Yesterday, we posted our Twitter strategy and coincidentally, Collide Magazine posted a similar article. I wanted to offer four questions to answer before you go forward with developing your own strategy so as to streamline the process. Giving well thought out answers can make the process painless and achievable. Tomorrow, we will look at how we plan to handle networking.

Who do you post tweets for? This can be as simple as “for myself” or as complex as what we said: “Everyone who wants to impact the Church as well as those who love technology and social media …” Remember, the broader you get, the more you will have to keep track of, write for, and network with. In a business model, hopefully this is already written done somewhere. If not, look at your mission or vision statement and hopefully it will become clear. For those that are just posting for fun or as freelance workers, what topics do you find yourself wanting to post?

What is the endgame of your tweets? Do you want your followers to go somewhere to buy something? Are you intended to have them see your blog? Or maybe you simply want us as followers to see how brilliant you are, awesome! For churches, it might be reminders of events. For us, we have stated that “the first line of interest is our ‘product’ including our blogging and projects we are working on.” Whatever it is you are wanting to do, remember that this is your top priority. Retweets and #FridayFollows are great, but these are not the top priority in the vision of this Twitter account. Always keep perspective of that.

When is it best to tweet consistently? For some, once a day is all that they care to post. Others have an automated WordPress plugin like Twitter Tools or scheduling web app like HootSuite to plan things out for you. One advice for multiple daily tweets, space them out through the day. It is good marketing to not only let followers know you exist but remind them throughout the day. For us, we have scheduled tweets from 8AM EST to 5PM PST as well as semi-hourly networking tweets.

Is there value to what you have to say? It is one thing for us to have a strategy of using Twitter and whole other problem of not having anything valuable today. The last thing I care about is that the Chinese food you had for lunch was too much for you. In fact, I might stop following you solely for that reason. We are not asking you to reinvent the wheel, a Scripture verse that caught your eye or a retweet about the latest Google or Apple press release is perfect, but will your audience like it too? At the same, some of it should be coming from you. It does not have to mind-blowing, but should represent you or your organization.

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years and absolutely loves sharing the life of Jesus with teens. Check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

Brilliant new Easter-story as told by social media from Igniter. Awesome. As seen on Youth Ministry Geek, if you want to pick up a copy for services this week or next, you can right here.

JG

WorshipHouse Media



I’ve been hearing some great comments and questions about our just-finished You Own the Weekend series, thought I would post a few more answers and clarifications in case it is an idea that might be transferrable to your youth ministry setting. A couple years ago we posted a few different questions about the series idea, here’s a few more answers to the questions you asked this year:

How do you organize the students willing to help? This year we focused our organizational efforts almost entirely through Facebook. Students organized themselves online as well as had meetings in their school a few times leading up to their weekend, too.

Does each school have a point person they go to to organize the logistics of the weekend series? Yes, each week had an adult assigned to be their mentor to help guide them. The idea is that students do everything, but having a key volunteer/staff/intern guide them through unfamiliar processes (like printing the bulletin) and make sure they stay within acceptable youth ministry boundaries.

How do they volunteer, is everyone from the school able to participate? To what extent? A few leaders naturally rose up from each school, and helped determine each other students involvement. Without a doubt there are a few tensions and conflicts that arise, but that is a GREAT learning byproduct of the series. Usually students settle on who will do what, and there are many opportunities to serve in many different capacities.

How do you keep the school spirit side of it from creating division in the group? Great question! Without a doubt the excitement over someone’s school can actually hurt the unity of the student ministry. We took that into account and ended on a strong unity theme. I do think that students enjoyed coming to the other weekends, just to see how the other schools would do.

How do you keep the students from booing when a school is mentioned? This really happened and to be honest, I think as long as it is kept in check it is acceptable. I think there is a little friendly rivalry happening, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

Does creating an environment of healthy competition make the event more successful? It does. We were clear from the beginning that this was in no way a competition, but a little of that does surface during the series. Everyone tries to do their best, and usually weekends take on very different shape/tone from each other so it seems to work out.

JG

Here are a few things that are working well for our ministry right now in social media:

1. iPray. It’s a closed group that students have to request to join. They can post what they need prayer for and pray for each other.

2. Groups. Before or after almost every event there seems to be a group started for it. Before the event groups are started to promote the event. After events like camp, groups are started to help students find each other on Facebook and stay connected.

3. Pictures. EVERY week I take pictures (even if it’s just a few) at our weekend service or at Chick fil A afterward and throw them up on Facebook. Students love it. Not everybody can get away with that, though. It’s kind of funny. A friend dressed up as me at our Halloween party last year and was taking tons of pictures. People kind of freaked out a little until they realized he was just being me for Halloween. I don’t know how to explain that, but there’s something to be learned about having a person known for taking pics in your ministry. We’ve never made me an “official” photographer, people have just gotten used to me doing it.

4. Tag. I usually tag at least one student in each picture and they usually tag each other from there. Always tag your ministry in each picture. As students tag each other, they might see your ministry tagged. That’s just one more door for people to check you out.

5. Open profile. Have your ministry’s profile open to the general public. People should be able to see everything there is to see without being friended with your ministry. I suggest having a profile instead of a page for your ministry. There’s more stuff you can do that way.

6. Daily activity. Go on once a day and wish people happy birthday. That’s a great way for friends of friends to see your ministry. It’s also a great way to have an extra touch in the lives of students… especially students who have stopped coming.

7. Troubleshooting. Look for concerns. If you see students who post status updates that show they are hurting or are posting inappropriate content, shoot them a Facebook email to touch base, encourage, invite out for a Coke. Be careful not to jump on their case if they’re posting inappropriate content. Address it in a redemptive way.

Dennis Beckner has been a volunteer youth worker for 10 years in the high school ministry at Saddleback Church and now runs Celebrate Recovery for Students on Friday nights. Check out his blog for fellow youth workers at VolunteerYouthMinistry.com.



If you are a youth worker, paid or volunteer, you know all of the liabilities that youth ministry faces. From simply driving a student home to planning a hiking trip, you have to constantly think about the safety of the students as well as the safety of those serving the students, including yourself. Using Facebook for ministry is not excluded from this safe environment. Here are just a couple of ideas for keeping all protected:

  • Protect Yourself. Protect Them.
    There is so many news stories of religious clergy overstepping boundaries and getting in trouble, even when they were not doing anything wrong. Do not put yourself or your students in a compromising situation where you could be accused of something. Just like with any form of communicating, watch your words. Unlike any other form of communicating, Facebook is open for the world to see, including over-protective parents or a board member just looking for a reason to fire you.
  • Have Permission Before Posting Pictures
    There could be many reasons a student does not want their picture on Facebook. Their parents are divorced and the parent with custody does not want their ex to see anything. You went swimming and the student is not comfortable having their picture online. The guy just broke up with his girlfriend in the picture and is still upset. Whatever the reason, you should be sensitive to the students and families feelings.
  • Be A Role Model
    Another pitfall is that students can become “addicted” to streams of information on Facebook, which can foster a “gossip mentality,” said Buckley. “When students gather together, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase, ‘Did you see so-and-so’s status? Did you see the pics he posted?’ Many times, these statements turn into speculation and gossip, which can be hurtful.”

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years and absolutely loves sharing the life of Jesus with teens. Check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

Let me just say this right off the bat, if you are looking for quick fixes, you will be sorely disappointed. I feel that a change of intention is needed here and band-aids will not solve the problem.

The topic of how and why we can use social media in youth ministry has been talked about lot by many other people smarter than myself: Adam McClane, Daniel Darnell from Collide Magazine, and Brian Kirk from rethinkingyouthministry.com. I agree with many things that they say, but as I talk with youth workers, am finding issue with several different things with social media.

This idea started with several key conversations I have had in the past year. The first one was talking with a youth worker who wanted to keep his personal life separate from his ministry, honorable and smart. His solution to this idea was that he needed to have three Facebook usernames and would spend up to 4 hours total a day checking everything because it was so disjointed. Another conversation not long after that, a solo youth pastor without volunteers told me how they would spend one day a week for the sole purpose of their ministry’s online presence. Finally, I constantly see staff and admin trying to redesign, rework, and reinvent a lot of stuff with their blogs, Twitter, Flickr, and everything else.

So what am I getting at? Look at the heart of what you are doing:

  • Face Time With Students Is More Important
    Time with students is vital. I find that I barely have enough interaction for them, my volunteers, the parents, my boss, and God. Am I being a good steward of my time? Unless you are LifeChurch.tv, there should be no reason other than to spend 20 seconds sending a tweet or 5 minutes making a Facebook event.
  • Online Promotions Just Do Not Work
    If you have a whole marketing department with your church, AWESOME. Then online advertising will work. There is a marketing practice that states you need to have audiences hear or see your ad five times for them to remember your product, seven times to be interested in it, and nine times before you start to really influence them.
  • Work To Your Strengths
    If you have volunteers, student leaders, or really involved parents that understand even just a little about social media, you have the opportunity to build some really amazing relationships with them and multiply the ministry by COMPLETELY handing off the project to them! As a college volunteer, myself and another student were in charge of the web design, maintenance, and social media presence for our youth group. This empowered us as volunteers to feel like we were investing in the ministry and in the kingdom and I feel forever changed because of it. And if you do not have those people in your ministry, you have a bigger need than updating another status.
  • Listen To God
    I love doing web designs because God has wired me to be equal parts relational with others and functional. So when I find my “introvertedness” kicking in, I know I can go write some programming code, play around in Photoshop, or simply be alone with God and my heart, mind, and soul become more still. But if all these social networking tools start to become a distraction with your relationship with God or others, it is time to put it away. Unplug and go out into the real world.

Jeremy Smith is a 26 year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years and absolutely loves sharing the life of Jesus with teens. Check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.



It’s been an incredible year here on More Than Dodgeball (MTDB as the locals call it) – thanks so much for joining with me in the journey of youth ministry. I’ve had so much fun and appreciated all of your comments, emails, Tweets, Likes and guest posts. Close to half a million pages viewed during the course of the year with the blog now totaling 5,012 posts with 13,158 comments. Holy smokes!

Here’s a selection of the top 50 youth ministry posts of the year as told by Google Analytics:

And the most visited static page was My Recommended Youth Ministry Resources page – if you’re looking for some good stuff to use in your ministry setting in 2010 there is a good place to start.

Thanks for stopping by, subscribing and spreading the word in 2010. Here’s to 2011!

JG

The gang gathers round the table full of Christmas cheer. The team has big changes to talk about. They also talk about facebook and students owning their faith.

JG