Thursday, August 8, 2019

Students: The Digital Apostles of Youth Ministry

With students being on the frontlines of social media, they are in the midst of trending apps, hashtags, memes, and videos far more quickly than any of the youth leaders could ever be. To help fill the time, students may find themselves spending hours each day on their favorite apps if they aren’t yet working. The realm of social media is continuously transforming at such a rapid pace that the top social media apps of today will most likely be obsolete within the next few years. Instead of focusing on the exact details of how students can run a youth ministry’s social media, it may be more beneficial to simply provide a framework through which they can operate under.

In terms of creativity, content, and shared responsibility among its members, a youth-led social media team requires a level of trust that leaders extend to students. While this wouldn’t mean giving carte blanch to the students to tweet or post anything that comes across their hearts, youth ministry leaders must submit to the reality that this is a realm where they are not the experts. Thus, a balance is to be maintained between the creativity of the students and the guidance of the leaders. With a bit of mentorship and structure, this team is able to effectively reach an extremely captive audience and create an identity that is vibrant and active outside of the church walls.

While an organization’s successful social media accounts look and feel organic in many ways, the management of its social ministry portfolio is anything but. To be effective, the team must identify the app(s) that they would like to utilize and then develop a set schedule on which to post. Since some apps have restrictions on the length of characters and/or the length of videos, it may be easier to create content that fits within the most restrictive of the social media apps. From there, the team can just publish the same video or post to all of their other social media platforms without needing to recreate any of their original work (there even exists some apps that publish your content to all linked social media accounts at a future scheduled time and date).

Perhaps a goal of four to five posts a week is a great start, ranging from the detailed to the silly. This may initially seem like a lot, but simply looking at any public figure or large organization on social media today portrays an active account that consistently engages the community and posts content on a daily basis. If our youth are on social media every single day, and if the church wants to interact with its youth Monday through Saturday, then the church must go to where the youth are. 

Indeed, this area of youth ministry may very well be one of the areas of reaching the unchurched youth that has the highest potential. And since our youth are always the experts on technology, they are some of the very best candidates to be representing the youth ministry online. Just like how the apostles went to other nations, just like how they used the language of their target audience, just like how they lived among the individuals that they ministered to, and just like how they became all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), the church cannot ignore social media any longer if they want to reach the unchurched youth. While studies are still being conducted to show the effects of social media on teens, the prominence of this medium is undeniable, and this team could arguably be one of the very best evangelism tools that youth ministry has in today’s era.

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