This is in response to a former article I wrote on DIY Student Ministry. This is the fifth of ten areas that I’m covering in this series.
If you know anything about students, you know how much they value social media. It’s where they connect with each other. Whether it be through pictures, text, or video…long gone are the days that the student actually calls a friend to have a phone conversation or shows up on their front door step to play outside on a Saturday. Their turf is digital and it’s glued to their hand. We know in student ministry that we cannot always expect the student especially the unchurched to come to us, our church building. We need to go to them, and meet them on their turf. Showing up at their game or at school for lunch has amazing impact, and that’s physically getting on their turf and into their world – you should do it. The next best thing is to get where they are at through social media. “Follow, Like, Friend”…your students on facebook, twitter, instagram, vine, etc. Paul said, “I became all things to all people…that I might win some for Christ.” For students this means to think like a student and interact with students on their level – through their means of communication.
Leverage Social Media for your ministry:
- This can pay huge dividends for your ministry when it comes to communication, don’t feel like you have to be the one to own it, give it away to another student or volunteer. Get away from the DIY model.
- Use facebook as a homepage. Create a cover photo to match each series or to promote upcoming events. Create something to scale using photoshop (851×315)
- Build your presence on Instagram. I printed a 4’x4′ canvas with the app logo that hangs in our student space. You can’t help but notice it. We have also had Instagram scavenger hunts, this builds your audience because your students are promoting for you amongst their friends! In 5 months we have reached over 200 students and their friends.
- Find out what other social media is hot for your students, trends tend to come in waves depending on your geography. While twitter might be popular among one crowd, vine might be popular among another.
- Interesting fact: It seems most of my HS students have or use facebook…almost none of my MS students do. For this reason it’s important to diversify your social media to extend your reach.
- Posting at least 3 times a week is a good average. One silly picture, one reminder about programs, and one of students hanging out, playing games, band rocking out, etc.
“But what if I see students interacting or communicating in a way that I don’t approve of?” It will happen, more than once. I have bumped into many unsettling, even disturbing facebook posts, instagram photos and even text messages. First and foremost, consider social media an education piece. You will learn more about the student culture through social media than you could through having a conversation with a student. Why? They aren’t afraid to speak their mind on social media. It must be a psychological mishap, but for some reason students either think they can post something and no one cares, or our teen culture has evolved to such an inappropriate level that bad words, lack of clothing and bullying are just the norm of social media.
So should you engage a student in conversation if you see something like this? It depends on the student, and it depends on the content.
For example, let’s pretend I have one student “Suzie” that frequents church and is somewhat engaged with our student ministry – she posts on facebook “Can’t wait for the party after prom!” I have another student that is unchurched, “Jessica” has only visited twice and I haven’t seen her in a while, I follow her on Instagram and it seems that she had quite the party last night according to the picture #partygirl #allnight #wasted. Both show up to church the next morning. To both of these girls I think you could say something. To Suzie, you could ask more of a leading question to find out more about this party and help her better understand what ambiguity on social media can do to your reputation…I have had this conversation with multiple students, I really think they are ignorant sometimes. To Jessica, do everything except confront her on her behavior. BE CAREFUL HERE…DO NOT RUN HER DOWN OR MAKE HER FEEL GUILTY – THIS DOES NOT PROVIDE THE WELCOMING FACTOR FOR A STUDENT. Tell her that you are so glad to see her and excited that she chose to come to church. As you or other leaders build trust, then consider making a soft approach to the party life by first talking about how much you care for them. I have seen too many students walk away from church because they feel judged – if you are following students on social media and only point out the bad behavior, your chances of seeing them again are slim. Like or comment on the good stuff you see to show your encouragement toward better behavior.
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