently have the Twitter account linked to our Facebook page, so anything I add to the Facebook page automatically pushes over to the Twitter feed as well. It takes no effort from me, but connects with the teens who are gravitating to Twitter.
INSTAGRAM: I’ve really only started using this recently. You can find the student ministry Instagram account here. It seems like it is becoming the primary place for a lot of teens in our group to use as their social media outlet. I use it to post random photos from youth activities, Sunday mornings, and small groups, as well as to post images on Friday with the title of our lesson on Sunday morning and a description of who is teaching, which kids seem to like. Instagram can post automatically to our Facebook page and our Twitter account, so when I update there it blasts out to both of our other accounts automatically.
YOUTUBE: I’ve just recently started using this again. Partially because I can use it to feed directly into our app, but also because as much as I like Facebook video’s ability to tag kids … YouTube is the biggest online video destination for everyone. It just seems impractical to not have videos there.
FACEBOOK: This is still the real center of our online content, you can find the page here. It’s days are starting to feel numbered for sure; teens are moving away from it more and more, however, a lot of the group, event and update tools are still the most effective way for me to keep teens plugged in. Here’s how I use Facebook:
- We use a fan page, not a group page. This allows us to have a unique url for our page (www.Facebook.com/SummitDE) that can be viewed by anyone, including non-Facebook users. At this point, our fan page is the primary online hub for our student ministry (as opposed to the church website). With so much of our content on Facebook, we wanted Facebook illiterate parents to still be able to access it. Even though we have a larger group, I made the decision to have one page instead of two (middle school and senior high). I wanted kids to be used to one place to go to, instead of trying to bounce them in and out of separate groups. It also gave us just one url that we can blast out on all of our materials.
- Events. We put them all on there. While we don’t consider a kid officially signed up because they clicked attending, it’s the best tool I’ve had for finding out which kids are interested in something (so if they don’t end up registering, I can chase them down and find out why not), what kind of turnout to expect, etc. In addition, once they click ‘attending’ or ‘maybe’, Facebook reminds them it’s coming up! For some of our events, we challenge the kids on how many people we want them to try and invite to the event page. We’ve literally been able to have thousands of people connected to kids in our group invited to our events. It’s a fantastic way of getting the word out to kids in our area.
- Photos and Videos. I really want us to have a steady flow of media being added to the page. And I always try to at least start the ball rolling in tagging people in the photos/videos. Partially so they know it’s there and can comment/enjoy the photos/videos. But more importantly, the second someone is tagged, the media shows up on their page and becomes visible to their Facebook friends. In other words, it’s a way of letting all their friends know what our youth ministry does. I want their friends seeing a steady flow of exciting events, grabbing their interest in our church.
- Recruiting. If I am trying to recruit teens for a service project or need at the church, I create an event and blast it out. It’s an easy way to find interested teens. They are good at responding to event invites.
- Friend lists. Speaking of inviting, I have created several lists of friends; a volunteer leader list, senior high list, middle school list, connected to the church list. When I am inviting people to an event, I am able to filter the invite box down to a list and then just click on people on that list. It saves time, and it’s also easy to remember who all to invite. With these different lists, for church wide events I can invite around 300-400 people in the space of a few minutes.
- Parents. More and more parents, especially of middle school students in our church, are active on Facebook. It’s handy for recruiting and communicating. With most middle school kids not on Facebook yet, I invite their parents to events as a way to remind them about what’s coming up. I’ll also tag parents in photos of their middle school children; they enjoy seeing the pictures.
- Groups. We do create groups for mission teams, student leadership teams, worship teams, etc., and use it as the primary way for communicating, developing ideas, and working with groups within our student ministry. Maybe this a separate category of ministry advice, but I put my wife in EVERY group and page I’m a part of because I am horrible at remembering to tell her things … so this way she at least sees it all happening and knows what’s going on!
How are you using social media with your group? What tools do you use? What have you found to be effective?