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?