How many times a night do you have to ask a teen to put away his phone during program? Frustrating, right? But what if instead of fighting that battle, you ENCOURAGED students to use their phone during youth events?
Why on earth would I suggest something so stupid? What possible benefit could there be? Well, there’s at least five.
1) Creates a Buzz.
What are you doing to create a buzz about your ministry/program?
I’m not talking direct “advertising”, but how do you get people talking about your ministry not just at church in their regular conversations in their world? For teenagers, that world is dominated by snaps and Instagram posts.
It’s easy for me to post on Instagram. It’s easy for me to send a bunch of snaps or texts or even spam a student’s feed. But none of those organically create a buzz…it forces it. I don’t want to create the buzz, I want students to do so.
So we encourage teens to update their status about what they’re doing–even during program. If a bible verse we’re talking about strikes a chord with them, share it right then. Even give them a few minutes to create a cool quote image for Instagram and give out a prize for the best one. These “live updates” are even more powerful than the “Heading to youth night tonight” or “Just got back from a cool night at church” messages. Yes, it might be a little distracting (and yes, it’s not always appropriate–depending on what we’re doing), but I think it’s totally worth it.
2) Starts a Conversation.
Social media was designed to be conversational. When a student posts a bible verse, his friends will often share their thoughts on the verse. When they post a quote or bullet point of the night’s teaching, friends will ask what it means. When a teen posts a question about something they don’t understand or are trying to figure out, people will add in their opinions.
Regardless of what they post, chances are it will start a conversation. And anything that gets teens talking about their faith is a win in my book.
3) Helps Them Remember.
Teenagers are not known for their exceptional memory skills. In fact, most teens I know forget whatever they’ve learned as soon as they walk out the door.
Posting an important thought, question or verse right when they hear it or think of it helps them commit it to memory before they get distracted by som–SQUIRREL!
And even if they do forget it, their post is readily available for them to easily look up later.
4) Promotes Interaction.
The larger your group, the less interactive teachings/lessons tend to be. Why? It’s simply a logistic issue. When there’s a large group, it’s much harder for everyone to contribute their feedback and nearly impossible for the speaker to hear and organize the questions effectively.
If the teens are glued to their phones, how does it promote interaction? By creating an organized and simple avenue for their input:
a) Give the speaker a computer screen and students can post their feedback and respond to the feedback of others
b) Allow teens to ask anonymous questions. Using sites like PollEverywhere.com or FlockNote students can anonymously submit questions anonymously. We’ve been able to cover a wide variety of subjects and answer specific questions on things like confirmation, sexuality and sin.
c) Get to know your audience. You can run realtime polls to get a better idea of what you need to address. Ask a question like: How often do you pray? If the overwhelming percentage of students pray an hour a day, spend less time on “finding time to pray”.
5) Encourage Evangelization.
As Catholics we have the responsibility to evangelize and share our faith: teenagers included. We need to be encouraging teens to evangelize regularly.
The problem is: talking about your faith is scary and intimidating. Very few students (and adults) are excited about walking up to their peers and talking about Jesus. But sharing their faith via Instagram or Snapchat is much less intimidating. Does it replace face to face evangelization? No, but it’s an awesome and encouraging first step.
What about you?
Are you encouraging teens to share via social media during your youth events? Why or why not?