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.