Thursday, May 14, 2020

Youth Ministry and the Influencer Report

Late last year, Market Research & Data Intelligence company Morning Consult surveyed over 2,000 13-38 year-olds and published a study called “The Influencer Report: Engaging Gen Z and Millennials.” Not only is it a very relevant and timely publication, but here at Focusing on Jesus we will be spending time this summer in exploring the Influencer Report through the lens of youth ministry within the church. I invite you to join me for the journey and to bring along a friend or two by forwarding this to your youth ministers and/or youth pastor, as this will be a series of articles they won’t want to miss.

One of the five key takeaways that the Influencer Report opens with is that “Influencers are More Trusted as Spokespeople than Celebrities.”  Today, we will consider how this element is applicable to your church’s youth ministry:

What is an Influencer?
Social media influencers are typically regarded as individuals who are recognized in having an authoritative voice within a specific content area. Generally speaking, these well-known individuals maintain a social media presence that frequently engages their fan base and they mainly become successful through the production of creative content that stands out from the crowd. Celebrities on the other hand typically find their success not through a consistent engagement with fans, but through the successful completion of projects, events, competitions, or other milestones. Not many fans would notice if celebrities aren’t on social media for weeks, whereas the absence of a high profile social media influencer may be noticeable within 24 hours.

While being an influencer hasn’t always been married to the upkeep of a social media presence, it is a necessary reality in the midst of our technology-driven world. We trust individuals more as we build a relationship with them and we build relationships with individuals as we spend more time with them. Since it is no secret that today’s youth spend a startling amount of time on social media, it is easy to see why we are called to go to our youth and interact with them on the social media platforms that they reside on.

Youth Pastor: Influencer or Celebrity?
Engaging with their students may be what determines if a youth pastor is acting with a celebrity or influencer mentality. For example, does your youth pastor connect with and minister to their students on social media throughout the week? While a broadcasted weekly youth service is wonderful, a youth ministry doesn’t stand out in a student’s social media feed if it relies solely on this type of outreach. If this is the only method used by the youth pastor to connect with their students, they are exhibiting characteristics of a celebrity youth pastor who tries to build their ministry through event-like youth services. However, creatively interacting with their students in a consistent manner through direct messages, goofy snapchats, frequent spontaneous livestreams, quick texts, supplemental resources, or even thoughtful small group discussions can help towards transitioning the youth pastor from celebrity to influencer mentality.

Trust is the Key
Encouraging students to trust their youth leader(s) and youth pastor is key. Until they know our desire to become better acquainted or how much we care about them, students may be cautious about freely extending their trust. Such barriers can be gently chipped away through time that is spent together. If looking to build additional trust with your students, consider utilizing the principles of social media influencers, where frequent touchpoints are incorporated within the student-pastor relationship.  

Let's Connect! Follow on Twitter: @SeanBuono

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