Texting and Facebook have become the primary way our student ministry communicates with high school students. To a lesser extent, middle school students and their parents. It’s amazing to think one of our most critical tools for communication does not cost our church one penny. Here are the ways we use it that work for us …
- 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. 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 try to 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. I miss the view count I used to have on Youtube, but the ‘likes’ and comments are far more valuable.
- 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 separatecategory 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!
- Randomosity. It’s a word. If I see a cool video clip, funny story, interesting link, but I know it won’t fit in to a Sunday morning, I’ll put it on Facebook.
I know Facebook’s days are numbered. Five years ago I was telling other youth workers the ways I was using Myspace. Before that it was AIM and ICQ (does anyone remember that one?). And I loved explaining to a youth worker a couple years ago that the reason clip art is called clip art is because there was a time when you literally clipped it out of a book, glued it to a paper and made the handout that way. He thought I was kidding at first. Seriously.