An Honest Facebook Movie

Tony Myles —  February 8, 2014 — 2 Comments
facebookFacebook celebrated 10 years of being Facebook this past week…

a fact you’re well aware from the gazillion one-minute user-made videos that showed up in your feed.

Perhaps the best is a parody put together by Tripp and Tyler. Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDmVF_ku7vE

So on the heels of that honest movie, how about an observation?

If you know me, you know that I try to keep the door open in any relationship. I’m often looking for a chance to help rebuild a bridge from the past, whether they were the ones holding the original matches that burned it or if I was.

Call me foolish. Still, that’s me.

That’s the interesting thing about social media. Sometimes you hope that by staying friends with someone online you might find yourself friends again in face-to-face connections one day. Maybe it will happen progressively, over time. Or maybe they’ll get this weird urge out of the blue one day to look you up and say, “Dang it, that was dumb. Let’s go get Chipotle.”

Then one day… it goes the other way and you find yourself “unfriended.”

Facebook is such a funny little monster.

Some days it uses its strength to bring you food off the mountain top. Other times it leaves teeth marks in you, that for some reason other people “like.”

You think you can tame it, and even believe it to be your friend.

Then one day… something happens in the virtual world and a weird sort of sting happens to you in the real world.

Or maybe not. Maybe you’re a strong and silent lurker… or try to appear to be.

As Facebook has celebrated being ten years old, how have you navigated what it’s been and become?

Some honest questions…

  • How has Facebook helped your life?

  • How has Facebook complicated your life?

  • How easy/difficult is to be “real” through social media?

Thoughts?

The Death of Facebook

Brandon Early —  November 13, 2013 — 1 Comment

One tech question that has come up several times in the last few weeks sounds something like this, “The kids in our ministry are not using Facebook as much as they did a year ago … how are you responding to this shift?”

It is true, Facebook is not the powerhouse of communication that it once was, and social media in general is just too decentralized to reach everyone with one or two networks. Before you go deleting your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts hold on, there is still a place for all that, but we do need to consider a shift.

Side Note: This post is more descriptive than prescriptive.  I do not think you need to do what I am doing but I hope this post helps you think through your own potential shift(s) in communication.

Instead of following culture in the area of social media and communication, we are trying to create culture.

At one time we were doing everything (instatwitvinemailbooking) and in doing everything we found we were decentralizing too much. While I want every parent and student to hear about our upcoming ministry events, we needed to stop catering to everyone’s “needs” (which are actually wants and conveniences).

At the start of the school year we over communicated and clearly laid out our new effort to communicate student ministry information.  Here is a brief overview of what we are now doing.

  • We email once a month: This is us to them (our direct connect). This forces me to look ahead, that’s a good thing. 12x a year instead of 52x times a year creates greater urgency (before our once a week emails were more like spam than help).
  • We text when deadlines get closer: Short notes, directly to their phone is a huge win and Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS makes that happen for us. I know, there’s a 99¢ app for that. No app is as robust and useful as SYM TOOLS! Sign-up for a free 30 day trial here.
  • We put everything on the web: It’s our hub! This is them to us (their direct connect to us). They need something…they can trust it is there.
  • Publications: We still do a quarterly calendar that we mail to everyone on our mailing list. We also do a flyer for every event, something cool that kids will take home and hopefully take to a friend.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc have their place and uses, but they are not a main focus any longer.

If you’re not creating culture in this area, you are subject to shift when students move on to the latest thing so will you…and you will be starting from scratch.

Brandon

@uthguy9



Print your Instagrams!

Brandon Early —  October 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

insta

I am a huge fan of Instagram! It is a way to connect with students in my ministry, a great outlet to express fun with my family, and keep distant family up to speed on life. Online is good, but I would like to do more with those square images than just look at them through the screen of an iPhone or web browser.

Here are 5 sites you might find useful and one you probably won’t that will help you take your Instagram pics from digital to tangible:

  1. Stickygram: Turn your images into magnets. We have a huge metal wall in our youth room, I am considering making some magnets to use for hanging; flyers, posters, calendars, and other images. $15 for 9 isn’t cheap but they look intersting and if they are quality prints and strong magnets it would be worth it.
  2. Artflakes: Giant sticker collection! Well, that is their tag line…4×4 is not giant, but it looks cool. You can do posters and cards too, check out their prices here.
  3. Postagram: This is one of 2 services that I have actually used. I gave some ideas on how this can be used in ministry here. Download the app, add a pic, write a note and send…done.  Postagram does the work of printing and mailing. Go send a card or two (sometimes they let you send a free test card), people love getting real mail.
  4. Origrami: I like the look of these cards and box they come in. You get 36, 4×5 prints for under $22.  This might be useful if you want to send a few pics to your volunteers for Christmas or to hang on a wall in your youth room.  Then again, with a little photo editing knowledge and 18 cent prints at WalMart maybe these are over priced…but super cool!
  5. Printstagram: This is the other service I have used. You can buy all types of printed out materials here: cards, mini prints, 365 day calendar ($40), and more.  I bought 2 of the sticker books. The stickers are tiny but you get over 200! I am thinking about buying a poster to hanging my office or our youth space. Students like looking at picture and they get excited when they find a pic they are in. (similar site printsgram.com).
  6. Stitchtagram: Need pillows for your office or youth room couches? If so, you might want to check out Stitchtagram.

Bonus: If you have a crazy huge budget, and you like burning through money check out Instaprint. This company lets you rent their machines for $5000 for half a day and $7500 for a whole day. The idea is that people at your party can post instagram pics to their account and when they post using one of your designated hashtags their onsite machines will print the images. This would make a great addition to any youth room but you cannot buy them, they are only for rent.

Do you use any sites that make use of your Instagram photos?

Speak Teen SPEAK!

Leneita Fix —  August 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

texting

In our ministry we have a rule.  No cell phones in use while the students are present and our programming is in action.  This rule goes for volunteers, staff and participants.  Unless you are using a “Bible App” to look up scripture, we shouldn’t see it,  and yes I check it.   This summer as we have had a number of our teens actually volunteering in our elementary age day camps I have seen something interesting.  At 2:00 the moment program ends and the last child walks out the door,  cell phones immediately emerge!  It’s like the texting/social media/ smart phone zombie apocalypse has taken root.  Heads are down, eyes ablaze as they catch up on all the pertinent information they have “missed” in the last 4 hours of “no phone zone.”

As I have text to talked or been FB direct messaged on major life issues I just have to wonder if scripting every thought is an easier way to go?  Since TONE doesn’t exist well in word/online communication a lot of drama erupts that could be avoided with at least a phone conversation and even more so with facial expressions and body language in play.   In short, I think we need to encourage students to learn how to sit down and use their voice once again.

Please hear me.  I am not anti-text/social media connections.  What I am seeing is that this the “goto” method of “talking.” I wonder if we are raising a generation that avoids face to face communication? Have they forgotten how to speak?

Can we do anything about that?  Here are some starting places:

  • Meet With Students One on One:

When I started in youth min, my mentor would say,  “If you want to get to know a kid take them out for a soda.”  What we did or drank was arbitrary.  The point was being present with each other.  Sit face to face, make eye contact and talk about deep issues,  outside of programming.  If at all possible draw in other adults and small group leaders to do the same.  Begin to teach, that this is the way we handle the “toughest stuff.”  It’s unscripted, raw, messy and uncomfortable.  That’s good.

  • Encourage Parents To Draw Lines.

I get it. The battle for independence with anyone from 6-12 grade is constant.  It’s also part of adolescence.  We drew up “electronic contracts” for our kids that not only included appropriate use, but times when cell phones are not “allowed.”   This has helped tremendously.

  • Be a good example:

I admit it,  I can be the worse at this one I was convicted even recently about how if I want to teach students the importance of communication beyond written form and the need to put the cell phone aside when talking to someone,  I have to step up and do the same.

Students need to learn to have a full conversation,  face to face conversation when they are totally present.  There is a place for tweets, Facebook, email and text, it just shouldn’t be the ONLY way we talk to each other.

What are YOU doing to help this generation learn the art of “in person” communication?

 

 

 



If you ever had trouble explaining why we use so many different forms of social media this infographic might come in handy.  It’s funny, so true, and might make a great opener at your next parent meeting.
infographic

**I want to give credit to whoever created this cool infographic but I have no idea.  If you know who, please give a link and the credit via link in the comments!

rotary phone

“Does it work?” one of my children asked.

“Yes, it’s plugged into the phone jack, of course it will work,” their grandmother responded.

“How do I use it?” they sat wide eyed.   “Well, you put your finger in the hole of the first number you want to dial and pull it down until it stops, do that with every number until the call goes through.” she explained.

“Can I try it?!?” they wanted to know.

This conversation happened last month between my three Middle School children and their grandmother.  She happens to keep an “old fashioned” rotary phone plugged in.  It’s funny to think a generation not only has never “used” one of these, they can’t recall seeing it before much less it existing in their home.  There was a time when getting in touch with students was as simple as seeing them in person or picking up a phone… that was attached to a cord of some kind. Not so any more.  In person is still the BEST way to communicate with a student or their parent.  However, there are times when we must track them down by other means.  If I want to “know” what’s going on in their lives I have to use different methods. I think this is true of the “churched” and “unchurched” crowd.

It may seem like an oversimplified list,  however to be in the know of my students I literally have to use ALL of the following methods:

 

text

The “Old” Faithfuls

Phones and email still remain key ways to communicate. I have one student who loses their phone often, but always checks emails. Another student will only text me. Now with talk to text options on smart phones, conversations are made easy.  There are times when I just need to hear their voice. I always make sure to know if they still have a landline, and who answers it.  These are always are starting places in the dance for communication.

 

facebook Facebook

My students may ask if you have an account on “The Book.” (It’s what some of my youth call it.)  Sometimes this is the best way to get a message to a student, or a simple reminder on their home page. Starting a youth group page, or events page for trips is usually the easiest place to get all of your students to check and be held accountable.

 kik Kik

“Kik” is a texting app that can be added onto a smart phone, ipod or tablet.  The reality is not all of my students have a phone, or their phone service is turned off from time to time.  This texting app allows you to talk to friends as long as you have “wifi.”  Recently, I had a student with no phone, who never checks Facebook or email.  We finally determined she had this account and we could get her info she needed.

instagram Instagram

More and more of my students are either taking down their Facebook pages, or they simply don’t use them.  Where they are at right now is Instagram.  If a picture is worth a thousand words then this is the place for you to “see” what’s going on in the life of your students.

This may not be true of everyone, however, most of my students currently do not use Twitter.  Vine is the up and coming video looping site and Pinterest is where we go to gather information about an idea. However, the truth is if I really want to “talk” I still approach it “old school,”  I show up and see them face to face.

How do you stay in touch with YOUR students?



There is something remarkable about the connectivity afforded to us through social media. The ability to connect with people, to have conversations, to encourage and engage people makes it a tool that 10 years ago you could only dream of.

I have been reminded lately of just how important the “Social” part of social media is. As youth workers we spend a solid amount of time posting on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram among others, but if we are not careful or intentional they can become “Shouts” and not conversations. By that I mean we log in, type up a thoughtful tweet or status update and launch it into cyberspace for all to read and leave before it even lands.

The miss is when we don’t go back to engage in the conversation and to read what people have to say, or we don’t venture into their world and to engage in what they are saying or feeling. When we remove the Social from Social Media we miss out on some big opportunities to engage, encourage and learn. I have said it before and I will say it again, the best leaders I know are the best followers too. They engage in the lives of their students, they care about their victories and defeats and look for opportunities to lead and shepherd through online engagement.

Lets keep the Social in Social Media, have a few less shouts and a few more conversations.

Geoff – @geoffcstewart 

Our ministry once hosted a “Battle of the Bands” fundraiser that required a lot of work. Our team had to audition bands, price out food, order speakers and recruit volunteers. We put so much work into this event; however, we forgot one key component:

TO INVITE PEOPLE

We had sent out an email, and made a few flyers; however, that was it. What was the response? Embarrassing. While a few people showed up, they were mostly friends and families of the band. It was a disaster.

Developing a communication strategy is a must in youth ministry and while it doesn’t seem like the most attractive responsibility, without it you can’t expect your ministry to grow. Developing a strategy for how you communicate means being intentional about what you say, how you say it and to whom. That means:

  1. Scheduling a Designated Time: Your communication efforts need your focus; therefore, give yourself allotted time to respond to emails and voicemails. Carve time to work on a message and schedule your social media posts ahead of time with software like Simply Youth Ministry Tools, Hootsuite and BufferDevelop a plan so you don’t rush and create a costly mistake.
  2. Understanding Your Mediums: Part of a communications strategy is understanding that people utilize different mediums. We are no longer in the days of emails and phone calls. Understanding the power of your platform by utilizing social media, texting and even your message is key to getting your point across. Pick a few resources that you feel most of your target audience uses and practice using them.
  3. Gaining Feedback: Get someone’s insight and feedback before you post something online, respond to an important email or deliver a message. The problem with electronic communication is that it can be difficult to read emotion and once it’s out there, IT’S OUT THERE. You never want to come off patronizing, sarcastic or offensive to your audience. So before you hit SEND, ask a friend to share their thoughts.
  4. Knowing Your Audience: Come off patronizing to parents and they won’t take you seriously. Speak over a teenager’s head and you’ll lose their engagement. Know your audience by spending time with them; however, do not try to be them. The best way to speak to any audience is to acknowledge when you are an expert and when you are not. People will appreciate your humility if they know it’s coming from sincerity.
  5. Repeat, Repeat and Repeating:You can’t say something only once and expect people to remember it. Repeat it, tweak it and then repeat it again. Utilize all the different mediums, and stagger it so that it doesn’t get lost in the noise.

If you communicate clearly and effectively you will be able to mobilize the next generation. Develop a strategy and make it a part of your daily responsibilities so that you are never wondering if you’ve been heard. To get one started takes a little bit of commitment; however, once you get going the possibilities are endless.

Which of these tips is the hardest one for you to embrace?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)