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

Real-life #YOLO Tweets:

  • Just biked in front of a car to scare them #YOLO
  • eating ice cream for breakfast because #YOLO
  • Just ran a red light right beside the police station #YOLO
  • Drunk driving to get my buddies home #YOLO they will thank me in the morning

I’m sure most people who are online, working with social media or spending any time with students have heard the term YOLO. If you don’t know what it means, its an acronym for You Only Live Once.

I constantly hear my students saying YOLO, the problem is that this statement isn’t connected with doing anything to achieve something in life, its used as an excuse for things we probably shouldn’t do and often when they have had near tragic accidents.

My desire is to change this mentality: I want to take the idea that we only live once so it’s okay to do something stupid and transform it into the fact that we only live once for yourself, but you can live for Christ.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25

I want to encourage my students to live life not for themselves but for Christ. Wouldn’t it be awesome if instead of students using YOLO as mistake metaphor, if they used it to talk about their sacrifice for God.

Dream YOLO Tweets:

  • Stayed up late last night leading my friend to Christ #YOLO
  • Reading my Bible with breakfast #YOLO
  • Bringing three friends to church today #YOLO

Now I realize these tweets are probably a little on the long shot side, okay a lot. But wouldn’t it be amazing for students to be living their life for God and declaring it on Twitter or Facebook?

So now its our turn, Fall is starting and our students are back in classes. While they’re getting bombarded at school with #YOLO what message are you going to be giving them?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.



In ministry we have to meet students where they’re at, and in this age, that place is social media. Social media has been an incredibly powerful tool in our ministry for connecting with our students and community.  Here is how we are using it:

Facebook: The great thing about Facebook is that almost every student has one.  I actually do the majority of my work on Facebook.  Because students rarely check their email, Facebook is one of the main resources our ministry uses to communicate with students.  Through it, we can advertise upcoming events, invite them to serving projects, post pictures and videos from previous events, and simply advertise our ministry as a whole.  We also us it to create “groups” for every ministry team, missions team, small group, etc.  Groups are an awesome way to build community and share specific information.

Instagram: For those of you who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, Instagram is an app on smart phones that allows you to have your own profile where you can post, “like,” or comment on pictures.  Since there are so many students that have these, we made an account for our ministry.  It has proven to be an excellent way to advertise all of the things we have going on.  We also post pictures of students or funny things we see to give our ministry personality.

YouTube: We make sure we upload every video onto our ministry’s account.   Not only do we upload the promo and teaching videos we show during the weekend, we also post clips from the service (mostly from the speaker).  Every once in a while we will compile a short video with the main points of the speakers message to catch students up on what they missed or remind them of what they learned.  After we upload our videos, we share them on Facebook and spread it to as many people as possible.

How are you using social media in your ministry?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs a really big high five.

#SometimesMinistryIs receiving panicked calls from mommas who need your help with their teens.

‪‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs laughing so hard that you are crying.

#SometimesMinistryIs calling a student out and helping them to see their own sin.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs just dropping by to see how someone is doing.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs filling up water balloons… and throwing them.

#SometimesMinistryIs knowing a student has made some really bad choices but always making sure they know that you and Christ love them.

#SometimesMinistryIs buying a teenager a milkshake.

‪‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs sitting by the bed of someone at a nursing home.

#SometimesMinistryIs dancing and singing kids’ songs really really loudly!

#SometimesMinistryIs taking a student out to lunch so they can talk with you about something serious.

#SometimesMinistryIs playing a game of ultimate frisbee so intense that you rip off a toenail.

 

Ministry is Professional.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs scrambling to find one more chaperone for summer camp.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs intense (and slightly boring) budget planning.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs encouraging someone to volunteer to do something you know they would be GREAT at.

#Sometimes MinistryIs staff meetings.

#SometimesMinistryIs stopping in your busy schedule to do the hard work of praying for students.

#SometimesMinistryIs insisting on a medical release form, even though it is inconvenient.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs a non-church civic club meeting, because you’re investing in the community.

#SometimesMinistryIs playing phone tag FOREVER with someone to solve an important question.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs the best job in the world.

#SometimesMinistryIs not a job at all; it is instead the calling that your other job pays the bills to allow you to do.

 

Ministry includes Your Own Family.‪‪

#SometimesMinistryIs praying with your spouse.

#SometimesMinistryIs date night with your daughter, even if you have to miss a church thing.

#SometimesMinistryIs empowering your spouse to do their own ministry

#SometimesMinistryIs playing with your own children at home at night, and ignoring a phone call.

 

Ministry is Always God.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs sitting at a table with a brother pouring over the Word planning to present it in a new and exciting way.

#SometimesMinistryIs watching a student make bad decisions and knowing the best thing you can do about it is to pray.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs listening to a student explain the gospel back to you and praising God for his Christian parents’ training.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs listening to a student explain the gospel back to you, and realizing they do not yet understand what it is they are thinking about doing

‪#SometimesMinistryIs having to take a step back so that you don’t get in the way of what God is trying to do.

#SometimesMinistryIs just the purest ecstasy of full-on, eyes-closed, on-your-face worship of the One who saved you from yourself.

 

Ministry.

#ManyTimesMinistryIs just plain hard.

#AlwaysMinistryIs worth it.

#Always.

(Special thanks to @ColvinEarl @savedman97 for their contributions.)

Aaron Tucker has served teenagers since he was one, and currently serves youth of all ages at First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Mississippi. He is Oklahoma-born (Go Sooners!) and Mississippi-raised (Go Bulldogs!), and loves Christ and family and coffee and youth ministry in Small Town USA. He tweets @Rev_Tucker



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.

Here are a few ideas for getting the message you teach at church outside the church walls.

  • I will often have a “Thought of the Week” or some phrase or verse that will ask students to share on their Facebook wall and tweet.
  • We host a facebook group for Student Leadership Team, this is a great place to train, ask questions, and encourage a specific group of students.
  • Sometimes I post a preview video on our youth ministries facebook page. This is simply a short video (30-45 sec) letting them know what we will be talking about the next time we meet.
  • I have not played this with our group yet but I hope to use the game “Facebook Hack” soon.  check out the details at morethandodgeball.
  • We created a segment video called “Off The Wall.”  I ask staff to find and hoard some funny, silly, ridiculous status updates, see the video below.