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.
In youth ministry, I’ve realized that the real test of our ministry is when students graduate – Do they continue to attend church? Do they have a desire to pursue community? Are they starting or continuing to serve in the church at large? Answers to these questions can sometimes be sobering and serve as a reality check for our youth ministry.
As I’ve asked these questions and watched students graduate over the years there is something simple but significant that I’ve discovered. One of the contributing characteristics of seeing students continue in their Christian journey post-high school, is whether or not they have significant relationships with others their own age within the church. Therefore, in an age that is so tech dependent and with many students unaware of how to make friends, we must as youth workers help them learn to make friends.
HOW? – Below are some helpful and practical ways that you can help students make friends.
For All Who Work With Students
- Coach Students. One thing I’ve discovered is that students need coaching in how to interact with people face-to-face in an intentional way. Take some time to coach this simple outline to a group or encourage those who seem to be isolated yet wanting to connect.
- Ask them if there’s one person in the youth group that they think would be someone they might want to get to know.
- Help them Set a Goal to talk to that person by next week, by either introducing themselves or just chatting in hang out time.
- Prep them that it might be awkward but it is worth It!
- Be simplistic. Sometimes it takes teaching them how to introduce themselves and then practicing it! ‘Hey, I’ve seen you here the past number of weeks/months, but don’t know if I’ve ever met you. My name is ____________.
- Teach them how to make ‘small talk’ by asking NAKED questions:
- Kin / Family – How many siblings do you have, who do you live with? Etc.
- Education – What school do you go to, what grade are you in?
- Dreams – What are your plans after school? What are your hobbies? Etc.
- Follow Up. Follow up the next week to see if they did it and how it went.
- Encourage them to ask that person to go for coffee or lunch in the next month – Remind students that everyone is scared of being rejected and everyone wants to be noticed; therefore, asking someone to hang out might feel awkward but will be affirming to that individual.
Structure your weekly program around activities that help foster relationships such as:
- Games that get students interacting and breaking down walls (ex: ‘Speed Friending’ – like speed dating but with the purpose of helping students get to know each other)
- Small Group Time (Teach students how to share their stories and then give them opportunities to share)
- Create opportunities for students to go deeper (Ex: Prayer meetings)
- If you have students coming from multiple schools – break the larger group into school groups so that they know who’s at their school as well.
- Retreats – extended time away together always helps students break down barriers and helps them connect.
Volunteer Youth Leaders
Be an example of how to make friends, give students opportunities and encourage them to continue!
- When a new student comes to the group, grab a committed student to come with you and welcome them.
- When meeting with a student – invite two at a time to help them connect as well as you connecting with them.
- In Small Groups, encourage students to exchange numbers to stay in touch throughout the week!
Ultimately, Christ changes people’s hearts and promises to finish His work in our students, but we also know that we need community to grow strong in the faith. May each of us use the influence we have to help students make friends so they become a strong force to be reckoned with!
Amy Miller | Youth Pastor | Living Stones Church | Red Deer, AB
Summer is often a time we think we’ll get lots of learning and reading done, but if you’re like me, I sometimes don’t know where to start. Let me make a few suggestions. These recent books will stretch, challenge, and grow you in some fantastic ways.
Our roles as youth workers are quite eclectic. We plan big events. We train and motivate our teams. We try to become better leaders ourselves. We answer emails. We make decisions. We set goals. We communicate, believing that it will lead to a change in the lives of our listeners.
When we get better and more productive everyone in our ministry wins–and ultimately more people are influenced with the message of Jesus. This new book is a great collection of productivity lessons around key topics such as motivation, managing others, focus, and innovation.
“Motivation is more like a skill, akin to reading or writing, that can be learned and honed.”
Every wonder if you could take the passion of your best volunteers and copy/paste it into the rest of your team and church? This book will do just that for you. Get this one into the hands of everyone you meet and you’ll have a waiting list of new volunteers.
“What your church does for kids is more important than anything else your church does.”
How you and your church engage the LGBT community is a critically important conversation that must be had. Messy Grace is the prerequisite reading for anyone about to have that conversation, no matter where they land on the issue.
“We should be pursuing relationships with members of the LGBT community the same way God pursues us.”