Using Social Media Well
SOCIAL MEDIA use is becoming more and more prevalent, consuming more of our time, attention, and headspace than ever before. I figure this is nothing new to you, because for starters you probably followed a link I posted on Facebook to read this! Nevertheless, with so many of our youth online, social media is an excellent tool for us as youth leaders to use, but like all tools, it can be dangerous if handled incorrectly. So here are some helpful things to EMBRACE and AVOID when it comes to using social media as a youth leader.
- Have online messaging conversations with your youth. Often youth can find it to be a non-confrontational way of having a conversation, especially given there can be a chosen delay when responding to messages. Keep in mind that they can also be a little more reserved with what they share, but it’s worth noting that normal offline conversational rules still apply online.
- Create a group/thread for your year level or LifeGroup. This way you can continue the conversation from a Friday night, invite them to post any prayer requests, encouraging stories, or questions throughout the week, and also provides a platform for you to pass on any critical information.
- Post links to helpful articles or resources. Back each other up as leaders – there is so much out there (both good and bad!) but if you find the gold, share it around!
- Instantly connect with new group members. “Friending” a new person online is a simple act of openness and acceptance; back it up with a welcoming message and you have a great start to the relationship.
- Having late night conversations with members of the opposite sex, especially youth. Late night messages, especially if the conversation is around anything personal, can become deeply intimate (even suggestive) even if engaged in with complete innocence. I’ve found 10pm to be a good cut-off point. Do yourself a favour, get some sleep.
- Posting/being tagged in photos which may even suggest the abuse or exploitation of alcohol, drugs or sexuality. Every photo is interpreted through uninformed eyes, whether that be youth or parents. As leaders we are a living example of what it looks like to follow Jesus to our youth, and the authority of our words is fully dependent upon our integrity.
- Swearing in posts. Seriously, it is so unnecessary.
- Engaging in meaningless arguments. Once again think about how it is perceived (often as judgemental, proud…) and weigh it up with the 0.01% chance that you are going to change someone’s opinion through a social media debate, no matter how compelling you think your argument is.
(Please note that I’m not saying to avoid having a reasoned perspective on key issues, or even post about them, just don’t get wrapped up in a social media shouting match that will only cause anger and division – the church already has enough of that.)
If we can demonstrate to our youth how to use social media well, to master over it, rather than have it master over us, then this will go a long way to them learning to embrace it the same way. So don’t be scared of it, but instead leverage it for the great tool it can be!
How have you embraced social media as a youth ministry?
A printable version of this article can be found here: Using Social Media Well
About Gavin BrownI am a Youth Pastor working with students in Alice Springs, the heart of Australia. I have a passion for discipleship, equipping people to discover, live out, and multiply their faith every day, while simultaneously attempting to navigate the unique subculture of being a nerd that loves extreme sports.
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