We are kicking off our second month at the new site location with focusing on communication. As a youth minister there are so many groups you have to communicate with. Parents, staff, the church, teenagers, teachers, coaches, etc. The list is almost endless. We kick it off this week with the question…….
“What are effective ways you use to communicate with youth?”
Jen Van Camp has been the youth pastor at Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, CA for over 8 years now. She grew up in Lexington, KY, and is a graduate of Cumberland College and McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta. She loves her niece and 3 nephews, her little dog Chito, all things music, pop culture trivia, and of course, Kentucky basketball.
I’ve found that the most effective strategy to make sure my youth get useful information from me is what I call an attack on all fronts, ha ha. And by attack I mean methods of communication, of course. I send out a weekly email and that used to be my main mode of getting out information, until I realized (because many of them told me) that they didn’t actually read the emails (and I discovered, neither did some of their parents…but that’s a story for another day). They told me not to take it personally, they didn’t really read any of their emails.
Ok…so I started sending out individual texts to certain youth to make sure they knew what was going on (which isn’t that hard because I have a pretty small group) and found that this was very effective mainly with the high school students. They generally responded back quickly and this also opened up lines of communication for us to share/chat about other things as well.
Finally, for some high school/college only events, I send a group message on Facebook, which has worked really well so far. They can all respond and interact with one another, plus I can actually see who has viewed the messages. I’ve also found FB chat to be helpful when catching up with their lives individually, sometimes I’ll initiate and many times they do. I think it’s important that they know I’m available to them and not just to talk about youth events. This has also been a good way to keep in touch with our college students.
So, in conclusion, I still send a weekly email to students and parents, which works well particularly with middle school students (I love it when they email back, I know they’re actually paying attention!); I text certain students occasionally when I need to hear from them or know if they’re attending an event; and I use FB chat as another way to chat and convey information. Oh, and I’ve left out the most obvious way- actually talking to them in person, ha ha, not to be overlooked. I assume our most effective methods of communicating with students will continue to morph and change as social media and availability of that changes as well. So for now, this works for us! Next year? Who knows?
Chris Cherry is an ordained minister who received his Masters of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology. He enjoys foosball and skittles, but doesn’t particularly care for static electricity. He is currently serving as Minister to Students at St Andrews Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.
Has anyone else noticed the more outlets there are for communication, the less people seem to actually be paying attention? In our youth ministry, we communicate using an emailed and hardcopy youth newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, and the occasional email. Oh, and, of course, announcements are made out-loud and in-person when we’re together. I’ve even been known to send some important information home by way of the old fashioned mail carrier. If you ask me, that’s quite a network of communication! Right?…
Still, I get the late night text message saying, “Chris, when is this event?” “Chris, when is that meeting?” “Chris, how much does this other thing cost?”
I really wrestled with this blog post. I honestly think we get the word out rather successfully in our ministry, but there are still holes that exist. What I’ve come up with is the start of a conversation about communication. Here are a few points that do help make our communication pretty decently successful most of the time (maybe). Are you convinced? Me neither, but the following things really are helpful tools that improve our ability to communicate with our youth in ways they actually see on a regular basis.
Yes, texting. Texting is number one for a reason. I’ve met maybe 2 teenagers in my entire life who don’t read their texts the very split second their phone buzzes (which is another reason we have a box for phones in our youth room). They read text messages. If I need one or two people for something or the announcement is last minute, I send a text message.
*Disclaimer: Be careful with texts. Know what your youth/child protection policy will allow. I often include a trustworthy, but impartial 3rd party in texts when it’s one-on-one with a youth, especially if that youth is female. Group texts can also help keep everyone safe.
HootSuite is one example of a platform that brings all your social media connections into one resource. I can type out posts really far in advance, schedule them to send, and have the posts hit all our social media circles at the same time. I’ve found parents read Facebook, youth see the tweets, and I can write them all out when time allows instead of on-the-go.
3. The Newsletter
We do a new youth newsletter every week. It gets emailed out in PDF form on Fridays. The PDF format allows us to easily print hard copies to place around the youth room on Sunday mornings. Many youth do read the email version, but most will sit and look at the hard copies while they eat their breakfast before Sunday School. Then, when I make announcements, they can follow along with what’s on the newsletter and we hope the repetition forms a memory.
None of these ideas are groundbreaking. None of these ideas will solve the communication barrier. But these ideas together will increase the likelihood that people see what you produce. If you have ideas or proven methods, continue the conversation below in the comments. Sharing ideas and resources is what this site is all about!