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.



Today  Google launched their redesign of Google+. I have not used Google+ for months, it seemed clunky, a little awkward, and all my connections were on facebook.  I did not see the need to leave one social network that is working great for another that is not tremendously better. This redesign make the site look simple and it’s easy on the eyes. My site is up and running but I hear it is not all happening at once. Looks like they will roll out gradually over the next few days.

One thing i love about Google+ is it’s “hangouts.”  I will host a “hangout” in the near future.  A designated time when we can gather via Google+ video and chat about a youth ministry tech topic or two.

Thanks for the heads up Justin Boling ‏ (@Jbols)!

Recently I have been reminded about a painful truth about ministry life and the pastor sub-culture that each of us is a part of whether we like it or not. Sitting having a coffee with a student last week I was reminded of this:

What doesn’t matter to students:

1-Who follows / mentions us on Twitter

2-Where we spoke on the weekend

3-How many people read our blogs

What does matter to them:

1-That we love Jesus and passionately model that relationship to them.

2-That we sincerely care about their life and their story.

3- That we encourage them and pray for them often.

In the midst of opportunities and distractions, its so easy to forget that the students that we lead don’t care about all the other stuff. They just need us to Pastor and lead them, to accept them and encourage them, be there when we say we will and passionately shepherd them. Our integrity to speak about leadership is rooted in us being healthy, rooted leaders at the local Church level working in the trenches.

-Geoff (Twitter)




I hit several sites a day, staying conencted, looking for deals, checking social media.  Here are the sites I hit most every day…multiple times a day.

DEALS…
•  I usually do not go to be until after midnight so the first site I hit is WOOT!  Woot is the best one deal a day website and they have several sister sites listed on the right of their page, click’em all.
•  AppShopper top 200 (sort by changed to see the fast movers)
•  Bens Bargains
•  1SaleaDay

NEWS…
•  Google Reader
•  Engadget
•  Digg

SOCIAL MEDIA…
• 
Twitter
•  Facebook

APPS…
•  Fighter Verse
•  YouVersion
•  Logos
• 
Facebook
•  HootSuite
•  Zite
•  Pulse
•  Reeder

This week I started something new – something honestly I’ve been meaning to do as a young dad and as a safe driver. This week when I’m driving, my phone is in the glove box. It isn’t something I feel totally comfortable doing yet, but I’m making it a priority from now on. I’m telling you, there’s both some incredible freedom and opportunity in this! Here’s why my phone is in the glove box:

To be more disconnected from the information hydrant
Life you – my phone is constantly buzzing. A Twitter here, a text there, a flood of emails – it doesn’t stop. Even when my phone doesn’t ring or vibrate, I sometimes instinctively check it to see if I missed anything! It’s kind of sad, to be honest. Living that way isn’t healthy, so disconnect yourself at least while you drive. You’ll be surprised how little you miss when you drive to the local high school or to your lunch appointment. A few less inputs will help your output, I promise you.

To be more focused on my kids
I drive my kids around quite a bit – to school each morning, to football practice in the afternoon and tons more throughout a given week. Putting my phone in my pocket isn’t enough! I’ll cheat a glance here and there, stopping great conversations while I place importance on what other people are broadcasting instead of what my own kids are saying.

To be more focused on the road
I’ll admit it – I text while driving – despite while being illegal here in California. Last week I was stopped at a light and absent-mindedly let my foot slip off the brake pedal. I just nudged the car in front of me with absolutely no damage, but I was also nudged to take care of this. I have a responsibility to the road and I’m not honoring our state law.

To be a good example
If a student asked me if I texted while driving this week – I would have no defense. It is a battle I haven’t chosen to fight – until now. I want to model what a safe driver and responsible law-abider looks like – if I sacrifice my integrity or cheat a little bit here, it will subtly encourage them to lve the same way – and usually in far more important matters than this.

Who’s with me?

JG



I think most of us in the camp of facebook being a good ministry tool, although its effectiveness at time to communicate and actually elicit some sort of response to who is attending an event, or can help out at an event can be minimal. I am still of the belief that Facebook is useful and here is why I make a point to be a FB friend with every student possible that is a part of our group.

Humility: Lets admit it, most of us have gone home after youth group and scanned through Facebook to see what students wrote for a status update and if they mentioned being at Church. This is less about pumping up my own tires, and more about spotting trends. How did we teach tonight and did it stick? Are students sharing what happened or grieving missing the newest episode of Glee. More often than not, there is not much posted, and perhaps that is a reflection of how the night went. Its not a litmus test, but a decent indicator of whether or not we were clear in communicating God’s word and if we helped them understand how to apply it. The other half of the humility coin, is realizing just how much work needs to be done. My heart breaks regularly as I watch students wander down paths of destruction and pain and any time someone tries to pat us on the back about our ministry I want to reply with “we are not even close”. There are thousand of students near us that need to know Jesus and there is so much to do and just we can’t get full of ourselves.

Accountability: Facebook was gives us the ability to have a window into students and leaders lives that we never had before and vice versa. I love that students have a view into my life and can see the things I do when I am not “on” and I hope that they would see that my faith, my love of my wife goes deeper than just saying it. I want students to see my whole life and that means I need to live it. For students, since you are one of their hundreds of friends, they tend to be pretty real on FB which allows us to engage in parts of their life that are sometimes not good and have conversations about their struggles. I have been able to intervene with students before they get too far down a path of destruction and those conversations are not fun, but I am thankful to be able to have them.

Follow-up / Connection: This has been a huge win for us as far as getting students plugged into our program. We have lots of summer camps near us and several send us a list of students that made decisions, or showed interest in being a part of youth group when they got home. The challenge has always been cold calling students and inviting them to an unfamiliar place and everything we tried just seemed to miss. This year we plugged each of the names into Facebook and that revealed any friends in common who were a part of our group. Taking that information we contacted them and let each student know which of their friends were already here. We then took that list of friends in common and chose a few current students to suggest that they invite the new ones to our group. Retention of camp referrals and “new the church” students has increased significantly.

It’s a delicate balance being “friends” with students and remaining their leader and it’s a unique luxury that not even teachers are allowed to have. I see it as an opportunity to lead them better, encourage them more and model my Christian walk with more than my words on a youth night.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

A couple weeks ago we noticed we were closing in on a significant milestone of friends on our student ministry’s Facebook page. We decided to give social media a little intentional push during announcements and also to hold a giveaway to one of the new friends as we went over the goal. Don’t be distracted by the number of friends – what’s the point here?

  • Set a goal - 3 months ago we had 1/3rd this number of friends. The goal made a huge difference.
  • Make your Facebook page worth visiting – mobile uploads are your friend. Score a volunteer to oversee updating of pictures and statuses. I would guess most people will visit your Facebook page before visiting in person.
  • Pictures speak volumes - a picture is worth a thousand words. Get some pictures of students having a great time at youth group online.
  • Give to get – yes, the iPod giveaway idea cost us, but gave us an open door of communication with a much larger group of students than we had last week.

Grow your Facebook influence and it will help grow your youth group.

JG