Written by Aaron Helman
When I started in youth ministry, MySpace was literally just being invented. We established a MySpace page for our youth ministry before it was even cool to have a MySpace page for your youth ministry.
It was 2004.
And that was the last time I’ve ever been ahead of the curve on social media.
Today your students use Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and SnapChat and YikYak and Tumblr and a dozen other social networks that neither you nor I have even heard of yet.
I used to think it was important to take a few Sundays a year to talk to my students about how and why they use social media, the dangers and opportunities it presented, and how their social media presence could be a ministry tool.
I don’t do it that way anymore. I talk about social media just about every single time I’m with students, and I think you should probably doing the same. Here’s why:
Students are absolutely living their lives through social media.
There used to be a time when people used social media to reflect what happened in their lives. We went on Facebook to post about experiences we’d had in real life. But for teenagers today, much of actual life is what happens in social media.
When I share a message – for example, maybe we’re talking about honesty – I always look for opportunities to share life application. How does this lesson affect a student’s home life? How does this lesson affect a student’s school life? Those are questions I want to answer every single week.
But in the last few months, I’ve added a third question:
How does this lesson affect a student’s social media use?
You have students in your ministry who conduct 75% of their meaningful peer-to-peer conversation over social media or virtual venues. If I’m talking about gossip but don’t address the avenue where students spend three-fourths of their social lives, I’m missing an opportunity.
You have students in your ministry who have more virtual friends than face-to-face friends. If you talk about sharing the Good News, but don’t address their online relationships, you’re missing an opportunity.
You have students in your ministry who type more words than they speak (think about that for a second). If you talk about taming the tongue, but don’t address the things your students are sharing in YouTube comments, Reddit posts, or angry tweets, you’re missing an opportunity.
You have students in your ministry whose journey away from purity is happening primarily through online channels – like inappropriate SnapChats. If you talk about dating without addressing what’s happening through their iPhones, you’re missing an opportunity.
The message of the Gospel has profound implications on the way teenagers live their lives, and social media has become an increasingly larger way that teenagers live their lives. That’s not the kind of thing that we can only address sometimes, or in one three-week series a year.
It’s the kind of thing we need to address all the time.
That’s why I talk about social media every week.
HOW TO HELP TEENAGERS NAVIGATE THE WORLD OF SOCIAL MEDIA
We recently released a podcast episode discussing ways to help students navigate the world of social media.
We decided to repost the episode below (in case you missed it), because it aligns really well with this blog post.
PODCAST IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
In this episode we discuss:
- The many potential dangers of social media, both extreme cases and the normal issues that all teenagers face.
- How to specifically help teenagers navigate the world of instagram, snapchat, vine, twitter, facebook, or whatever social media platform they’re on.
- How to partner with & equip parents. Because the world of social media is constantly changing and evolving, our approach to walking alongside parents in this area needs to change as well. We discuss specific ways to do this.
- How to help students in their everyday lives do social media better.
Just press the play button in the below image.
Aaron Helman is on a mission to end youth worker burnout by providing the training and resources that you haven’t been taught… until now. Smarter Youth Ministry exists to help you learn how to manage their time and resources better so that you can do more ministry with less frustration. All of that having been said, you most likely know him as the creator of “Lamentation or Taylor Swift Lyric.”