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.