The Death of Facebook

 —  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.



Thought we would take a quick look this week at ways to communicate with students—ways that are Hot or Not. Here’s our take; feel free to offer your opinion in the comments as well:

HOT: Facebook
This is where our money is at right now—the highlight of the tools we’re using to communicate with students. The only downside is that a youth ministry page requires constant updates and management to really be effective. And there’s a desire to spend time on our OWN pages instead of building up the church site. Facebook is where it’s at, so get on board to get it mastered just in time for your students to move on to something else.

NOTE: Our junior high ministry uses Facebook, but not as strategically as high school. We walk a fine line due to the reality that Facebook has age restrictions, but most junior highers are still there.

NOT: Email
When you’re communicating to parents, email is as hot as can be. The older people get the more possessive/stagnant they become with technology. Students on the other hand are quick to jump on what is next, usually before adults have even heard of it. If you are emailing students and it is working, realize that it is a miracle of God and won’t last very long. Email is out.

HOT: Texting
Probably right up there with Facebook is texting—it comes in two flavors: individual and mass, and both work incredibly well. Use a service like Simply Text or Duffled to build a list of everyone, and don’t discount the power of a personal text from their small group leader or youth pastor. Texting is where it is at right now for sure.

NOT: Paper
You’ve gotten very good at Publisher 2003. I get it. You like clip art and flyers made on the church photocopier. We do too, but those days have past. Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

HOT: Facebook event pages
Different from your main Facebook page are the event pages you create for service projects, mission trips, or special events. These are usually syncing with many students’ phones now, so you get calendar reminders as well as triggers built into to social media. A classic win-win-win situation.

HOT: Calendars
Calendars, if they make it home, have a tremendous return. Put a magnet on the back and you might get on the refrigerator for 2-3 months!

NOT: mass postcards in the mail
The shelf life is just too short for a postcard for a series and the cost is typically prohibitive, too. I love these and am sad to see them already fading out, but unless you’ve got cash to spare or a cheap printer to crank them out this one is dropping quickly.

HOT: individualized postcards from small group leaders
This one will never go out of style. Try it out this week: Pick up some postage-paid postcards and scribble out a few handwritten notes this week and see if it works. Or just trust us…no technology will ever replace the power of a handwritten note!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

•Small groups are messy. Really messy.
•Small groups are a logistical hassle. Meeting in homes only adds to the chaos.
•Small groups require lots of leaders.
•Small groups need constant attention and maintenance.
•In short…small groups can feel like a BIG pain.

But … small groups are totally worth it.

Here are 4 reasons why we think small groups are a big deal. Feel free to add your own (or a dissenting opinion) in the comments section:

Small groups help make invisible students visible
I (Josh) have 4 kids of my own – a couple of them are going to spend their lives being the center of attention and the other 2 are probably going to enjoy contributing on occasion but usually just fading into the background and allowing someone else to take center stage. Small groups put every student in a position to contribute and be challenged. A church that only gathers in the large group setting is encouraging only the faithful, vocal few to truly participate…others may attend, but very few participate. Small groups help make the typically invisible student a little more visible.

Small groups make any size church feel like home
It really doesn’t matter how big your youth ministry is – it is going to feel unwelcoming or even cold to some degree to an outsider. But when a student is invited into a small group… with only a handful of others it begins to feel warmer and more inviting. Personally, we love small groups in homes because this helps them feel even warmer.

Small groups create a youth pastor minor league
Looking to turn regular men and women into great youth workers? Give them a few seasons in small groups and you’ll be amazed at how their heart and their skills grow, and so will they! Small groups give plenty of opportunities for young leaders to shine. Instead of a personality-driven ministry , a strong small group strategy provides opportunities for lots and lots of youth pastors within one ministry.

Small groups produce Godly students
OK, this one isn’t guaranteed, but a small group environment does allow a great leader to be placed over, care for and disciple a handful of students. You can rest a little easier when a student gets connected in a small group – because you know they have a much better chance of their faith sticking because of the relationships that have been set in motion.

Do you think small groups are worth it? Why or why not?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Gandalf, Albus Dumbledore.

In just about every good story, the young hero has an older, wiser mentor; one who has traveled a similar journey at an earlier point. At a critical moment in the story, the hero consults the wise old sage for wisdom and encouragement in the journey. Hope is all but loss — the odds are against him — it looks impossible. The wise mentor shares some observations, a bit of wisdom and a few insider secrets only a mentor would know to help the young man on his journey. The hero now fully embraces his true calling and goes up against those odds to defeat the Dark Side, the fire-breathing dragon or The One Who Shall Not Be Named (Only a nerd like Josh would know the above stories well enough to use them in an analogy like this!).

Wikipedia describes this wise character this way:

This type of character is typically represented as a kind and wise, older father-type figure that uses personal knowledge of people and the world to help tell stories and offer guidance that, in a mystical way, may impress upon his audience a sense of who they are and who they might become, thereby acting as a mentor.

You are a youth ministry hero. You are on a journey. And you need the wisdom of a mentor.

In the youth ministry journey there are ups, downs, traps, pitfalls and frustrations. To have access to a ministry Yoda or the wisdom of a former youth pastor is critical to your success. You need a wise old soul in your life. You need someone who is ready with his or her wisdom, counsel and sound judgment. Youth ministry is an adventurous journey that you shouldn’t attempt to navigate on your own.

It has been said that “Mentoring is God’s way to lift another toward their full potential.” The Bible puts it this way, “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” (Proverbs 12:15)

You may be brand new, and your youth ministry adventure is just beginning. You may be facing some “enemies” that are trying to disrupt your path. You may be feeling lost and in need of guidance. Or you may feel like an unstoppable force who doesn’t need some old fart sharing stuff from the past that you don’t think is of any benefit to you and your future (you would be wrong, of course)!

Wherever you find yourself today, we hope you’ll consider the following:

The fall is one of our favorite times in our youth ministry. Summer is over and everyone gets ready to go back to school. And in our ministry — it also means “back to church” (we have church during the summer but attendance is much, much lower)!

As our regulars interact with their friends from school, something awesome starts to happen — it seems like the same pattern every year – they start bringing them to church! The fall seems to bring tons of opportunities for friendship evangelism and a boost of momentum. It doesn’t happen automatically, we’ve worked to create this kind of culture. How do you build this type of culture in your student ministry? Here are some ways that work for us:

Have a “fall kickoff” weekend
Our goal is that every youth service is safe for non-believing students — we always include an element of fun and an understandable message. But for fall kickoff we go all out – bigger and better than normal — and most certainly will include a clear Gospel presentation. Last year we handed out a bunch of youth group branded school supplies for our students to share with their friends as the school year started. They turned out to be fantastic conversation starters!

Host a big event right at the top of the school year
Every fall, our high school ministry hosts Pumpkinfest, a massive outreach event at the end of October, and our junior high ministry runs an event called The 3 ( $3, 3rd Friday of the month, 3 hours)! We honestly don’t do too much outside of youth group in the fall — these are it! And for us, they pay off big time. A great activity will get people taking in the schools and on Facebook. You’re not into activities and events? You don’t have a budget or space to accommodate something like that? No problem! The principle isn’t “do something big and crazy”, but rather “do something different and creative…something that builds some momentum as you head into the fall”

Pray about it!
This is the season that sets the tone for the entire year for us. A great start gets us off and running through Christmas. We are sure to cover it in prayer and ask God to do something life-changing. This one doesn’t go without saying … we need to be reminded that we serve and do our part, but the real work is up to Him.

Make sure the next step is clear
With the natural momentum of the fall in youth group, make sure your students know the next step in your discipleship process. For us it is small groups, so not a week goes by without us talking about, promoting, showing a video or texting about getting in a group. Want to start the fall out right? Don’t be satisfied with entry-level ministry alone…challenge students to take the next step!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.