Speak Teen SPEAK!

 —  August 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

texting

In our ministry we have a rule.  No cell phones in use while the students are present and our programming is in action.  This rule goes for volunteers, staff and participants.  Unless you are using a “Bible App” to look up scripture, we shouldn’t see it,  and yes I check it.   This summer as we have had a number of our teens actually volunteering in our elementary age day camps I have seen something interesting.  At 2:00 the moment program ends and the last child walks out the door,  cell phones immediately emerge!  It’s like the texting/social media/ smart phone zombie apocalypse has taken root.  Heads are down, eyes ablaze as they catch up on all the pertinent information they have “missed” in the last 4 hours of “no phone zone.”

As I have text to talked or been FB direct messaged on major life issues I just have to wonder if scripting every thought is an easier way to go?  Since TONE doesn’t exist well in word/online communication a lot of drama erupts that could be avoided with at least a phone conversation and even more so with facial expressions and body language in play.   In short, I think we need to encourage students to learn how to sit down and use their voice once again.

Please hear me.  I am not anti-text/social media connections.  What I am seeing is that this the “goto” method of “talking.” I wonder if we are raising a generation that avoids face to face communication? Have they forgotten how to speak?

Can we do anything about that?  Here are some starting places:

  • Meet With Students One on One:

When I started in youth min, my mentor would say,  “If you want to get to know a kid take them out for a soda.”  What we did or drank was arbitrary.  The point was being present with each other.  Sit face to face, make eye contact and talk about deep issues,  outside of programming.  If at all possible draw in other adults and small group leaders to do the same.  Begin to teach, that this is the way we handle the “toughest stuff.”  It’s unscripted, raw, messy and uncomfortable.  That’s good.

  • Encourage Parents To Draw Lines.

I get it. The battle for independence with anyone from 6-12 grade is constant.  It’s also part of adolescence.  We drew up “electronic contracts” for our kids that not only included appropriate use, but times when cell phones are not “allowed.”   This has helped tremendously.

  • Be a good example:

I admit it,  I can be the worse at this one I was convicted even recently about how if I want to teach students the importance of communication beyond written form and the need to put the cell phone aside when talking to someone,  I have to step up and do the same.

Students need to learn to have a full conversation,  face to face conversation when they are totally present.  There is a place for tweets, Facebook, email and text, it just shouldn’t be the ONLY way we talk to each other.

What are YOU doing to help this generation learn the art of “in person” communication?

 

 

 

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!



rotary phone

“Does it work?” one of my children asked.

“Yes, it’s plugged into the phone jack, of course it will work,” their grandmother responded.

“How do I use it?” they sat wide eyed.   “Well, you put your finger in the hole of the first number you want to dial and pull it down until it stops, do that with every number until the call goes through.” she explained.

“Can I try it?!?” they wanted to know.

This conversation happened last month between my three Middle School children and their grandmother.  She happens to keep an “old fashioned” rotary phone plugged in.  It’s funny to think a generation not only has never “used” one of these, they can’t recall seeing it before much less it existing in their home.  There was a time when getting in touch with students was as simple as seeing them in person or picking up a phone… that was attached to a cord of some kind. Not so any more.  In person is still the BEST way to communicate with a student or their parent.  However, there are times when we must track them down by other means.  If I want to “know” what’s going on in their lives I have to use different methods. I think this is true of the “churched” and “unchurched” crowd.

It may seem like an oversimplified list,  however to be in the know of my students I literally have to use ALL of the following methods:

 

text

The “Old” Faithfuls

Phones and email still remain key ways to communicate. I have one student who loses their phone often, but always checks emails. Another student will only text me. Now with talk to text options on smart phones, conversations are made easy.  There are times when I just need to hear their voice. I always make sure to know if they still have a landline, and who answers it.  These are always are starting places in the dance for communication.

 

facebook Facebook

My students may ask if you have an account on “The Book.” (It’s what some of my youth call it.)  Sometimes this is the best way to get a message to a student, or a simple reminder on their home page. Starting a youth group page, or events page for trips is usually the easiest place to get all of your students to check and be held accountable.

 kik Kik

“Kik” is a texting app that can be added onto a smart phone, ipod or tablet.  The reality is not all of my students have a phone, or their phone service is turned off from time to time.  This texting app allows you to talk to friends as long as you have “wifi.”  Recently, I had a student with no phone, who never checks Facebook or email.  We finally determined she had this account and we could get her info she needed.

instagram Instagram

More and more of my students are either taking down their Facebook pages, or they simply don’t use them.  Where they are at right now is Instagram.  If a picture is worth a thousand words then this is the place for you to “see” what’s going on in the life of your students.

This may not be true of everyone, however, most of my students currently do not use Twitter.  Vine is the up and coming video looping site and Pinterest is where we go to gather information about an idea. However, the truth is if I really want to “talk” I still approach it “old school,”  I show up and see them face to face.

How do you stay in touch with YOUR students?

I’ve been on Twitter for years now – my friend Tony turned me back onto it when it was first breaking onto the scene. I didn’t understand it at first, but love how you can quickly send out a burst of information to your followers.


Would love you to follow me on Twitter – click here to do it right now
- but most importantly wondered what types of Tweets you like to see? Thought this poll question would be interesting today – vote up to 2x!

JG



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)



Had an acquaintance who went from having a new Twitter account to 5K followers in less than a week. Possible he did it the right way, but probably not. Ever bought followers or been tempted to? Vote in today’s poll!

JG

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