News Flash: Teenagers use social media. A lot. 96% of Canadians ages 15-24 are using social media. Youth workers know that the overuse of social media is a problem among students. As a society, we are becoming increasingly aware of the negative affects of addiction to social media. Thankfully, there are some great resources available to help assess and address our compulsion need to monitor our feed.
However, while youth workers should continue doing our best to pry our students attention away from their snap story…let’s not miss out on the opportunity to leverage social media for good.
The reality is, our students are engaging with social media on a daily basis, and that means our youth ministries have an opportunity to speak into their lives.
Consider this – most youth ministries have the attention of our students for 2-3 hours each week. In that window of time we are hoping to communicate a message that will impact the lives of our students throughout the rest of their week.
What if we saw social media as a platform to reinforce those messages?
This is an opportunity to encourage students to live differently around their friends while they are actually in their school. We can nudge them to spend some time in scripture as they get their day started. We can remind them that God is always with them as they go about their everyday lives.
The bottom line is simple: youth workers have an opportunity to leverage social media to spark spiritual growth in students. Here are two ways to make that happen:
1 – Reinforce the messages from your gatherings Your gatherings are memorable. Your messages are impactful. Social media gives you an opportunity to echo the big ideas and help them stick in the hearts and minds of your students.
2 – Prompt spiritual habits If your youth ministry has identified some basic discipleship habits for your students, use social media as a way to prompt your students to live those out. In our youth ministry, we’ve identified 4 areas of discipleship that we want our students to grow in: #LoveGod #KnowGod #FollowGod #LoveOthers. We talk about these discipleship areas in our gatherings, but we really want our students to grow in these areas throughout the week. We reinforce this idea with the tagline: #LakeviewOnTheGo. We want our students to understand that these are important areas of our spiritual journey that happen between our gatherings.
If you haven’t identified discipleship habits in your youth ministry…maybe now is a good time to try.
Like it or love it…social media is major part of the world our students are immersed in. Let’s embrace the opportunity to leverage social media for something good, because there is a great opportunity to fuel the spiritual growth of our students. Go claim it!
PS: Using an app like Word Swag makes it easy to create beautiful images that will grab your students’ attention and prompt them to embody those spiritual habits. For other tips on productivity apps, make sure to check out this post from Jeremy MacDonald.
Running a parents meeting that no one shows up to is almost seems to be a right of passage for youth workers. What’s your response when you have a poorly attended meeting for your parents?
“I’m done running these meetings.”
“These parents don’t give a rip.”
“I had the info ready. If they don’t want to know what’s happening that’s their issue.”
There is a better way. Rather than throwing our hands up in despair, we may need to start rethinking our approach.
Here are four ways to run a parents meeting that parents actually want to attend. (full disclosure, several of these ideas have been borrowed from Jeff Brodie at Connexus Church…you should definitely check out their stuff. But since you’re already here…let’s dive in!)
- Focus on the stuff that cannot be captured in an email.
Most of the information parents need can be captured in an email or newsletter. Program times, registration, retreat dates, etc. Don’t waste your meeting time covering information that they can read on their iPhone… because there is a lot that cannot be captured in an email.
→ The VISION for your youth ministry
→ STORIES of transformation
→ WHY you believe the retreat could be a life changing experience
→ The PASSION your leaders have for investing in young people
Try this approach…
Use emails to get parents the information they need. Use meetings to capture their heart and imagination. This is important for the content of your meetings, but this should also impact the way you promote your meetings. I’ve often used a simple line to lure parents in:
“We have a parents meeting coming up that we’d love to have you attend. Why? Well, because there are just some things that can’t be captured in an email.”
It will take some time to get your parents used to this, but stick with it. The real test will come when a parent emails you looking for a summary of a meeting they missed. That’s when you need to be disciplined and let them know, “I wish I could send you the info, but there are just some things that can’t be captured in an email :)”
- Timing is Everything
Being thoughtful with the timing of your meetings can have a major impact on parent’s engagement.
First, honour the parents in your group by asking for a modest window of time (20-30 minutes should be enough), and being diligent to follow through. We all know how precious time is and if parents get the feeling that your meetings could drag on, they are likely to check out. You can change their expectations by setting a clear time frame and consistently sticking to it.
Also, do everything you can to make the timing of the meetings accessible and convenient. Right before your youth program or right after a Sunday service are optimal times. Parents are already doing enough traveling, so finding a way to save a trip will go a long way.
Finally, be strategic and selective with the frequency of your meetings. Trying to pull parents together too often will only make them tune you out over time. Instead, schedule your meetings strategically to maximize key moments in your calendar when you want to boost your parent engagement. Fall kick-off and leading into a major event like a retreat are optimal times to capture their attention
This one is obvious (I hope) but don’t ever forget the power of food. It doesn’t need to be much, but at least show them that you thought ahead. If you can establish a reputation for having awesome munchies at your meetings, parents will remember and learn to look forward to it.
- Celebrate these fine folks!
Parents often feel like they are not measuring up. They are tired, they are unsure how their kids are going to turn out, they are feeling inadequate. Take some time to affirm them. Remind them of the significant role they play in the lives of their kids. Encourage them to take hold of the opportunities they have to build into their relationships. Let them know that you are on their team, and that your youth ministry exists to support them in the good work that they are already doing.
When parents feel valued and affirmed by your youth ministry, they are going to take an increasing interest in what the ministry is all about… and THAT is a huge win!
Maybe parents meetings have always driven you crazy in the past. I don’t believe that needs to be the way it is moving forward.
Praying for you and the opportunities for deeper connection with your parents this ministry season!