Guest Post: The Problem with Social Media in Youth Ministry

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We view social networks differently than youth view them and for a few more years this will be the case, as youth pastors didn’t grow up with social media the way our youth have.

My interest has been piqued by the recent upsurge in youth ministry blogs talking about using social media in youth ministry. I feel like I could point you to at least ten posts in the last three weeks dealing with this topic, and I have to say, I am disappointed.

Firstly, I am disappointed because along with this upsurge in social media posts on youth ministry sites, it seems to be a symptom of a problem with youth ministry blogs, many are getting away from youth ministry and getting into less important matters. It feels like in order to have a successful “Youth Ministry” blog, you have to give things away, point others to freebies, and not talk much at all about youth ministry, but rather just add to the bottom of a post “Wouldn’t this be great to use in youth ministry?”

Secondly, I am disappointed because many articles I have read go about “Social Media” in a completely wrong manner. Let me ask you this, “when was the last time you heard a student in your youth group say We should connect using social media?”

And here is the simple problem of why these posts go about it all the wrong way: We are not web 2.0 Natives.

Some back story:

My freshmen year of college was 2005, and here is something that many youth pastors will find completely foreign; I remember being asked to sign my name on an email to send to Facebook because we needed to have x number of people wanting Facebook for them to add a network for Trinity Christian College. Facebook was brand stinking new, it wasn’t even available to all the colleges. At this time, we were still using Myspace. When I got my first job as a youth pastor that year, I remember it being such a big deal that one of the senior girls in my youth group had a Myspace account and the only reason she had one was because she met a cute boy at a college visit who asked if she had one.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Facebook became open to the general public, and since then, it has grown.

But think about the students in your ministry and their views of Facebook, because it is completely different for them than it is for us. For them, Facebook has been around for “forever” it seems, because even the seniors have probably had one for at least all of high school. For many youth pastors, Facebook is relatively new on the scene. Yes, it seems like it has been around for forever, but we can also remember what it was like before Facebook.

So fast forward to today and add in the fact that many youth pastor social media “experts” use social media for promoting a blog, and you get a messed up view of social media being using in youth ministry.
I think Facebook can be a great tool for ministry, but can we accept the fact that the way we look at it is not the way our students do?

If you get invited to an event on Facebook, how often do you actually RSVP and do what you RSVP’ed for? How many times have you created a Facebook event for a youth event and had 4 people RSVP and 40 show up, or 40 RSVP and 4 show up?

So you want to know how to use social media to be the most effective in your youth ministry? As someone who loves blogs, it is almost painful to say it, but quit reading blogs about it and start asking your students. Most likely you have a group of students who you can ask questions like this in a productive manner. I guarantee you that will make your social media strategy 50 times better than reading 50 blog posts about creating one.

That being said, what are ways you have tried to use Social Media in Student Ministry that have failed? What have you done that has been wildly successful?

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Benjamin Read

Ben Read has been mentoring youth since he was 18 years old. He grew up as a pastor's son, but he and his siblings devoted to breaking that stereotype. Ben met his wife, Sarah, while they attended Liberty University, and they currently serve youth in the North Shore area of Boston, MA. He regularly blogs at intentionalstudentministry.com

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  1. says

    Great post Benjamin.  I agree it is so important to ask your teens about social media.  I personally think its a great idea to have one of your student leaders be the social media leader.  One of the best books I have read on this digital generation is Grown Up Digtial by Don Tapscott.  Its worth it.  

    I am shutting my site down as we speak.  lol.  

  2. seventy8Productions says

    I think that to assume we do ministry through social media or the web is a misunderstanding of how to use it. You sort of hint at this, but it is suppose to be a tool and nothing more. If the tool does not help you build relationships or share the Gospel effectively, stop using it.

    With that being said, not having a personal Facebook account means that you are not going into their world. This allows us to have a fuller presence in their lives.

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