Monday, June 30, 2014

Super Charging Your Youth Ministry's Social Media Reach

One of the biggest questions we get from congregations all over the region is this:  How can we attract more of our youth to our youth ministry?  Invariably, the conversation begins down the road to Social Media.  Most of the time the folks who are planning and running the youth ministry have their toes in the social media pond, but still haven't taken the plunge into the pool of all that is social media for a number of reasons.  Sometimes it is because they are unsure about how to use it -- sometimes it is because they aren't sure where people are tuned in and sometimes it is a level of discomfort with social media in general.

A recent survey of people in volunteer roles at their churches regarding how they used social media personally and in ministry shows us some  interesting data. Sifting through the data, I found that 73.1%% of youth workers believe that teenagers are on social media away too much, yet more than 45% of you are on social media at least 13 hours a week and over 72% of that is for personal use.

Pew Research current statistics on social media use for teenagers and adults plays out like this:
Age Range% on Social MediaFrequency of Use
Teenagers181%29% everyday, 20% twice a week
Adults267%At least 63% everyday, 22% weekly

[1] numbers based on February 25, 2014 report titled Teens and Technology ([2] numbers based on September 16, 2013 report titled August Tracking Survey (
What does this mean?  This means that not only are the youth tuned into social media, but so are the adults!  That means that not only are the kids you are trying to reach on social media outlets, but so are their parents.  So now is the time to tune in to social media!

1. Social Media for Awareness
The biggest impact that social media can have for you in your quest to encourage youth into your youth ministry program is to help create awareness.  The youth in your congregation are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and probably other social media outlets.  The best way to reach them outside of Sunday mornings is to be present on these platforms.  And not only be present on one, but be present on as many as possible.  Do you have an event coming up that you want youth to attend?  Create a nifty graphic with all the details and post it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr and so on.  Then... if you have a personal account on these mediums, odds are you have some parents on your friends list, share it as YOU as well as your social ministry account!  Ask for parents who are already active to do the same!

On social media site like Facebook the more buzz you create, the more it will show up in users newsfeeds without them making an effort to see it.  And that is the best kind of advertising -- targeted and free.

2. Social Media for Targeted Crowd Sourcing
One of the most powerful things that social media can do for you is to passively extend your reach to people you didn't even know might be interested in what you are doing.  But the only way that people will know what you are doing is if someone is sharing what you are doing.  It is great to post information about upcoming events on your stream, but it is even more impactful to post pictures of the actual events happening!  There is nothing more compelling to a teen than seeing their peers out at an event and having a great time!  I've seen some really great pictures of Habitat for Humanity builds, car washes and youth game nights that show camaraderie, service, kids just laughing and having a great time!  This can be jumpstarted by putting a responsible member of your youth team in charge of taking pictures at these events so you can go back and find a couple of the best to saturate your social media platforms with.  Make sure you tag the people in the pictures so that they can see them, and their friends can too.  Before you know it, you'll be hearing that youth are turning out because they saw the pictures of your last event and wanted to have a great time, too!

Note: It is essential that parents are aware that you are taking pictures of children and posting them to social media outlets before you do so.

3. Website Mashups
Now that you are posting things on social media platforms, it is time to integrate that into your website!  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc all have methods that allow you to replicate your activity on your own website!  Check with the people who administer your website on how to do this -- but you would be surprised how many times people find your Youth Ministry page on Facebook via your website.

4. Responsible Use
It is imperative that when your youth ministry jumps into the social media fray, that there are guidelines and boundaries on their use.  It is important that all the social media accounts belong to the church, first and foremost.  No one should be logging into any social media site with their personal accounts and posting as the church.  Also, what can be posted?  The church and ministry must have strict guidelines that are consistent with church principles regarding what can and cannot be posted on these accounts.  Another key consideration is who has the final say as to what is posted?  Is it the youth leader?  The senior pastor?  Either way -- it should be clear.

5. Easy Use
Don't have time to always log in to every single social media platform to post?  There are some great applications out there that can take accounts from several different platforms and bring them together into one place so all you have to do is post once, and it gets distributed to many platforms!  Facebook as this ability built into it if you have a group page to take all your group page postings and send them to Twitter.  Another great application that replicates to several platforms is TweetDeck, and another popular one is Seesmic Deck.

One thing is clear, social media is here to stay.  And there are certainly responsible and productive ways that any organization can use in order to make this vehicle work for you!  I hope this has given you some great ideas on how to jumpstart your ministry via the use of social media platforms.

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 17 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has been a classroom teacher for various subjects.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

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