Outreach to the Community Through Technology
To connect with kids, show up on their phones. Young people unite around technology, and texting can foster relationships for Christian evangelism and discipleship ministry. | by Tom Pounder
“Go where students are” is one of the key phrases that student ministers hear when they begin doing youth ministry.
The idea is, if you want to reach students for Christ, you need to go where they are. Are they at football games? Then go there! Are they at school fundraisers? If so, go there!
Go where students are and begin to build relationships that open doors for you to help them discover who God is and the great plan He has for their life.
USING SMARTPHONES AS A YOUTH MINISTRY TOOL
So, where are students today? They are in a lot of different places, depending on your area. But, no matter what part of the country students live in, there is one place students are at ALL THE TIME.
Students are constantly on their phones! Whether it is an iPhone, Android or another type of smartphone, students constantly have their phones on them. This fact presents a great opportunity for student ministers to easily reach them, connect with them, and encourage them.
Using these texting tips for youth ministry will build connections, but it doesn’t stop there. Using messaging is also an opportunity for student ministers and youth pastors to reach and build relationships with parents and leaders as well.
In fact, if you’re going to start texting a student, it’s a good idea, whenever possible, to let the parent know you’re doing so.
In youth ministry, we go where the kids are. It’s time to go digital in our effort to connect. Use text messaging to send meeting info, prayers, and other important communications. It’s where they’re at.
The smartphone industry has changed the way relationships can develop and communication can happen. Not only can you call students and parents, but you can reach out to them via messaging apps at any point of the day. And there are plenty of different messaging apps that students and parents for communicating. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are just some of the different platforms available.
7 TECH TIPS TO BUILDING HEALTHY CONNECTIONS
Check in and encourage.
Go beyond notifications. Of course, youth ministers can use text messaging as a way to remind students of events or happenings or weekly meetings.
In addition, a great tip is to also use this mode of communication to connect more with students deeply by encouraging them and praying for them. Ask them questions like, “How can I pray for you?” or share a Bible verse you believe will encourage them.
Focus on moments and memories.
Use text messaging as an opportunity to share about experiences and memories with students. Text them “happy birthday” or memories of big events in their spiritual journey or life. When you do this, students are reminded of great moments and times with you and the church.
What about kids who no longer attend youth group? Go for it! It might help them to feel welcome to return, or simply feel cared about.
Texting in youth ministry can be a powerful tool when used to tag students in memories or announce a birthday. Build community with these small connections.
God can do great things through sharing of simple memories or moments. It’s in those moments that connections are formed, comfort is built, and community is developed.
Limit how much you text.
While texting students and parents can be a quick and effective way for you to communicate, the reality is that it’s easy to text too much. My biggest student ministry texting tip is to LIMIT YOURSELF.
The more you text them the more likely they are going to tune you out and stop answering your texts. Choose your texts wisely and refer the readers to a web page or other piece of communication if you need to relay details or a lot of information.
Use multiple text platforms.
When texting first became an option on phones, the simple SMS that came standard on phones was the only option. Thankfully, that is not the case anymore.
Whether it is Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter or any other app, there are many different ways to message people. For instance, some students will only respond on Snapchat, so use that app to message them. Or if you can connect with them on Instagram DM, use that.
Another valuable tip when using texting in youth ministry: Don’t be tied to what you like best. Find out which app the students use the most and use that platform.
Proofread your text before you send.
Like in an email, words texted can sometimes get taken out of context or intent. Sometimes, it is hard to read the intent of the writer unless it’s in all CAPITAL letters.
Words can get lost in translation, and sometimes leaders speak a different “language” than the students they serve. Especially in youth ministry, be sure to proofread your text before you hit send so that you communicate what you need to communicate without confusing, upsetting, or offending anyone.
NO private conversations!
When you hit “send,” you leave a record of what you say. That is not a bad thing as we should be above reproach at all times. But it’s a great reminder that what is said in a private, individual conversation has a specific intention for that specific person, and yet it’s never fully private.
At any time, someone can take a screen shot of that text or conversation and share it with someone else. At that point someone can take it out of context, and they can tell others what you think about a subject for their purposes only and may put you in a tough situation of explaining why you “said” what you did. Think very clearly about what you are texting before you hit the send button.
Limit direct conversations with the opposite gender.
As a student minster you get lots of texts from a variety of people. After all, people will get your number from fliers and each other. That’s a good thing! You want to be accessible to students.
But, if a student of the opposite gender texts you, it should be very brief with a simple response and no engagement of personal matters discussed. The more engagement you have with a person from the opposite gender, the more likely that a connection and chemistry begins to form that may draw you and this student together in an unhealthy way. Simply keep it short and/or redirect to a leader of the same gender as the student.
Smartphones have changed the way student ministry can be done. It provides so many opportunities to reach and develop relationships with students, leaders, and parents. I hope these youth ministry texting tips will help you make deeper connections and relationships with your youth, parents, and volunteers. May God guide you and bless you as you use this tool for Kingdom purposes.