It may be among the worst habit of American society, but it’s clear that social media is an essential part of a thriving youth ministry. Nearly half of American teenagers say that they are ‘almost constantly online’ according to a research from the Pew Research Center. A student ministry’s social media presence can have rewarding results for young people and provide a positive perspective in the lives of youth. Posting through social media is a helpful way to advertise for events, invite families and students to participate in activities, and inform your audience about happenings in your area of ministry.
Here are 5 tips to refocus your youth ministry social media:
1. Who is this content for and what do they want to see?
Gone are the days of posting on social media platforms like a bulletin board and expecting everyone to take notice. Students are using some social media platforms frequently, and they’re avoiding others. The most popular social media apps for students are Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok. The least popular for students are Facebook and Linkedin.
If you’re posting on Facebook, your audience is probably youth parents and other church members. This is a wonderful audience for posting pictures, but it may not be the best way to advertise an event. What does this audience want to see? Youth parents want to see pictures of their kids having fun and learning in your youth ministry. This is an easy win, and your post with a student’s face will receive way more attention than a wordy graphic.
Students are often on Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok. These platforms are likely the most effective ways to advertise events and to individually message students. Students are seeing LOTS of information online. Make your message simple and don’t bury the lead. Post the most important information first and use a graphic, logo, or picture to get people’s attention.
2. Schedule out a Rhythm
Your ministry likely has a rhythm, and your social media should as well.
A simple rhythm might be this:
Friday/Saturday: Advertise for Sunday event
Sunday/Monday: Post a picture or story featuring a person/people from Sunday’s event (people want to see people not words)
Tuesday/Wednesday: Advertise for a midweek gathering
Thursday/Friday: Post a picture or story featuring a person/people from the midweek gathering.
Simply put, post before and after events. Some events might call for going ‘live’ on social media while others might not be appropriate for this feature. Going live on Instagram/Facebook might be a great idea during an especially fun game or ‘can’t miss’ moment. It’s likely inappropriate to go live during a devotion, meal, or small group meeting. Many churches include a photo release in permission forms, and it’s wise to be aware of using photographs on social media. It’s always best practice to ask permission before posting online. If you’re ever in doubt about whether to post a photo or not, it’s best to NOT post it.
3. Don’t major in graphic design/use a template
You know not to judge a book by its cover, but on social media, perception is reality. A poorly made graphic or blurry photo doesn’t help your online presence.
It’s likely that your ministry responsibilities bleed over into many other areas, but it’s also likely that you are not a graphic designer. Social media posts need to be created quickly, effectively, and still look professional.
Find an app or resource that works for you. Wordswag is a simple app for creating graphics that can be used on your phone/tablet. Canva is a one stop shop for creating logos, graphics, and other content. There are many other resources to help you. Maybe you’ve never done anything like this before. It might be helpful to buy lunch or coffee for an expert and get a brief tutorial. An hour spent learning how to use a helpful resource will save you hours on the other end.
Even a beginner can make beautiful, eye-catching content.
4. Consider how to empower students to lead on social media
Empowering students within the work and mission of the church is a crucial part of youth ministry. Your ministry’s social media should be no exception.
Social media is not something to completely outsource to a volunteer, but it’s also not something to keep under lock and key.
Instagram takeovers are an easy way to gain a new audience and engage your existing audience. Ask a trustworthy student, volunteer, colleague, etc to ‘takeover’ your Instagram for a day.
Many schools, student ministries, and clubs lock up phones to prevent students from being distracted during specified meeting times. What if you flipped the script on this? Instead of an outing to go bowling, would students enjoy an opportunity to meet in smaller groups and create a tik tok video that could be posted on your student ministry account?
If students are able to engage and lead with the youth ministry’s social media, this will increase their buy-in, excitement, and connection with that social media. This will also teach you as their youth ministry what they’re looking for on social media and how to best connect with them.
5. Provide positive and helpful messaging for students/guardians
Students today are no strangers to online bullying, trolling, and many methods of negative attention that can be found online. Your student ministry’s social media cannot eliminate all forms of misinformation, bullying, and negativity, but it can be a place that models Christlike virtues online.
Messages of love and acceptance can cut through the noise and make a difference in the lives of students. If social media is an aspect of ministry, then is it not just self perpetuating advertisements for events, it is a place for students, parents, and others to see themselves and be seen by the connection formed in this digital medium.
Your ministry’s social media might be the comment that lifts someone up on their darkest day, and it might be the nudge that someone needs to know that they are loved beyond belief.
Start today and use these tips to refocus your youth ministry social media.
MEET AMY BROWN
Share where you serve now and what your role will be on the Exec Board...
I am currently serving at First Baptist Church, Anderson, SC as Minister to Students and I’ve been here for 7 years. I’ve served on the Executive Board with CBF YMN in other capacities in the past, but I’m entering into a new role as President-Elect. I’ll be on the board for all we will do this year, but my main focus will be to prepare for our retreat, Oasis, in 2022.
What's something new you've done during COVID?
I watched Schitt’s Creek for the first time, so that’s new.
Favorite side dish at Thanksgiving?
By far, my mom’s sweet potato casserole. The kind with the brown sugar topping, never marshmallows.
If you could only listen to one musician for the rest of your life who would it be?
This reminds me of a great would you rather question from a friend of mine: would you rather have all of the songs ever written and recorded but they are only sung by Pitbull, or have only Pitbull songs but any artist can perform them? I’d choose only Pitbull songs but sung by any artist. However, I really think I’d be okay if I only ever heard Taylor Swift for the rest of my life. I prefer the Folklore/Evermore era, but I’ll take any of them.
Favorite youth group game?
Our favorite game is a variation of dodgeball, called Jug Ball. We set up 2 empty milk jugs on the corners of the volleyball court in the gym and dodgeballs in the middle, as usual. The goal of the teams is to either get all the players out on the other team or to knock down both of the opposing teams jugs. Once a jug is knocked down it must stay down, even if it was knocked over by a player’s foot accidentally. Also, if someone throws a dodgeball into the basketball goal on the opposite team’s side, his/her whole team gets to come back in to play.
Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
I guess Harry Potter because I’ve never seen or read any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have never really been into Harry Potter either. I did take the Pottermore quiz fairly recently and apparently, I’m a Hufflepuff. Take that for what you will.
What's something about youth ministry that brings you joy?
I love getting away with my youth group, escaping life’s realities to find a safe space and experience God. The retreats, camps, mission trips, all of it. It’s been a tough year without, tbh.
What excites you about serving on the Exec. Board?
I’m excited to plan and lead/attend Oasis in 2022! Oasis is a spiritual retreat that has never failed to refresh and reenergize me. In fact, my introduction to CBFYMN was at Oasis in 2014. There, I found a community of fun and supportive peers who have not only rejoiced with me in the good times, but also made ministry bearable in the tough ones. (This is my invitation for you to make plans to join us February 8-11, 2022!)
Share some of the books or resources that have been formative in your faith journey and/or call to ministry...
Barbara Brown Taylor’s preaching style and books have all been very formative in my life. I remember reading Leaving Church a couple of weeks before my ordination and having a mini “oh s***” moment. I realized it was more eye-opening than anything and I have reread it multiple times since, along with An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark. Also, Rachel Held Evans helped me deconstruct so many things and I’m forever grateful for it.
I can’t tell you how many times over the last year I’ve said, in the words of Payton Manning’s Nationwide commercial, “We gotta’ get the band back together.” We’re not quite there yet, but, hopefully this adaptation of our annual Souper Bowl of Caring can be another stepping stone on our Covid journey. We’ll call it, Souper Bowl of Caring- Covid Style!
I’ve lost count of how many years we’ve (First Baptist Church of Morganton, NC) been partnering with the First Presbyterian Church (FPC) of Morganton, NC and the First United Methodist Church (FUMC) of Morganton, NC for our Super Bowl Sunday event to raise hunger awareness in our small town. The three churches come together for a grilled cheese and soup lunch. After some ground rules, we split into groups and go around town and go door-to-door collecting money and non-perishable items for our local soup kitchen, Burke United Christian Ministries (BUCM). We come back together for a big finish of weighing our collections and organizing the food items in the warehouse. Last year alone we raised $5,186 and 2,422 pounds of food. To finish, we hand the winner the homemade trophy, have a prayer, and leave to start our Super Bowl prep. The three churches join with an organization called Souper Bowl of Caring. Souper Bowl of Caring is an organization our church has partnered with for over 10 years. Their focus is YOUR community. In short, they bring groups all over the country together by encouraging them to help their local charities! You can find our more about them at tacklehunger.org.
So…we threw all of that out the Covid window this year. We’ve taken the tailgate theme and expanded a bit. This year we’ll be outside in our parking lot. Each of the three youth groups will have their own corner of the lot. Each leader will be responsible for keeping their group distanced appropriately. Members from all three churches will be encouraged to bring items to our drive-through drop off. As a draw, we’ll have a Canned Food Costume Contest and a Poster Contest for cash prizes! You’ll also be able to hear our Karaoke Contest and smell the pizza that each group will distribute to their members.
Like many things during Covid, our ministry focus has had to shift. Until Covid, I took the gathering of the saints for granted. Theology, check. History, check. Spirituality, check. Physical presence, please! Yes, I know, not yet! But as an extravert, I look forward to post-Covid times when we can “get the band back together.” I plan to emphasize the importance of working together by pointing out that it’s the only way for us to truly help. Hopefully this will help drive home the fact that BUCM are the real winners of our Souper Bowl Competition!
There is a sad reality that students are having a really hard time. They may not have the words to describe or the vulnerability to share their feelings, but they need us to be paying attention. This event is coming at a crucial time for our youth. With this in mind I plan to ask them to reimagine what youth group can look like when we return to our regular meetings. I plan to have a prayer request box to remind them that we are still here and God is always with us.
“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and odd balls gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” – Rachel Held Evans
They had me at Nichole Nordeman. I’ve become a diehard fan of hers over the past 4 years (check out her album, Every Mile Mattered). When it was advertised that she would be participating in the Evolving Faith Conference I did some investigating. I discovered names like Barbara Brown Taylor, Kate Bowler, Jen Hatmaker, Nada Boltz-Weber, and others that I’ve read and with whom I am familiar would be participating in the conference.
Evolving Faith was birthed by Jeff Chu, Sara Bessey, and the late Rachel Held Evans as a way for fellow travelers on this Christian journey to find hope in the dark and wilderness. To provide water for the thirsty and to bring people together across various points of view to celebrate this vast and wide table God has created for us. All are welcome. All are valued.
The conference took place over 2 days (You can still register and access the material! (https://evolvingfaith.com). I spent 2 days learning and being stretched as presenter after presenter challenged us:
This was just a snap shot of the depth of the messages we heard. But the one that resonated with me the most came from Jen Hatmaker. Hatmaker is a well-known Christian author and speaker who recently announced the separation form her husband of 26 years. She was open and honest in saying this is not something she wanted, but it is what is happening. She spoke about that moment when Jesus has risen, but the disciples and Mary Magdalene do not know that he is risen. The disciples and Mary are still caught in the devastation and tragedy of the whole event…. they don’t know that a resurrection is coming. Because of this they do not recognize that Jesus is there with them now. Mary Magdalene even asks him if he is the gardener. She is too caught up in her despair to recognize who is right in front of her. When are we like this? When have we missed the face of Jesus in the midst of our despair?
This message has sat with me. As Hatmaker said, Jesus is incredibly present in our chaos. Jesus is in every single moment where there is life.
This hope that Jesus is with me as our worlds continue to spin out of control. This hope that Jesus is walking with me as we face a daily unknown of the future of our country offers me peace. This hope that Jesus is with me as I worry about the health of family and friends is sustaining.
I don’t know if Evolving Faith will directly impact my ministry…. but it directly impacted my faith. Y’all, it’s been a dark year….and this gave me light in the darkness. If you are able, I would encourage you to register and give yourself space to listen, stretch and be comforted. As ministers, caring for our own journey is just as important as the people’s journey you are leading.
Top 11 Things You Might Need for Outdoor Youth Group
*This listed was compiled by members of the CBFYMN
11. Hand Sanitizer + Sanitizing Wipes
These two are certainly a must in this strange season of COVID-19. Want to make sure that you have these two things at all times? Pack a gallon bag with sanitizer and sanitizing wipes that you can keep in your car so you’re always ready. Submitted by Alyssa Aldape
This blog was originally published by CBF South Carolina on August 8, 2020. To see the original post, go to this link: https://cbfsc.org/2020/08/08/obyouth/
At the end of each calendar year, I always find it funny when people say “gosh, I am so ready for (insert the year that they are just finishing) to be over, and I can’t wait for (insert year they are about to enter) to begin. I’ll be honest, at the end of some years, I have found myself falling into that same mindset. However, comments like that strike me as odd, because we have no idea what the next year is going to hold. That has never been more true than it has been for 2020! The year started off with the death of Kobe Bryant, the famed NBA basketball star, and his daughter in a helicopter crash. And it wasn’t long after that, that we began hearing mumblings from a land far, far away that a novel Corona Virus was ravaging parts of the country. Before long, the virus began to spread, and we realized that it was a matter of time before it crept into our own communities. But even then, I don’t think we ever realized the impact that it would have on our everyday lives.
Being a minister in a congregational setting during the COVID-19 pandemic has had its challenges. In the middle of March, as schools were closing, businesses were sending employees to work from home or closing down all together, we had to cancel all in-person gatherings until further notice. We all thought that within a couple of weeks, we would be back in sanctuaries, just in time for the highly anticipated Easter celebration. And then things began getting worse, hospitals were filling up, people were dying, and fear gripped us all. “When is this ever going to end?” is the question that we all asked ourselves.
As a minister to students and teenagers, the reality of this thing really hit me when the summer activities began to be canceled. Our beloved PASSPORT camps that my students look forward to attending each summer was no longer an option. Our yearly mission trip that our high schoolers go on each year was no longer an opportunity. The times that we gather during the week was no longer accessible to us. And to add insult to injury, having been doing ministry through Zoom for the better part of three months caused us all to have Zoom fatigue!
You see, for student ministry, the summer is such an important part of our ministry year! The camps and the mission trips set up what happens in student ministry for the rest of the year. The memories and experiences of a summer trip gives a ministry momentum moving into the school year. Due to the disruption of our spring and summer, many ministries, including mine, are suffering because of it.
And now we find ourselves creeping up on the “back to school” season without a clear way forward. That has brought me, brought us all to the question of: “well what in the world do we do now?”
I’ll be honest, I have gotten really tired of the phrase that we have heard over and over again: “we just have to find our new normal.” But as I come out of a summer that has looked nothing like any other summer I have experienced, literally since I started in youth group as a 6th grader; I am convinced that a new normal is what we must move towards, and that is my goal as I plan programing for the fall. It is hard work, and it is uncertain work. It is work that will make us want to pull our hair out because we know very well that the reality that we find ourselves in today, will not be the reality of where we will find ourselves tomorrow, two weeks from now, or a month from now.
The uncertain times that we find ourselves in today and the time we have found ourselves in over the last almost 5 months has not changed my calling, nor has it changed the church’s mission. That is what is carrying me into the fall, because that is my calling; to care for the spiritual wellbeing of teenagers and their families. That is my calling regardless of what is happening in the world around me. Our church’s calling is to make disciples and then send us out into the world, despite what is happen in the world around us. The beauty of this is, the way forward has 100 different paths for us as the church to take, and all those paths lead towards the same end. So keep the faith, be flexible, and be obedient to the calling that God continues to beckon us towards, despite what is going on around us.
I’ve felt alone. I have felt isolated. I questioned the degree to which I am able to do my job. I didn’t think I was doing enough for my kids, and the things that I was doing I wondered if any of my kids even cared about it. And I felt all those things way before any kind of lockdown! In other words, I’ve been doing youth ministry during this quarantine. That part of the job hasn’t changed much for me, the doubting and the loneliness and the frustration and the questioning. It’s by no means all I feel, but I believe it comes with the territory when you ’re working with 6-12th graders.
I think the hardest part for me to cope with in this lockdown was understanding that I needed my kids- maybe even more than they needed me. My wife and I gave birth to a beautiful daughter two weeks ago, and I think it finally hit me when we were in the delivery room with nobody able to come and visit just how desperately I needed my community.
Yes, my community is my church, the congregation, and my coworkers. But my family, my inner circle within my community, is my youth group. I am an emotional guy and I lead with my emotions. I love my youth like my own kids. I started working at Trinity when I was a sophomore in college, so in many ways I’ve grown up alongside these kids. I wanted so badly for them to be able to come and meet my daughter, to hold her and celebrate with us. I wanted to be with them in person.
I think this is the hardest part that I didn ’t anticipate about the lockdown. I thought my kids would be missing me, missing what we do at church on Sunday’s and Wednesday ’s, missing their youth room. But really what we’ve all been missing is presence. It can’t be overstated what being together does for our mental health. I ’ll take a million days of self-doubt and frustration and wondering if my kids care about what we do together if it means we can actually BE together. I’ll never take that for granted again.
My wife and I decided to make a big change in our life … actually we decided to make several. Over the past few months, since we have been quarantined by COVID 19, we have: 1. Become pregnant with our first child 2. Moved to a new city 3. Both started new jobs 4. Sold and bought a home 5. And began at a new church still searching for a senior pastor. While we have enough change in our personal lives, there is plenty of change happening in my professional career too. We, as an incomplete church staff, have had to figure out how to work together and serve the church fully. Now as an associate pastor, I am in a position like I never have been before. I am witnessing a church asking to evolve in the midst of being shut down for the first time ever, a leadership team looking for new leadership, and no senior pastor to lead the way. I have had to adjust my perspective. I have had to learn to give myself permission to take risks, to be bold, and lead with humility and grace. I was in a position to lead the first staff meeting that I was present for. I have had to discern alongside church leadership what we stand for as a church congregation. I have had to give myself permission to live in the awkward first meetings with those sick in the church, to be their pastor if only for a moment. I have learned that we as pastors have to be bold today. To risk something big for something good. We must give ourselves permission to change the world. I pray that you will be bold as you lead your congregations to life beyond fear and uncertainty, and into a new world.
This January, at Oasis, I had the chance to offer a talk on social media, message, and why it all matters for our youth ministries. As I write this, many of us are working from home, trying to find ways to reach and engage our youth despite the important social distancing. So, I wanted to recap some of what I shared in hopes that it might help you think about how you’re reaching out to your youth.
As ministers, we’ve got to reclaim the “m” word. Marketing. Marketing, at its core, is about telling who I am (or we are) and what I (or we) might have that can improve your life. Jesus was the chief marketer – he was, in fact, so good at getting folks to buy in that they killed him for it. This isn’t to say that our messaging is of Christ-like proportion. Instead, I want to encourage you to reclaim various tools for communicating with your youth, their parents, grandparents, or guardians, and your church body as a whole. We have the freedom to because Jesus was already better at it than we’ll ever be.
Sharing the message of our youth ministries is really about relationships. We’re skilled at building interpersonal trust but we’ve got to also build confidence in our communications. This happens through consistency. Just like showing up regularly for our youth and their families, reliability in communication builds trust. Folks will always know what’s going on and where to look to find out more information if they are, when they will be, confused. Here’s a quick look at my plan.
Each week, my parents know they’ll receive a snapshot of what’s ahead early on and more details about the longer plan at the end. For my youth, I have routine social media posts and texts that change based on a given week’s circumstances. These show up regularly, a couple of days before an event to entice and remind.
Then, develop consistency in where you’re showing up. Our communications have to meet those we serve where they are, so developing a strategy for communicating key details in multiple methods is important. Just like people learn in different styles, people receive information uniquely, too. It’s our job to get that message to them. Find the right balance of what needs more depth like an email, more instancy like a text, and shareability like a social media post. Commit to a plan, and see it through.
A final piece of consistency is style. Try to keep a consistent look and feel in your communications. It’s especially important on social media. Marketing experts would call this developing a brand, but that feels icky for youth ministry. We’ll call it a feel. Make sure your posts have the same feel. When a youth or their parent sees a post, they immediately associate it with your incredible youth family.
All of this probably sounds like a lot, and it is. Thankfully, there are many tools aimed at helping us message better. These tools can be a saving grace to keep up your consistency. Ever had that one unscheduled interruption that will put us behind on our best laid plans – like that phone call, or that office visitor? As you begin to think of your own plan for improving your outgoing messages, consider different apps and features that will help you be more consistent.
Here are three that I use: Gmail has a delayed send feature that I use daily, timing my messages as needed. Later allows me to schedule when my social media posts will go live on Facebook and Instagram. Canva gives me control of the feel of all we do. It provides useful templates and photo grids to speed up the process of creating the visual aids that help carry the message to our youth and beyond. Try a bunch. Find what works for you. Let those tools make sharing your message easier.
So, I hope you’ll consider, or re-consider, the ways you’re sharing that life-changing, important message of love and grace that comes from God. Do a little marketing. Be consistent in person and in communications. Then, see how that will benefit all you do to be God’s hands and feet in the lives of young people and their families.