I think I am pretty “Hip with the teens” I use social media and guess what, so do they. So here is 5 best practices that I have for myself when I am using Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /

On Being Political – I am Canadian and am often fascinated by the U.S. political system, the parties, the leaders, the “dangling chets”, its all very entertaining. That being said, as a leader and a person of influence, I have to remind myself to be mindful of what we project when it comes to politics. I can’t think of a time that it would be healthy or wise for a Youth Pastor to wade into any sort of heated political discussion with their students / parents as potential audience.  Political views are divisive and division among believers isn’t good for anybody. There is a place to debate but Facebook is probably not that place.

On Being Critical – Last week I wrote about being careful where you criticize, because its confusing to students. Whether explicit or passive aggressive, criticism is not really helpful to your students. Being critical of other Churches, denominations and decisions they make can cause more harm than good for students and friends that don’t understand the issues as well as you. Being educated and informed is important, just be mindful of when, where and with whom you have those conversations.

On Being Sketchy – Always remember your audience, and that video your friend sent you, that awesome Meme or funny cartoon will be seen by your eight grade student and his mom. Avoid innuendo, crudeness and anything that could be taken the wrong way. Save that joke for your next dinner party or just save it you know? One of my leaders recently told me he shared something he found online with his students and I nearly fell off my chair, not because of what he shared with them but that he was unsuspectingly endorsing the website it was from. Be thoughtful about what doors you might accidentally open.

On Being Transparent – If you are going to be on social media, and let people into your living room so-to-speak, give them an accurate picture. If you have kids, make sure that every photo isn’t staged and that people can get an understanding of your daily pursuit of a Christ-like life. The good the bad and the ugly.

On Being a Follower – Follow your people! What I mean is people close to you, your students, leaders, your church members. Not following or connecting with the people you minister too makes Twitter a shout of information more than a catalyst for conversation. Following your people allows you to know what God is doing, in all aspects of their life and allows you to know how you can pray for them or find common ground to connecting. Good leaders are great followers.

Geoff – @geoffcstewart 

Whether you are a youth pastor, parent, teacher, or random person in the mall, you know that teenagers (along with several other age ranges) are addicted to technology in some form or another. It does not help that this is the most plugged in generation with iPhones, iPads, laptops, televisions, Xbox 360, and every other digital screen that you can imagine.

This has caused many people to worry. The death toll for people texting while driving in the last five years is over 16,000 people, families have transformed from Friday nights together to everyone in their own room in the basking glow of their digital device, and many teenagers are showing symptoms of withdrawal from studies that have looked at fasting from technology.

The question is, how can we as a community fight back against tech addictions? We have a few ideas for you below.

  1. Tech-Free Church Services
    What would happen if we fully turned off all tech at church and youth groups for the one hour that we are sitting in the sanctuary? This is not limited to the phones of congregation members, but includes all of the monitors in the lobby promoting the Bible studies or iPad that are used to sign up for missions trips. Retreats that have limited or no phone use (do not read “no phones” as leadership should always have a way to be contacted) can make engaging with teenagers easier.

    Maybe you ease into it and only do one Sunday a month and see the success of it. It may not seem like a long time, but soon you begin to talk to church members that you sit beside. Youth pastors now can preach and know that there is one less distraction in the room. Small group leaders know that they have their group’s undivided attention. Relationships flourish and you begin to forget about that tech.

  2. A Tech-Only Room
    So many families want to know how they can reunite their families back in their homes. Teenage boys are in their room playing Xbox, teen girls are in their rooms on the phone, dad’s in the living room watching television, and mom is on the laptop in the study working.

    One experiment that has seen significant success is a tech only room. It contains the only television in the house, the only place you are allowed to get on computers, and the only place you are allowed on the phone. This can cause an inconvenience at first and does not guarantee that families will even converse fully, but it ensures that you get to see family members while they are home. At the same time, for families that have concern for pornography or too much video game playing, this is easily monitored simply by proximity.

  3. Talk About Rules Before You Have To Enforce Them
    Setting up a culture within a church or school system or implementing rules at home that are established before any issues come up have shown to reduce the risk of anything happening before they should. Let your teenagers know what will happen if they text while driving, install the proper monitoring applications, and consistently check up on them. Let them know that if they break rules on computer and gaming usage or do something that is inappropriate, that they will punished a certain way.

    We are not looking to “punish them with the rules” but instead to protect them from the dangers that tech brings. Know why you are putting rules into place and explain it to teenagers or others so that everyone is on the same page. If there is strong pushback, at least listen to what they have to say, regardless if you plan to take their advice. This will show respect for them and may even give you a better opportunity to speak into your teens’ lives.

    When these rules are established, follow them yourself. Teens have the easy excuse right now of texting while driving because adults do it too. Be a good role model and if need be, enact the punishment upon yourself if you break it. At the same time, a reward for following the rules has shown to promote further positive-viewed behavior.

How have you seen a tech-free environment have a positive outcome?

Jeremy Smith is a youth worker at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.



I just got back from vacation.  It was amazing.  You should have seen it, you would have been quite jealous.  Beach house.  Coffee shops.  Bonfires.  Parks with the family.  Amazing meals. I even got a date with my wife.  I have very little photographic evidence of it, and if you and I were friends on social media sites you would have no reason to believe that my life was any different than the other 51 weeks of the year.  Why in the world would I not post this memorable week to share with some of my most distant friends?  I wanted this one to be for my family and those I talk to.

If your life is anything like mine, then the world of what is ministry and what is not becomes very grey.  And beyond that, I can’t say I really want there to be lines.  God has redeemed all of me, and I don’t want to live public and private lives.  However, as calls come in whenever, emails are answered always, and my family is my best sermon illustration I often feel that those who follow me on instagram know as much if not more about me than my own family.

So I made a decision that I would go radio silent for the week.  I did pretty good at it too! I liked a few photos.  Made a few snarky comments.  Responded to a few emails from those people that either wouldn’t leave me alone or had the power to fire me. For the most part, I disappeared.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I post like a bad Mama Jamma.  If I have something Facebook-worthy it goes up.  Kids sleeping on the floor, it is there.  Awesome youth group night; I’m your man.  And frankly there are many vacations where I want to show others my version of a family enjoying themselves.  So I do live loudly when I can on social media sites.  To that end, my wife continued to post this past week, in fact she became louder on vacation.  That doesn’t mean I am a better Christian (for the most part).  It was a personal decision and a gift that I wanted to give to my family.  They may not have even noticed.  That is fine with me.  I just wanted to be present.  To enjoy all of them and capture the event, not the event so it could be communicated to others.

I think you should do the same.  Not always, and for me this is the exception and not the rule.  For some it may be that you take a break on dates, on Mondays, or when the sun goes down.  I don’t think there is one version that is better than another, however I would strongly encourage you to find those moments in your life that are only for those you call family and for those who are dear friends.  Not to be selfish or exclusive.  Rather to silently say to those around you that they are your “circle”.  They are your “friends”.  They are true “followers” of you and your life.  Without saying no to others, it slowly communicates that you are more than a public figure to your church body and the students you minister to.  You are a dad, a wife, or friend.  All of which you need to do well if you hope to be called a youth worker in five years.

To finish this post it would be fitting to show you a vacation picture, but I didn’t really take any.  I promise to show you my next youth event, latte art, or when my kid puts their clothes on backwards.

Jeff Bachman is a husband for the past 11 years and a father of three amazing kids.  He is the High School Pastor at ROCKHARBOR Church just up the road in Costa Mesa, CA.   He loves emails at jbachman@rockharbor.org, twitter interaction, and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.

Parenting in this new millennium in the first world culture may be the most different than any other generation that has ever been before. We are in a world of being always on, teens having access to more sinful content than ever, and a culture that says it should be all about you instead of all about your children and family. At the same time, God seems to be less of a focus within the family system than ever before.

Maybe the most frequent questions I have heard as a youth worker from parents at the chapel I serve in is how parents approach technology with their children. This is a whole new world with little to no precedent established from previous parenting models. This unknown territory has initiated fear, concern and doubt in the value added to technology with their children as well as a perceived loss of family communication and values being passed on.

We want to share with you a few tips for parents to have with technology and their children. Take it if it adds value or share with us how you have done it differently down in the comments.

  • Parents Should Look Through Cell Phones
    As a youth worker, I am in the unique position between teenagers want privacy in their lives and parents wanting to protect their children. As a youth worker, we want to support great parenting and yet find ourselves also being empathetic to the teens. Yet, I constantly find myself voicing the support of a parent to have the right and authority to look through their child’s phone. If you set up an understanding with the child before you begin and explain that this is a right to have a phone with the agreement that will be monitored, it becomes less of an invasion of privacy and more about the fact that they are reminded that their phone is a privilege.
  • Pornography Is An Issue For ALL Students
    Parents here me say this and think, sure for all other children it is a problem, but not theirs. Many statistics differ. “But my would never do that!” Some studies say that 100% of children are exposed to pornography if they use the computer more than three hours a week. That would include your child. “But my daughter wouldn’t see have an issue with it.” Unfortunately, the issue of women regularly looking at pornography is sharply rising as is an addiction to it for females. Have this talk, put necessary software on your computer, and do not assume ANYTHING.
  • Do Not Be Afraid of Technology
    Technology can be a scary thing. The two points above are hard conversations and points of sin for many different people, but the nature of technology can be a good thing. To shove off all things technology would also be a negative approach. Instead, know that technology is a tool and if you keep that priority and do not allow it to rule over you, it can help your family. Make fun family videos to post on YouTube, find your favorite time with family to watch a television show, and communicate via text messages, just do so with moderation.
  • Communicate Intent With Actions
    If I could communicate any one thing to parents, it would the fact that they need to communicate their intent with their children more. Sure, not every decision you do with them needs to have a briefing of why you decided what you did, but at the same time, so many arguments and battles that happen could simply be prevented if you had just communicated the love, time, and fear that goes into why you put the different rules down that you did. Will you have to repeat them because teenagers forget? Yes. Does communicating prevent all arguments with children? No. But some of my own parenting models came from when my parent explained why I was limited on television use or needed to call instead of text them.

What other parenting tips on technology would you add to this list?

Jeremy Smith is a youth worker at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.



My friend Jason suggested I check out this Yahoo! blog article about parenting and social media/web stuff and was right about it being awesome. Here’s a clip:

Institute family meals with tech breaks. Current psychological literature recommends that families sit down and share at least 3 or 4 meals together a week. Keep them short–under 45 minutes–and tech free for the most part. Give everyone a two-minute warning to check whatever device beforehand. After 15 minutes, allow a one minute message or text check. Aim to expand the tech free time as your kids become more focused.

Don’t use your ignorance about technology as an excuse. It’s true that kids know more about technology than parents but this is a poor reason for adults to act clueless about what teens or tweens might be doing online. Equally counterproductive is letting a kid spend hours on end alone in their room on the computer so you “can get work done.”

Don’t rely on secretly monitoring online activities. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, most kids can work around parents’ surveillance in a matter of minutes.

Look for warning signs. If your child is regularly staying home “sick” from school and spending the entire day on the computer, if they choose to be online more often than out with friends, or if their grades are suffering because they are distracted by technology, you need to step in and help them create boundaries. With their input, draft a written contract with clear rules and consequences. Often, parents make initial penalties too big such as grounding their kid for a month if they catch them online in the middle of the night. Better to start small such as losing their phone for an hour and escalate as necessary.

JG

If you work with the youth of America in any fashion, be it youth ministry or as a parent, you know that we have identified this generation by the inventions that they have been raised among. Some call them the Internet Generation or the Digital Gen, which leads many to assume that this generation not only is always online through a digital interface some how, but that they actually prefer it.

That notion could not be further from the truth. But before we get there, let’s look at how they got that name.

  • 90% of teenagers are connected to the Internet through phones, laptops, or gaming devices. In fact, there are more ways to get online now than ever before.
  • 68% of teens text daily, girls more than guys
  • 51% visit Facebook daily, sometimes for more than 3 hours a day
  • Some rough estimates believe the average teen is on a digital device up to 13 hours a day and can be as high as 18 hours!

While those numbers seem to scream that they have a problem, what those numbers do not reflect are what the teens know about this heavy usage and their desires for something more.

  • 1/3 of teens actually long for time off from the Internet while 36% of teens wish they could go back to a time when there was no Facebook.
  • 49% of the surveyed teens prefer a face-to-face conversation above any other form of communication.
  • 41% of teens consider themselves addicted to their phones and 43% wish they could unplug (half of those wish their parents would join them too!)

[Study from CommonSenseMedia.org]

The question for you, be you youth pastor or parent, teacher or just someone who sees teens at church, how are you helping or hindering the situation? They had to learn these habits from somewhere and be given permission (even if it is an unspoken one) from someone. Are you perpetuating the problem or offering a solution?

If you do not get anything else from this article, hear this: teenagers not only want face-to-face conversations, but they want to be heard. Sometimes it comes across as needy and whiny, but they are navigating a turbulent time in their lives where their identity is shifting from being within a family to developing into an adult and it is not a safe journey by any means.

What can you do within your context to promote a healthier way of communicating that honors the teenagers?

Jeremy Smith is a youth worker at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.



After two years of youth ministry I felt like I got in a groove.  I knew my roles and responsibilities.  I wasn’t shocked when a parent addressed a concern with emotion.  I was comfortable asking others to get involved; life was good.  Then five years rolled by and everything started to click.  I felt like I understood systems and structures.  I was okay with droughts in creativity and multitasking.

As each year ticks by your level of confidence as a youth minister will grow.  And that’s because with each year you gain experiential wisdom.  It’s priceless and so beneficial; however, it alone will not take your youth ministry to the next level.  There are going to be opportunities that you need to take advantage of that will launch you to the next level.

These opportunities are like launching pads.  You focus on them, you make them a part of your mantra and they take you to the next level.  Three of those launching pads are:

Spiritual Accountability – On a daily basis you are pouring into others.  Whether it’s teenagers, their parents or your own team, you are draining yourself continuously.  While we know the source for replenishment lies with God, we need men and women who are going to help us out.  Three ways you should embrace spiritual accountability are through an Adult Small Group and One on One Spiritual Direction.  You need people reminding you to trust in the Lord, because without Him nothing is possible.

Embrace Risk – Taking chances is a habit that many of us need to embrace.  It’s not about being clumsy or careless, taking risk means getting over our fears to do something big.  To embrace risk properly you need to Trust in God, Gather Insight and Lean Into The Tension. Granted it might be scary; however, people will want to follow you, because they’ll see your courage.  People want a leader who isn’t afraid to fail and will do what it takes to succeed.

Collaborate With Peers – If you aren’t working and networking with other youth ministers than you are traveling a very lonely road.  When you can network with peers in youth ministry you open yourself up to some awesome ideas.  You give yourself the opportunity to learn, think outside the box and problem solve with a new perspective.  When you work with the other guys, they’ll show you how to get to the next level.  Three places to collaborate are Through Social Media, Over A Cup Of Coffee and Attending Conferences.  Get together with others.

It’s important to ask yourself the question, “How can I continue to grow as a professional youth minister?” When you utilize the right launching pads you answer that question.

What other opportunities can we embrace to take youth ministry to the next level?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Terrace Crawford is a youth worker and the author of Going Social, a new book out this month from Beacon Hill Press with the official site at GoingSocialBook.Net. Here’s an interview with him about his new book and you can read his blog here.

1 Tell us about the origin of your new book!
I meet a lot of church leaders who are hesitant to use Social Media for whatever reason. I think Social Media is one of the greatest tools of our time that God wants to use to help spread the message of the Gospel. I felt I could help provide a resource that would help dispel many of the common myths that keep church leaders from leveraging Social Media and also offer bite-sized tips on how to use it for ministry.

2 What is one of the most common mistakes when using social media?
My heart behind using any Social Media platform is to use it to connect with people. Whether you have a blog, a twitter or Facebook account, or a YouTube channel, you can use these tools to build relationships. You can inspire people, challenge people, and yes, even connect them to Christ! I think people sometimes forget that.

3 What are the best social tools for youth workers to connect with their students?
The best way to connect with students is generally by going where they already are. Students love Facebook, so you’d be fool to not use it. I have seen a lot more teens flocking to Twitter lately, so having using a Twitter account is a great idea. Some youth workers even use Twitter as a text-messaging service because any student can follow the updates regardless of whether or not they have a Twitter account. I also love using Simply’s Communicate tool to push mass text messages to our students.

4 Tell us about your passion for youth ministry – preferably with a great failure story?
Years ago I was planning to lead my youth group to summer camp.  We were literally two days out (from going) and I talked two kids who needed Christ into going along with us. Forms were completed, notarized (which seemed to take an act of congress at the time), and were hand-delivered to me the day before while I was attending a luncheon. I misplaced the forms and did not look for them (or even think to!) until the next morning upon our departure. At the last second I realized I was in deep trouble. It immediately hit me that the forms may have been left at the lunch table… and yep, thrown into the trash. In a last ditch effort I got on the phone and tried getting parents to have the necessary forms faxed directly to the camp. We all loaded up the bus (in faith that this would work!) and circled the parking lot only for me  to find that one of my star volunteers was found digging through the trash to look for the forms!  I’ll have that horrible site etched in my brain –forever!  I hugged my staffer and thanked him for going to such great lengths for students. Then we got on the road and headed to camp. Long story short… the forms were faxed by the parents, we had a great time at camp… and the two students accepted Christ by the end of the week!   I learned several things through this: 1) I hate camp forms.  2) I needed a personal assistant,  3) My staff will go to great lengths for teens! and  4) I love seeing students accept Christ!

5 What’s next for you? Got another book on tap or project in the works?
I am currently focusing on my student ministry and my Youth Worker Coaching Network right now, but yes, I do have a book idea I’m marinating on (but not yet ready to share).  I hope to develop the idea further and turn it into a book because I feel it will help a lot of people who are struggling in the church today.

JG