“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary use words.” This quote is famously attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, when in fact, we have no solid evidence that he ever spoke these words. What we do know with certainty is that he was a very effective preacher and evangelizer. This saying has become popular because it highlights the importance of our actions. However, the idea of not using words probably makes people such as Saint Francis and Saint Paul turn in their graves!
Mastering the art form of communication is a key skill for any effective youth minister. It can be one of the most difficult tasks of a new youth minister because it involves knowing in advance what you want to communicate and to whom you are speaking. Let’s break down who our primary audiences are and what they want to know.
What’s going on?
We as youth ministers are competing with teachers, coaches and bosses for their children’s valuable time. Parents are more likely to pay attention and commit when they see that what youth ministry is offering will be impactful for their child.
Too Busy for Typos
Once a date is published, stick to it. Parents are far too busy to shuffle things around. Mostly likely they had to say no to something else so that they could attend youth ministry. If dates keep changing, they will stop committing.
Parents need quick, easy to read reminders. Use email and text messaging services such as Remind or Flocknote.
Are my friends coming?
Will there be food?
Is this required for Confirmation?
Use social media and sites like Sign up Genius to get info like this out to the teens.
Your Staff and Pastor
Where Are You?
Is your office or work calendar readily available to someone in the office?
Can people contact you if you are needed?
Do you prefer email or phone when you are out of the office?
What is Youth Ministry doing?
Share newsletters, flyers and emails with your co-workers. The more they know the more they can support you and the ministry. The goal is for all staff members to be able to answer simple questions for any parishioner such as,
“When does youth ministry meet?”
“How old do you need to be to be Confirmed?”
“How do I register for youth ministry?”
Where is Their Money Going?
The more you are able to put the faces of young people in front of the Parish, the more likely people who don’t have kids in the ministry are to support the youth. It also means come budget time youth ministry has a fighting chance at a decent budget because the Parish has seen that the money has been well spent.
What are the Teens up to?
The more we communicate what our teens are doing in our Parish and in our community, the more likely we are to develop a faith community that supports the young people. It also gives those teens and families a real sense of belonging and ownership within the faith community. For younger families, knowing what the teens are doing can create a buzz, an anticipation for their children to grow up and participate in youth ministry. Older couples or those without children at home will be more likely to volunteer their time, talent or treasure if they see what youth ministry is providing.
Plaster this information everywhere. Make sure it is the same information in the bulletin, on the website, on Facebook and in the Parish secretary’s calendar. If you’re new to ministry this is also easier said than done. Sit down with a trusted co-worker, mentor of volunteer. Plan through your personal work calendar and ministry calendar. Then have a proofreader look over everything before you publish it online or in print. Taking the extra time to do that will save you tremendous headaches later.
If you’ve ever been around a toddler you have probably heard their parent say to him or her, “Use your words.” Well it takes a couple of years for children to learn to communicate effectively. So give yourself a solid couple of years to get your ministry communications system up and running, but just remember to use your words.