Print your Instagrams!

 —  October 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

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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?

Twitter is full of parody accounts, including some that only those who serve in a church may fully appreciate.

For example, here’s “The Deacon.”

Committee meetings all weekend... wish I was the pastor. Then I could just preach and go home. #ifonlypeopleunderstood #hardwork

Or if you like your deacons a little more “surly,” try the “Surly Deacon.”

Don't start any trouble at my church. I'll be all over you like a worship pastor at a skinny jeans sale.

There are those who represent the grumbling we hear from the congregation, such as the “Church Curmudgeon.”

When we've been there ten thousand years, we may just get to sing Amazing Grace the normal way again.

Then again, it’s worth noting hard pastors can have it via “Unappreciated Pastor.”

Moses' staff split the Red Sea. Mine split the church.

The “Bad Church Secretary” fesses up a bit, too.

I reminded the youth pastor he's preaching tomorrow. He'll be to embarrassed to ask around and find out he isn't.

How about a “Mad Worship Leader?”

Sure we're taking requests for this Sunday morning service.... just a sec and let me put the Holy Spirit's leading on hold... we aim to please!

How about an “Uncensored Pastor“?

Thanks for telling me how unhappy you are at our church. I was just sitting here wondering if we were making you happy or not.

Another strong one is “Stuff Christians Say.”

Changed the Wifi network at church to 'Jesus is watching you'   Bet those teens think twice about where they go online now

 

Lots of fun, right?

Now…

how about those directed at the Youth Ministry nation?

There’s the “Mistreated Youth Guy

Met a lady today who says she goes to the church I work at but was surprised to hear I've been the Youth Minister there for a couple years.

Or the things a “Youth Pastor Says.”

You really need to cut a larger check for the youth designated fund...I looked

A “Hipster Youth Pastor” chimes in.

I lose followers when I make fun of church camp

As well as a “Bitter Youth Pastor.”

Hey Young Life! Heard your game last night involved twerking and eating Oreos out of each others' mouths. I'm sure Jesus was glorified!

There’s even a “Ghetto Youth Pastor.”

I HATE YOUTH - Every youth pastor immediately following all major events

Not to mention a “Smug Youth Pastor.”

Still looking for the ultimate.....full time pay w/part time effort.

How does this make you feel?

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about Christian Hipsters that had its share of support and criticism. I wonder if when we read about a niche group in the church we enjoy the laughter but feel even just a tad bit defensive when we’re the ones under the spotlight?

Got a thought on this? Know of another parody account worth taking a look at?

Chime in.



awesomeYou know that one thing you just did? Or that next thing you’ll do?

They’re the GREATEST things in the world, and you’re “incredibly humbled” to be do them.

Right?

Welcome to the “humblebrag.”

A Wall Street Journal article describes it this way

“Whether we like it or not, and especially on social media, we’re all self-promoters, broadcasting even our quasi-achievements to every friend and follower.”

The phrase was coined by Harris Wittels who explained that the “humblebrag” is when someone overtly boasts while covertly side-stepping coming across as bragging by wrapping it up in some type of humility

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That’s something Christians can be culprits of just as easily as others.

And why not? Don’t we have the Greatest Message in the world to communicate? And aren’t we all “super excited” at the latest way we’ve found to share it?

  • “Hey, check out my YouTube video…”
  • “You should click on this link…”
  • “Read this post…”
  • “Could you retweet this…”

It’s what you say when someone asks how your last service or event was:

  • “Oh, it was incredible! You should have been there! God did something awesome! And, well… I was just thankful to be used by Him. I always am.”
  • “Well, the pastor was on vacation… and I don’t know if it’s okay to say this, but a few people told me they like my preaching a little better than his. I think a revival may break out soon.”

It’s how you describe the next thing that your name is attached to:

  • “Hey, you need to get your friends out to our next outreach thing. I’m going to bring my ‘A-Game’ and expect you to bring your school out to hear it… you know, so God can work through me.”
  • “I just wrote this blog post that I think just may change the future of how we do what we do. I’m super humbled to share this with you.”

It’s how you let everyone know your life is going well:

  • “Yay! We just became debt-free! It meant living off of croutons and Kool-Aid for six years, but we dropped a few pounds so it’s all good.”
  • “I’m soooooo grateful to have such a super-sexy, always-praying-on-the-knees-while-singing-worship-songs-and-writing-new-ones spouse who made me breakfast in bed today while writing out our tithe check.”

Granted, those are a little over the top and exaggerated. I’m guessing you saw yourself or someone else in them, though.

(In fact, it’s a whole lot easier to see this in others… isn’t it?)

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It’s worth a gut check:

  • How often do you look for a reason to talk about God and toss yourself in there?
  • How often do you look for a reason to talk about yourself and toss God in there?

I’d love to hear your observations or pet peeves on this.
Maybe even share a few creative youth worker “humble brags.”

Oh… and while you’re thinking of some, make sure you check out my new book Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side that came out this week. It was a labor of love to write it, but I’m “super excited” for how it turned out.

(Ahem… see what I did there? And you’re welcome.)

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!



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)



Viral Marketing

 —  February 27, 2013 — 4 Comments

A few months ago, we had a discussion about the effectiveness of on-stage announcements during our weekend services. It was the main way that we would push all of our events and upcoming opportunities. But we felt that students just weren’t listening to what we were saying up there and we questioned whether or not it was still the most effective way to communicate to our students. So we took a risk and cut all on-stage announcements and decided that we would only show 1-2 videos announcements per weekend. Of course that meant that the videos went to the big events like summer camp, small group launches, etc., and, unfortunately, left the smaller events without much spotlight.

This was a huge leap of faith and a total departure from what we were used to, but it was a risk worth taking. It forced us to get creative and try new things. So we started playing around with the idea of viral marketing. We studied things like the Invisible Children campaign and looked at the most practical elements we could adopt to our own ministry.

The genius behind viral marketing is that other people are doing the marketing for you. In youth ministry, that means students are pushing your events for you. And the best way to get students to go to things is them knowing that they will have friends there.

Last week, we threw our first event that was pushed solely through the use of social media and by the grace of God, it worked! We didn’t say a word about it during the weekend and our attendance at the event was just as good, if not better, than any event we pushed “the old fashioned way.” I thought I would share a few of the things we learned along the way:

-The Platforms. What social media are students using? For our students, they really like Facebook and they LOVE Instagram. So we focused on those two platforms and formed our strategy around that.

-The Material. The key to viral marketing is having sharable material that is interesting and straightforward. Sharable material works best when the sharer doesn’t have to write an explanation for your videos or graphics, they just have to repost them. For Instagram, we made an attention grabbing graphic with all of the information clearly presented. For Facebook, we made a video that was short, funny, and easy to follow.

-The Network. Viral marketing starts with a few people and branches big. Get as many students as you can to help you start. We went straight to our student leaders and other core students to help us start. A good thing to keep in mind is demographics. Make sure that every school is getting hit and every grade is getting hit.

-The Momentum. Space out your posts and keep a steady stream going from several different users. It can be really easy for viral marketing to lose steam after a day or two because everyone already posted it at once. Don’t let your campaign die early on!

 

How are you marketing your ministry’s events/announcements? What is working for you?

 

Colton [Email||Twitter]

 

I remember a time when I didn’t have an email address, when I had a friend in high school who had Napster and in a good evening where no one picked up the phone  and cut the connection we could download 3 songs and couldn’t believe how fast it was. I remember a time before Facebook and Google and I don’t know if I liked it better but it was definitely different. Working with students today, they have never known a world without the internet, never learned the beauty of using a library card catalog to find a book or fumbled with a microfiche reader. There are so many redeeming and exciting things about the world that we live in now, but I am starting to think that there are some unfortunate side effects that will cause some new challenges that we need to know how to take on.

Case and point: Conflict

In the past few weeks I have had some tough conversations with several students about their life and the road it was leading them down and talked to others about pride, attitude and spiritual arrogance. In both cases ;as kindly and gracefully as I could tell them, neither have not been back to the group since our conversation. I have reached out, called, messaged and apologized for the way the conversation made them feel. As it says in Galatians 4:16 Have I become their enemy for telling them the truth? There seems to be a growing trend for students to not know how to engage with people they disagree with and would rather avoid the conflict and part of the root of this I feel is coming from the fact that:

Students don’t have to put up with anything they don’t like.

Whether its music, TV, or conversations, young people today have the world at their finger tips. If they don’t like the song, they have thousands available to them in seconds. Gone are the days of waiting for the song on the radio to finish or turning it down. Today they don’t have to put up with anyone else’s music because they can bring their own. Have you driven past a school bus of students recently? Its white ear buds from front to back. No more 99 bottles of beer on that wall. They have hundreds of TV channels plus DVRs, Youtube, Hulu, Netflix means that they never really have to watch anything that they don’t have to. Entertainment is on demand so why should people not be the same?

So logically the same expectations of instantly getting what they want enters the realm of relationships. They know what they want, and they know what they don’t. With hundreds of friends on Facebook, the moment that a relationship is not what they want anymore they switch and go find one they better. Sadly this is exactly what is happening when students experience conflict. The modern conveniences of our culture are teaching our students that compromise is not necessary or important. Teenagers can block anyone from my newsfeed whom they disagree with or don’t like. With phone in hand, the moment an event gets remotely boring or uncomfortable they reach for the phone to find something or someone better or at least less awkward than what is in front of them. They can find engaging community online with every area of interest in their life. Friends who they share common interests and  with are only a text or app away, so why would they talk to someone who might not share their thoughts / opinions? That just seems like work.

This is the challenge we are going to engage in, how do we teach students the value of healthy conflict and that you can be friends with people you don’t always agree with?  How can we go make disciples if we are unwilling to engage those whose opinions differ from ours.

In the next 2 weeks I am going to be writing a 6 part series on things we need to teach our students with our lives before we preach to them. I pray is helpful and encouraging to you. Working with students is never easy and this new generation that wants things their way or no way at all is going to be even harder to reach.

-Geoff – Twitter geoffcstewart