I know there are a lot of opinions about media (social and otherwise) when it comes to student ministries.
Some ministries collect students’ cell phones as they enter a room or a retreat, some people are writing about how how they broke up with their cell phone to be more present in the moment, some ministries attempt to recreate their own version of really funny online videos, and much more.
All of which are fine, but I believe there are two ways to look at modern technology when it comes to student ministries: 1). An obstacle or 2). A tool.
Sure there are aspects of modern technology that can be a distraction for students. But I believe the ability to utilize technology for Kingdom ministry far outweighs the potential distractions.
So, for any of you student ministry staff, small group leaders, or volunteers, here are 8 ways I believe it can be helpful and sometimes vitally important to use media in modern student ministry.
1). Sign Your Ministry Up for Social Media. Make sure your ministry has FaceBook and YouTube page along with a Twitter and Instagram account. It might take time to build up a following and you might think the reminder tweet about service that night isn’t worth it for your 16 followers, but who knows, even if one more student shows up because of it, it’s worth it!
2). Post Stuff About Your Students. This goes both for the ministry account and the personal accounts of small group leaders. Instagram pics of them, tweet inside jokes, take group selfies, and tag them! Not only is it fun, but it will show them that you care about them and are thinking about them.
3). Use Hashtags. Have a hashtag for a teaching series or retreat theme that students can tag when posting pictures or about something God is doing in their life. Have a consistent one for your ministry, but also come up with ones that change every few weeks with a new teaching series or event. Even small groups came come up with their own!
4). Instagram Competitions. Maybe for a giveaway, maybe for a teaching, or maybe just for fun. Come up with a concept that students have to post and then tag (see above suggestion). Pick a winner and show the winning pictures/tweets at your service and online. It’s a great way to engage students.
5). Google Races. Let’s face it, students have their phones in church. I know it’s annoying to see that blue glow on their face when you’re passionately teaching about Jesus or belting out a powerful worship chorus, but it’s the world we live in. My personal opinion is: I don’t care if you’re not listening, I just care if you’re distracting someone else from listening who wants to. Meaning: I never required students to give up their phones, I just made sure leaders knew they were equipped to ask a student to put it down if they noticed it was distracting.
Anyway, one fun way to utilize this fact is to have a competition where you ask a trivia question and students with phones have to “Google Race” to see how can find the answer first. It’s fun as a whole audience game or with just brining a few volunteers up on stage. And for the students without smart phones, well they can keep playing Snake.
6). Find Videos Instead of Making Videos. Many times, a student ministry team will work really hard to create a funny or powerful video, spending hours of time writing, filming, and editing…only to discover an already made YouTube, Vimeo or Devour video a few weeks later that would have been perfect. There’s so much media out there! Before you use your time to create something or if you don’t have the resources to make one, do a little research and see if you can find it. Most likely it will be just as good and will take way less time!
7). Get a Text Service. It can be fun and really helpful to have a text service that students can sign up for to receive regular updates and reminders about ministry nights, events or competitions. They’re easy for students to sign up for and gives you instant access to the screen they’re constantly staring at.
8). Give Out Your Phone Number. There’s some wisdom that needs to go along with this (such as only giving it to your small group, only giving it to students of the same gender, etc.), but I’ve found that giving students the access to text me at any point opens a lot of opportunity for ministry. It’s fun to get random funny texts as well as have a few really great conversations about life and God. Sure you might get crank-called at 3am once in a while, but that’s just a small sacrifice for a big win.