Ways to Use Social Media In Your Ministry

d_kow7ihnnw-saulo-mohanaSocial media is a vital part of doing ministry in our world. A ministry that isn’t leveraging social media is missing, in my opinion, one of the most effective ways of communicating with people in our culture. Everyone seems to be using at least one social media network and most people are using multiple ones. So how can we in ministry take advantage of this?

I want to suggest a few simple ways you can use social media in your ministry. Some of these suggestions are things we are currently doing in our ministry while some of them are things we are not doing but other ministries are.

Event Promotion. This is by far the easiest and most popular way ministries are using social media. However, this can be overdone. People want to see more than event promos on your social media accounts. More than likely if all they see is promos for your next event they may stop looking at your account all together or glance over it in the future. So promote your events but do so wisely.

Event Pictures. It’s easy to post promo stuff about your event but it’s another thing to intentionally get good photos from your events to post. People both at the event and not at the event will enjoy seeing pictures. This is also a great way to show people on the outside what your ministry looks like. Be sure to capture good photos. Have someone who is gifted in this area take photos at your events and post them on your social media accounts.

Sermon Quotes. This is a creative way many churches are using social media. It’s also a great way to get the sermon out of the pulpit and into the minds of people throughout the week. Take quotes from the sermon and post them throughout the week. This allows people to be reminded of what they heard but also share God’s Word with other people via social media.

Worship Set. This is another creative thing many churches are doing. Simply post the songs your worship band did on social media. This is a great way to communicate the songs you sang with your people since many of them may love the songs you sing but not know the title. I’d encourage you to search #worshipset and #sundaysetlist on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to see some examples of churches doing this kind of thing.

Highlight Volunteers. Volunteers are vital to any ministry. We should always be looking for creative ways to brag on them and a way to say “thank you.” Social media is a great place to do just that. It allows us to publicly thank them and brag on them for a bit. Some churches do a “Volunteer of the Week” type thing. They pick a volunteer every week that serves in their ministry and they post a picture and some thoughts about them. They usually highlight where they serve in their ministry and then give them a public “thank you” for all to see. One of the churches that is doing this very well on a weekly basis is Collide Church. Jump over to their Instagram page to see their “Volunteer of the Week” posts.

These are just a few simple ways you can use social media in your ministry. Be creative and be looking for ways to leverage the power of social media for your ministry.

Suggested Books: Going Social by Terrace Crawford and Social Media Guide for Ministry by Nils Smith (both of these books are a few years old so they may be outdated in some areas in regards to social media).

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Yik Yak – What Parents Need to Know

XP1PspM3There is an app that is has been growing in popularity among teens that parents need to be aware of called Yik Yak. In this post I want to share a few things parents need to know about this app.

How Does this App Work
Yik Yak is very much like Twitter but with some unique differences. On Yik Yak everything is anonymous. That is the big catch with this app. Users post what is called a “Yak.” A “Yak” must be 200 characters or shorter. Once a user post a “Yak” it is posted on a live stream. The other big catch with this app is that is location based. So the live stream of “Yaks” is made up of only users within a 10 miles radius of where you are. Users have the ability to reply to “Yaks” as well as “upvote” (like) or “downvote” (dislike) them. The two big things to remember about this app is that everything is anonymous and is location based.

Some Negative Things to Be Aware Of
There are a few negative things about this app parents need to be aware of. First, sexually explicit content is common on this app. For an example, when I downloaded this app and opened it up, three out of the first six “Yaks” on my feed were sexually explicit statements. I know some people will argue that sexually explicit content can be found on any form of social media but apps like this (and others like Snapchat and Whisper) make it easier for teenagers to view and share this type of content. A second thing parents need to be aware of is the cyberbullying risk that comes with this app. Like Ask.fm, since users can post anything as an anonymous user there is a huge opportunity for users to cyberbully other users. This will often happen through users replying to other users “Yaks.” Because of this, many schools, both high school and college, have banned this app. Yik Yak developers do use a technology called geofencing, which allows certain areas like schools to be “fenced” off to avoid cyberbullying. However, this doesn’t always work and is not always used which leads to continued cyberbulling on this app. The last thing I want to make sure parents are aware of with this app is the illusion of location privacy. Even though this app, and many others like it, ensure location privacy there are always ways for people to find out where other users are. This may not be easy to do and the average user will not be able to do it but it can be done. For an example, two teenage girls where arrested when they made threats about a campus shooting on this app. The two girls were tracked down by police and arrested. One article reminds us that “every digital device has an IP address that allows for it to be tracked.”

What Parents Should Do
Once parents are informed about this app and are aware of how it works as well as some of the negatives things that come with it, what should they do next? First and foremost parents must not be afraid to have an open conversation with their teenager about this app. Explain to them how it works if their teenager doesn’t know already (impressive them if they don’t) and talk to them about some of the negative things that come with using this app. Once parents have done this they will need to decide if this is an app they are ok with their teenager using or not. My suggestion for parents is to not let their teenager use this app. There isn’t really any point to it and there is no good way for parents to track what their teenager may be viewing or doing on this app. However, a parent could see what their teenager has posted as a “Yak” or their replies to other “Yaks.”

I’d encourage parents to also check out iparent.tv’s post on this app. They share some good insight on this app that would be worth checking out.

What Parents Need to Know About Their Teen and Sexting

teen-using-cell-phoneOne of the popular trends among teenagers today that parents need to be aware of is sexting. In this post I want to share a few thoughts on sexting that I believe will both inform and help parents have conversations with their teen about sexting.

What is sexting? The first thing we need to do is establish what sexting is. Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos via text messaging or some other form of social media messaging. In the past the idea of sexting has been referred to as phone sex or cybersex. Research from Pew Research found that last year 78% of teenagers had their own cell phone. They also found that half of them not only had a cell phone, but had a smartphone. We can assume the percent of teens with cell phones has risen above 78% since last year and with the popularity of smartphones more teens are not just getting a cell phone but a smartphone. The majority of sexting happens via text messaging. However, sexting, as we see in the definition above, can be done also through social media networks. So sexting can happen via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram since these networks all have private messaging features. Other apps like Snapchat are extremely popular for sexting.

Why is sexting popular with teens? There are a few reasons why I think sexting is popular with teens that I think are important for parents to know about. First, sexting seems to be popular with teens because “everyone is doing it.” Many teens who may not feel comfortable sexting will eventually do it because their friends are. Which leads to the second reason I think sexting popular with teens, which is peer pressure. Teens feel pressured to sext because “everyone is doing it” or maybe their boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring them into it. For example, one girl said she was pressured into sexting when she was only 12 years old by the boy she was “going out with.” Usually it’s the guy that pressures the girl into sexting. One article says that 51% of girls said they felt pressured by guys to sext while only 18% of guys said they felt pressured from a girl. The third reason sexting seems to be popular with teens is the false sense of safety that comes with. Many teens that will not engage sexual activity in person will sext because they feel “safe” or “comfortable” behind the screen on their phone. Also, the app Snapchat has a feature that allows you to set a time limit on how long someone can view your picture. However, all this is a false sense of safety and comfort. An article I already linked to mentions two great points on this – photos and videos sent privately can be easily shared publicly and once digital images or videos are out there they leave a digital footprint cannot be “taken back.” When a teen sends a semi-nude or fully nude photo to someone within a private message the person that receives that message can easily save the image to their phone and share it however they want. Even though apps like Snapchat give the user the ability to set a time limit, the person receiving the picture can easily take a screenshot before the time limit expires. There are many more reasons why sexting is popular with teens, but these are a few important ones for parents to know about.

Why is sexting is a bad idea? For starters, sexting is a bad idea because it can lead to teens being publicly humiliated if their private photo or video goes public. Not only that, but in many states sexting is actually illegal and is considered a major crime (click here to sexting-related laws based on your state). What I am about to say next may not sit well with you if you do not believe in the Bible and view it as God’s standard of absolute truth. However, since I am a Christian and believe in the Bible I want to point out what God has revealed about sexual activity, which is what sexting is. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, and Ephesians 5:3 tells us to flee, abstain, and to not even have a hint of sexual immorality. What does sexually immorality mean? Sexual immorality, when used in the Bible (Greek word – porneia), refers to any form of sexual activity outside of the context of marriage between one man and one woman. God’s design is for a man and a woman to enjoy sexual activity within the context of their marriage. Any form of sexual activity outside of that, like sexting, is considered sin and is wrong.

What can parents do about their teen and sexting? The best thing parents can do is to have an open conversation with their teen about sexting. Talk to them about the pressures and dangers that come with sexting. Talk to them about how they should use text messaging and social media. Also, do some research and learn about the sexting trend among teens so you be informed and be intentional about helping your teen in this area. Lastly, don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your teen when it comes to their phone. Keep an eye on their social media accounts (get their username and password so you can check them from time to time) and other things they may be doing on their phone.

There is much more we could say on this topic, but this should inform you as a parent and help you understand your teen and sexting.

Using Instagram in Student Ministry

instagram-logo-whiteOver the past few months I have been using Instagram more and more in our student ministry. For a long time Facebook was the best place to be for promoting events and connecting with students online. However, students are leaving Facebook and spending more time on Twitter and Instagram (click here to see how you can use Twitter in your student ministry). Even though I still use Facebook and Twitter in our student ministry, I am spending more time and putting more energy into using Instagram. I want to share with you a few thoughts on using Instagram in student ministry.

Create an Instagram profile for your student ministry. Everything I share from this point forward will be pointless if you don’t already have an Instagram profile. You may have a personal profile for yourself, but I would encourage you to make one for your student ministry. We have a Instagram profile for both our middle school ministry and high school ministry.

Promotion. The main way you can use Instagram in your ministry is for promoting upcoming events, series, and your student ministry in general. Whenever we start a new a series I will post the series graphic on our Instagram and invite students to join us for the start of that series. Also, when events are coming up I will use Instagram to promote it weeks leading up to the event. Not only series and events, but we use Instagram to simply get the word out about our ministry and when we meet. Every Tuesday morning, I post something on high school ministry Instagram inviting students to join us that night for our weekly gathering. I do the same every Wednesday morning for our middle school ministry. The best way to create a quality graphic for promoting things on Instagram is to use the app Over. It’s simple and easy to use.

Connect with students. I know connecting with students in person is way better than online, but let’s face it, we would be foolish to totally ignore the fact that we can effectively connect with students online as well. Instagram is a great place to do just that. This may be best done with your personal Instagram account instead of the student ministry account, but either way, connect with your students. “Like” their pics and even comment when it’s appropriate.

Post pictures and videos instantly from an event or during your weekly program. Whenever your in the middle of an event, retreat, mission trip, or weekly program, post a picture or video so others can see what’s going on. This is a great way for other students to see what your ministry is like. They may see a picture and want to come and check out your ministry! Also, this is a great way for parents to see pictures of their children and the ministry they are in. Plus, students will see pictures of themselves later on and generate some traffic as they “like” it and maybe comment on it.

Live pictures. There is this awesome program called Instafeed Live you can use to have Instagram photos be posted live on the screen at your event or weekly program. You simply create a hashtag for your ministry or an event then when students post a picture on Instagram with that hashtag in the caption it comes up on the screen. It will then live stream all the pictures that have posted with that hashtag. We used this at one of our events this past Fall and the students loved it!

You may be doing some of these things already, but if not, consider leveraging Instagram in your student ministry. Students are there and it’s a great place to get the word out about your ministry.

Negative Impact of Social Media on Teens

the_blogger-4eb9744-introA few weeks ago I taught a parent seminar called “Social Media 101.” In that seminar I talked about the impact of social media on teens. Most teenagers in the world today don’t remember a time when there wasn’t some form of social media. One article says, “Teens today, also known as the Facebook Generation or ‘digital natives,’ are part of the first U.S. generation to be so closely identified with technology.” Social media is becoming more than just a part of their world, it’s becoming their world. Teens are spending more and more time online, usually on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter, and their online life is not just staying on their computer at home. Most teens now have smart phones where they are on social media networks all throughout the day. They are constantly texting, tweeting, and posting pictures via Snapchat and Instagram.

What impact does this hyper-connected social media life have on teenagers? The impact is both negative and positive. There are some good things that come out of social media for our teens, but that is a topic for a later discussion. For now, I want to focus more on the negative effects of social media on teens.

Always connected. Today teens don’t know how to disconnect. Social media has allowed them to take their life online and instead of saying goodbye to friends at school and waiting to see them the next day, they just go home and jump on their favorite social media network and interact with them for the rest of the day. With the rise of smart phones, such as the popular iPhone, teens don’t even have to wait to get home. They can now interact through social media on their way home with the help of their smart phone. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and all the other popular social media platforms are right there on their phones. One reason this “always connected” activity is harmful is because of the alarming trend of cyberbullying. Parents remember when bullying only happened at school or on the bus. Once you got home with your family you were safe. However, bullying has now moved from not only being in the school and on the bus, but online. What does this mean? If a teen is getting bullied, they cannot get away from it! The people bullying them simply continue their bullying via social media (Click here to download a great free resource on cyberbullying).

More comfortable, less sensitive. Another impact social media has had on teens is teens being more comfortable online doing things that they should be more sensitive to doing. Sexting is a perfect example of how comfortable teens are online. Many teens today are not comfortable enough to engage in physical sexual activity in person with someone, but are more than comfortable to participate in sexual activity online with someone. Social media apps like Snapchat make this extremely easy for teens. Teens feel “safe” behind their computer screen or phone so they will post nude or semi-nude pictures. Or they will engage in sexual conversation through Facebook messaging/chat or texting, but would not be comfortable to have those conversations in person. Are all teens using social media for sexting and stuff like that? Certainly not, but many are. No matter what it is, sexting or bullying, teens are more comfortable doing stuff behind their screens than they are in person. Social media has made this easier for them to embrace stuff they would not otherwise embrace because they can do it “safely” behind a screen.

Identity crisis. The section above makes it extrememly clear that teens today who are highly engaged in social media are having an identity crisis. Not all of them are, but many teens are someone else on social media than they are when they are with their family or possibly church if they are involved there. Social media has made it easy for teens to not be consist and have a “double life.” Everyday I see students who tweet and post things on Facebook that totally contradict what their parents, or others that know them personally, think of them.

Has social media ruined teenagers? I don’t think so. However, there has been some negative effects on teens because of social media. It’s important to remember these things when raising or ministering to a teenager. Social media has and is changing the way they life. It is effecting who they are, what they do, and how interact. The things above are just a few of the negative effects I see social media having on teens. In the comment section below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you see social media having a negative impact on teens.