Social Media and Youth Ministry

Today I had the chance to talk to youth workers in East County about all sorts of internet and technology stuff. Here are some highlights of that discussion.

  • It’s important to identify WHY you are a part of social media. Youth workers must get past the passive-praxis response of just doing it because it feels like we should and all the cool kids are doing it. Please pause and reflect on the theology behind what you are doing. I’ve got an article in the Winter 2010 issue of The Journal of Student Ministries which talks more about this.
  • Teens are multi-tasking everything. They watch TV while texting and having a friend over– and both are listening to music on their iPods. This results in some funky relationships where people are “together” physically but don’t talk to one another. Though they might text each other about the movie they are watching. If you need to see this phenomenon go do some observation at Target. You will see teen girls shopping together while talking via text to other people. True confession: I’m guilty of this one, big time!
  • Text messaging is king in youth ministry. You text a student, you know you are getting to them. Do more of that! go unlimited, baby! Engage them where they are with how they are willing to engage you.
  • Don’t forget to go to stuff like games. Technology makes some things easier, but you physically showing up in their life is still a big deal.
  • The new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation on media consumption by teens is mandatory reading for youth workers everywhere. Here’s the link. Don’t come to conclusions, read articles, or do anything else about the topic until you digest this new study.
  • Parent issues with technology are a big deal in some circles. But it seems like there is less of a battle with Facebook compared to Myspace.
  • Fewer ministry dollars and time are being spent on building a web presence as we all just cave in and do stuff on Facebook. I think this is a good thing.
  • Tools like Hootsuite and CoTweet are perfect for busy youth workers. Sit down once a week and schedule Facebook profile messages and tweets.
  • Presence is becoming a major issue. Kids don’t even know how to just sit and have a conversation anymore. Of course, this starts with adults. I’d suggest everyone reads Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps. I love how he approaches the topic.
  • IRL is back. All of this technology is leaving kids hungry for real life experiences. Events, retreats, concerts… experience are all hot this year. It might not be in traditional ways, but real life stuff is becoming cool again.

One trend that I meant to talk about but ran out of time with is this: I’m seeing fewer and fewer teens reach out to become content creators. It’s not just that I am around shy kids, it really is that there are fewer teens out there who are contributing substantive thoughts/comments. Attention spans are about that of a flea right now. Which is why sites like Fail Blog, FML, and TFLN are so popular among teens. (Those links are not safe for work) Look at the comment sections of these sites. Nothing of substance whatsoever. There must be $1 billion in text messages sent in 2010 containing either “lol” or “k.”

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

5 comments

  1. @Richard

    I think McLane meant that – while creating your own website and making it friendly to search engines may be important, you’re going to be a lot more effective/efficient/free if you dominate on Facebook instead of dominating a website.

    Our Youth Group website is geared at drawing people into the social media we’re already using because we know that social media will be much more connective and informative to them than our website will be.

    Our group uses a facebook page, text messaging, and a weekly email to parents. All of this can be done for free and – in my case – it reaches all of my parents and teens.

    I also run the Facebook page for our church.

    If you’ve got any questions on using facebook/txt/email/website, send me an email or whatever.

    adam.j.lehman (at) gmail.com

  2. I agree with Adam. I think that a YG website is quickly becoming passe’. Larger ministries are probably going to do great with them. But they aren’t going to be attracting students like they used to. Your energy would be better invested in a Facebook page. (not a group, a page.)

  3. Excellent points! A great way for youth ministers to stay connected with teens is through the use of texting. However, using a personal cell phone can present problems. SendTree (www.sendtree.com) is a solid and reasonably priced tool that allows for texting groups and subgroups using the web rather than a cell phone. Youth ministers can upload contacts, create subgroups, and even schedule messages ahead of time. Messages can include event reminders, cancellations/schedule changes, encouraging quotes/verses, etc.–and SendTree connects with both Facebook and Twitter. Try SendTree for free–see blue button at the top right of the website!

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