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

Right after the Simply Youth Ministry Conference I always get asked the same question: how did you do that!?! I love a good idea – I love stealing good ideas, too. If anything you saw on the main stage was interesting to you or maybe inspired you to bring something back into your ministry setting – here’s the scoop on what we used or how we did it!

Poll Everywhere – the polls on the big screen were powered by PollEverywhere.com. The technology is free for up to 40 responses (perfect for most youth groups) and scales really well to have thousands of responses per poll. Be sure to check them out – we use it all the time in our youth ministry, it is so fast and fun!

AR.Drone – one of the new ideas this year was to use an AR.Drone to hover over the crowd with a gift card attached to it on a long string. The Drone is controlled by an iPad/iPhone/iPod/Android and streams live video from the hovering airship to the big screen. With all of the signals in the conference room it got bogged down a bit, but overall it was a super fun experiment.

Facebook Hack – This is a game we invented in our youth ministry a couple of months ago. You can read more about the game and download the title slide right here.

The Interlude – a fun dance you can download right here.

Digital Stachethese are the dudes behind lots of magic on the screens. We had an idea, they did it. Really stunning guys with tons of freebies and youth ministry resources totally worth checking out!

Twitter – this is actually a feature in the latest version of Propresenter (5, from what I understand). It is a super cool way to put up a paricular hashtag on the screen – it includes full moderation capabilities as well. Looked super slick up there!

Was there something else at the event you would like to know about? Hit me up in the comments!

JG



Will I stop using it? Probably not or at least not right now. Its just starting to bug me.? Rather, how ministry people use it is bugging me.

I accept, and even benefit from, Twitter as a tool for promotion. Its great for getting a quick blurb about our ministries, blogs, conferences, trainings, etc., “out there.”

But last night, I read a? phrase, “….nah, I’m not even gonna say it. It was just a conversation between two fairly visible youth people about other youth organizations and it felt…mean. Yeah. Kinda hurtful. Left me feeling sad about my profession and the use of social media. And honestly, I don’t think the same conversation would have happened on Facebook.

I’m not even sure the point I’m trying to make. Guess I’m just going to try and be? careful about what I tweet.? I can only clean up my side of the street.

Stephanie

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

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.



In order to build a successful youth group, you need to develop a trusting community among your students. It might seem difficult to get to a point where everyone feels comfortable enough to share what’s going on in their lives, but if you set the proper foundation students will begin to open up as soon as they feel they are in a safe and confidential environment. This is the backbone to getting any student to grow in their faith. So how do I build up trust in a group in order to get them to grow?

Students need to feel that they’re in a safe environment
In our youth group, one of the steps we take to keep confidentiality is have everyone sign a covenant. They agree that whatever happens in the group, stays in the group. That way there’s never a worry that someone will hear an issue with their friend, take it to school, and spread it all around campus. If there were ever an issue with that agreement, it would need to be addressed with the group right away to keep things at a confidential level and to show the group how serious we are about confidentiality. Following these measures goes great lengths to helping students feel comfortable about talking openly with their peers.

As leaders, we need to be available for problem solving
Just because your youth group ends at 8:30, doesn’t mean you’re off the clock. If you want your students to be open about things in their lives, you need to make yourself available. Make it known that you’re available all the time, but set some ground rules. For instance, I don’t want them to call me at two in the morning to ask, “What times does group meet tomorrow?” Give students ways to access you. Give them your cell phone number, tell them to friend you on Facebook, and be ready to talk when the phone rings. This is not an interruption to your life; it’s a responsibility you’ve signed up for as a youth leader. One of the things we do with our small group students is to sit down and have a one-on-one dinner with them (or two on one if you have a co-leader). When you do a one-on-one with a student they tend to open up more than they do in a group. When you’re first building a relationship with your students, this is an excellent way to get to know them, and for them to get to know you.

When one person opens up, the rest will follow
Usually all it takes is one person to get real for the rest of the group to open up. When the group sees that someone is letting their guard down, usually the walls fall down around the others, and they begin to peel back the layers of their lives. Oftentimes, leaders sharing their life experiences is enough to get the ball rolling. If students aren’t naturally opening up, you can start the chain by getting real about your life. All it takes is one person to take the first step, and the rest will follow.

Be proactive
If you see a potential problem forming, don’t wait for it to get out of hand. Be proactive in addressing the situation so that it doesn’t get to a point of no return. It is much easier to approach a problem before it starts than after it has time to take its toll. It shows students that you care about them and are active in their lives if you know what is going on with them. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation – sometimes students are just too embarrassed to start it themselves.

Something that might seem trivial or minor to you can be a huge deal to them. As a student leader, being available to use your life knowledge and your experiences to help a student is one of the best ways to show them you care. Relating your experience and your solutions is a way that you can pass on knowledge and growth from generation to generation.

Matt Reynolds and Steven Orel are volunteer youth workers at Saddleback Church. They approach youth ministry from an older (Matt is 50+) and younger (Steven is maybe 20) perspectives. Look for lots more from them in the future – for now you can follow them on Twitter, too!

Are you coming to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this March? It is going to be so much fun – come join us. If you are and want to help spread the word, consider adding a Twibbon to your Twitter profile pic. On Facebook, too!

JG