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.
ATTENTION STUDENTS! I’m doing a totally free video game giveaway competition! Instead of using them as coasters or really lame Frisbees, I want YOU to have them! All games are for Play Station 3 and if you win, you won’t even have to pay for shipping!
Here’s how it works:
– Post a picture on Instagram or Twitter with the game you want to win and why you think you deserve to win it.
– The picture can be funny, serious, random, or whatever you want. Just be creative!
– Keep any text explanation under 141 characters.
– Make sure to tag @dugansherbondy and use the hashtag #DGameGiveaway so you can see others’ entries!
– The only other rule is that if you win, once you beat the game, you have to give it away to someone else!
Winners will be announced April 1st with the winning posts featured at www.dugansherbondy.com
(side note: a couple games are rated M so I’ll need parental consent before mailing games to the winners.)
Let me know if you have any questions and have fun posting!
- Alien: Isolation (PS4)
- InFamous: Second Son (PS4)
- Assassin’s Creed 2
- Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
- Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
- Assassin’s Creed 3 (With Specialty Case)
- Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
- Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
- Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- InFamous 2
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Max Payne 3
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: Masters Edition
Last weekend at Cross Point Church here in Nashville, Pete Wilson was teaching and referenced “The Magnificat”, which is the song that Mary sang after discovering she was pregnant with God’s Son. Speaking to an audience of Nashvillians (97% hipsters and/or people in the music industry – see above picture) Pete said that Mary was very “Nashville” because after going through a powerful emotional experience…she wrote a song about it.
I lol-ed, along with all the people around me who were wearing beanies, visible arm-tattoos, and judging me for putting sugar in my organic pour-over coffee (see above picture).
As he read Mary’s song, which I’d heard many times before, there was a phrase that caught my attention.
In Luke 1:51-52, Mary writes:
He has done mighty things with his powerful arm.
He has scattered those who are proud in their deepest thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones.
But he has lifted up people who are not considered important. (NIRV)
The part that drew my attention was the phrase “those who are proud in their deepest thoughts.”
It shook me a little.
It shook me because there are many times that I am prideful, but not the kind of pride that most people could identify. Maybe the people who know me best might be able to detect it a little, but I think I’m really good at fooling the majority of people into thinking I’m a humble, selfless, and generous person…despite what’s happening in my deepest thoughts.
One of the scariest teachings I’ve heard is by Bill Hybels called: “Who You Are When No One’s Looking.”
It’s scary because it forces me to admit that I think way more about who I am when people are looking than who I am when I’m alone. It forces me to admit that I practice my appearance more than I practice my character. That no matter what I can convince people of, God still knows my deepest thoughts.
I love Christmas gifts. I love giving them just as much as I love getting them. There are a lot of things about Christmas that I love (decorating our tree, the music, the movies) but by far, exchanging gifts is my favorite. I love the anticipation of opening presents, the authentic joy of a gift, and the obviousness of when someone is faking how excited they are for their new sock ironer, and everything else that goes along with it.
I sometimes get a little sick of church signs or iPad commercials telling me about the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ but at the same time, I probably wouldn’t ever think about it if I wasn’t reminded to. And the real meaning of Christmas is gifts. Or more accurately, one gift. The greatest gift ever given: Jesus.
Jesus was a gift.
A crazy generous gift. Like a billion PS4’s. God gave us His Son. And not just to spend a few years with us, but to die for us. God loved people so much, He gave the most generous, sacrificial gift ever. The life of His Son.
My favorite Christmas song ever is called “I Celebrate The Day” by Relient K and my favorite line of that song is:
“I celebrate the day that you were born to die so I could one day pray for you to save my life.”
Up until I heard that song, I’d never put it all together that Jesus was born to die. I mean, I knew that’s what happened but people generally think about Good Friday during the chorus of Silent Night. Christmas is such a joyful time of celebration and hearing the story of Jesus being miraculously born. He’s this cute little baby surrounded by calmly grazing animals and shepherds who came to worship Him.
But He wasn’t born to give us nativity sets or Linus something to say on stage.
He was born to die.
He was born to die for the pride I have in my deepest thoughts.
Because Jesus died for me when I was at my worst.
I’ve often heard that Jesus was thinking of each human being as He died on the cross, which I believe is true. But He wasn’t thinking about us when we’re at our best, He was thinking about us when we were at our most sinful. Jesus died for you and me when we were at our worst. He died for the me who disobeys God. The me that is selfish, lustful, hateful, prideful, and cruel. That’s the Dugan He pictured when He was dying. He didn’t just love my best to die for me, He loved my worst. And not just the worst that people see, but the worst that only He sees in my deepest thoughts.
He loved me more at my worst than I love most people at their best.
And if ever there was a thought to celebrate Christmas, that’s it.
This Christmas I want to do my best to live with a deep sense of humble gratitude that Jesus was born to die for me. For the deepest sinful parts of me. And as I give and open gifts to and from loved friends and family, I want to remember that Jesus was a gift. To me, to you, to the whole world.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
I had the privilege of teaching at a retreat in Virginia this past weekend to about 500 high school students. It was an amazing weekend and through a bunch of conversations with students and leaders, it was clear God did some really powerful things.
Based on many of those conversations, I learned that the most significant factor in how God impacted people through my teaching was two personal stories I told about people in my life. One story involved attempted suicide. One story involved abortion. The focus of the stories wasn’t on these issues but more about the power of God’s love and grace to redeem them for something good.
After seeing and hearing the many students who responded with courage and humility to dig up some of their own junk to surrender to God and talk about with their leaders and small groups, I was reminded of something I’ve always believed very strongly in:
STUDENT MINISTRIES NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE AWKWARD.
When it comes to awkward and heavy topics like suicide, pornography, addiction, abortion, cutting, drugs, eating disorders, alcohol, homosexuality, abuse, sexual intercourse, oral sex, and everything else in between, student ministries need to be a place where it’s not only safe to talk about, but a place that readily and regularly brings them up. Obviously this is important to teach Biblical truth and wisdom about them, but also (and maybe more importantly) to make it a place of safety for students to engage in asking questions and having conversations about them. After all, students are hearing various perspectives of these subjects in their daily lives from school, friends, media, family, and pop-culture, why wouldn’t church be a place that talks about it just as much, if not more?
So, if you work in student ministries, never shy away from talking about the awkward. In fact, I’d say pursue these subjects with a great deal of intentionality! Use wisdom and discernment about when, where, and how they are discussed, but don’t use the potential awkwardness or heaviness of a topic as an excuse to avoid it.
And if you’re a student, be an ambassador in your ministry to help make it a place where you and your peers can discuss heavy topics without fear of judgement or being shut down. Talk to your small group leader and/or youth pastor and tell them you’d like to do a teaching series or workshop or something about an issue that your heart is passionate about. It could be anything such as struggling with thoughts of suicide, porography addiction, sexual activity in dating relationships, or anything else you’d like. And if they tell you that they aren’t the kind of student ministry that talks about that kind of stuff, find a new one to be a part of! Any student ministry that is avoiding the awkward, heavy topics is one that is avoiding something profoundly necessary to talk about in the lives of students. So find one that does.
And finally, if you’re a student and deal with any of the issues mentioned above (or one that I missed), my best advice to you would be to TALK ABOUT IT! Talk about it with someone! Find someone, a parent, your leader, your small group, your pastor, a teacher, someone in your life who loves you and loves Jesus that can listen and then speak truth and grace to you about whatever you’re going through. And not just someone who will tell you what you want to hear, but someone who is going to push you to take the bold steps to seek healing.
I look forward to the day when students can bring up something like self-harm or sexuality in church, knowing that they will be received with love, grace, and hope. And even further, they would find a place that desires the best for them and engages with them about their struggle with a heart for healing and freedom!
A few years ago, I was part of a teaching series for junior high students called “Call of Duty.”
Obviously a ton of middle school students play it (and could snipe me in less than a second while jumping off a water tower from 7 miles away and pulling the pin on six grenades) so our team thought it’d be a fun way to explore our “call” to the basics of Christian disciplines. I grew up with things like reading our Bible or having Christian community being a natural part of my life, but many students might not know the truth or power behind them. So we wanted to talk about them.
One of the main disciplines that I had really sensed students wanted to learn about, was prayer.
I’d been noticing how it seemed like a lot of students were really uncomfortable with praying. Even students who go to a Christian school or have Christian families had trouble praying. When I would ask them in small group, they would awkwardly and hesitantly try and form a prayer with the right “spiritual” words they thought they were supposed to say. Or if I met one of them for lunch and asked them to pray before we ate, they would nervously laugh and ask me if I could instead. Or when asking students if they every prayed on their own, they wouldn’t know how to respond.
I began to see that a lot of students didn’t understood what prayer actually was. Prayer is a conversation with God, but I think students looked at it more of a churchy thing with churchy words that only adults and leaders were good at.
So for the kick-off night of “Call of Duty” I had the privilege of teaching about prayer.
I taught that prayer means ‘to ask’, that it is a conversation between us a God, and that prayer is a privilege (not a chore). I also taught about the idea of praying constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) by doing what I called ‘texting’ God at any moment with whatever you want to tell Him or ask Him. I taught that you don’t have to close your eyes or fold your hands to pray since Jesus didn’t when He prayed (John 11:41-44). And I taught about listening prayer and how simply talking to God is only half of what prayer is; that God speaks to us.
And to end the night, I wanted to give students a real practical ‘how-to’ when it came to prayer. So, I decided to take The Lord’s Prayer and try to make a practical prayer tool for students. Here’s what I came up with:
When we pray, we begin by thanking God for something good in our life (“Hallowed be Your name), since everything that is good comes from God (James 1:17).
Then we can ask God for some thing(s) we need (not want) in our life (“Give us this day our daily bread”).
After that, we need to pray for forgiveness and receive God’s grace (“Forgive us our sins”).
Then, we have the opportunity to pray for someone in our life or world (“As we forgive those who have sinned against us”).
And then finally, we conclude our prayer by praising God and telling Him something awesome about Himself (“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done”).
I realize it’s not a perfect copy of The Lord’s Prayer but I wanted to make it as clear and simple as possible.
To help with that, I came up with an acronym:
T – Thanks
A – Ask
F – Forgiveness
F – For _____
Y – You are…
Yes, they’re cheesy, but they’re also helpful. The night I taught this, we printed the acronym up on small cards and taped a piece of Laffy Taffy to the back of them so students could keep (or eat) it to remind themselves how to pray.
After I wrote my teaching, something totally unexpected happened to me: I began using TAFFY to pray! I wrote this whole thing for a group of middle schoolers but God totally challenged me with it in my own prayer life! I later gave the same teaching to high shoolers and encouraged them by telling my own story of how God used this hokey acronym to help me connect to Him more.
The spiritual discipline of prayer has never come real easy for me. Reading the Bible is fun, having good community I’ve always known is important and been intentional about, and worship is something I’ve experience different seasons of passion for. But prayer has always been really difficult for some reason.
However, by using TAFFFY, it gave me a jumping off point to stay disciplined in my prayer when I needed it and further pursue connecting with God the more I conversed with Him.
I realize it’s not perfect (I don’t have anything about ‘lead us not into temptation’ or ‘protect us from the evil one’ or about listening prayer) but the Lord was so faithful by surprising me with a fresh, fun way for me to stay disciplined in my prayer.
And yes, I ate the Laffy Taffy. And by “the”, I mean “four…teen”
To listen to my full teaching on the TAFFY prayer and download your free taffy card (made exclusively by Lindsay Letters!), click HERE!!!