Instagram Won't Kill Your Ministry, But Something Much Worse Will.

Many of you have read Daniel Beckworth‘s  post “Instagram Will Kill Your Ministry” over at Youthministry.com. If you haven’t,  please make sure to read his post before you read mine.

First and foremost, I agree with the points Daniel makes, except for the part about kicking puppies, maybe kicking cats would of been much more appropriate. All joking aside, I appreciate what Daniel has brought to the table and how we should be more aware of the pictures we are posting up on Instagram. I, like many of you, have an Instagram and post pictures of my students.  I not only post  group pictures, but also pictures of an individual student, male or female, with only myself. I have no issue with this and think using Instagram for youth ministry purposes can be a great thing.

As I considered what Daniel was writing, I believe there is something much deeper than Daniel’s issues at hand. Instagram, or any other social media, won’t get you fired from youth ministry. Social media falls under those grey areas in the bible, since no such thing was even conceived as possible at the time. Yet, I treat social media in light of 1 Timothy 4:4;

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

It’s funny to think of Instagram as holy; but the truth is, how we use it to glorify God is what makes it holy. We have this amazing ability to use all of God’s creations to bring people closer to him, and we should be willing to figure out how to use all the tools God has given us in a glorifying way.

So with that said, what can get you fired? Bad judgement. If you keep making poor choices with the tools God has given you, expect to experience a backlash. If all you are doing is taking pictures with one particular boy or girl, expect people to start wondering about your relationship with them, which could lead to your termination.

However, if you’re taking pictures with multiple students, or individuals with guys or girls, than people will see the love you spread to others and won’t wonder about your motives. This is why it is important to have guidelines for yourself, your volunteers, your students, and your ministry so that you can protect yourself and others. We may have major guidelines, but sometimes little things, like pictures, are forgotten about. If you don’t have guidelines for the pictures you post up, I encourage you to make some. Here are some questions to ask ourselves when we are taking pictures:

  • How is this picture representing myself, my students, the student ministry, the church, and Christ?
  • How many pictures have I taken with this particular individual or group?
  • Am I favoring one student or group over the other?
  • What can I do to encourage students to take the proper pictures of themselves and each other?

In the end, make good judgment calls when you’re ministering to your students and their families. Have open discussions with your student’s parents and your volunteer team on what they believe is appropriate for all social media outlets. When everyone knows what your guidelines are when it comes to social media, texting, pictures, volunteers, etc., then you can minister without fear of someone believing your motives are impure. Have fun with Instagram, and take lots of pictures to show the world how amazing our God is!

What are your guidelines for social media?

Do you believe it is appropriate to use Instagram in youth ministry?

Instagram Won't Kill Your Ministry, But Something Much Worse Will.

Many of you have read Daniel Beckworth‘s  post “Instagram Will Kill Your Ministry” over at Youthministry.com. If you haven’t,  please make sure to read his post before you read mine.

First and foremost, I agree with the points Daniel makes, except for the part about kicking puppies, maybe kicking cats would of been much more appropriate. All joking aside, I appreciate what Daniel has brought to the table and how we should be more aware of the pictures we are posting up on Instagram. I, like many of you, have an Instagram and post pictures of my students.  I not only post  group pictures, but also pictures of an individual student, male or female, with only myself. I have no issue with this and think using Instagram for youth ministry purposes can be a great thing.

As I considered what Daniel was writing, I believe there is something much deeper than Daniel’s issues at hand. Instagram, or any other social media, won’t get you fired from youth ministry. Social media falls under those grey areas in the bible, since no such thing was even conceived as possible at the time. Yet, I treat social media in light of 1 Timothy 4:4;

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

It’s funny to think of Instagram as holy; but the truth is, how we use it to glorify God is what makes it holy. We have this amazing ability to use all of God’s creations to bring people closer to him, and we should be willing to figure out how to use all the tools God has given us in a glorifying way.

So with that said, what can get you fired? Bad judgement. If you keep making poor choices with the tools God has given you, expect to experience a backlash. If all you are doing is taking pictures with one particular boy or girl, expect people to start wondering about your relationship with them, which could lead to your termination.

However, if you’re taking pictures with multiple students, or individuals with guys or girls, than people will see the love you spread to others and won’t wonder about your motives. This is why it is important to have guidelines for yourself, your volunteers, your students, and your ministry so that you can protect yourself and others. We may have major guidelines, but sometimes little things, like pictures, are forgotten about. If you don’t have guidelines for the pictures you post up, I encourage you to make some. Here are some questions to ask ourselves when we are taking pictures:

  • How is this picture representing myself, my students, the student ministry, the church, and Christ?
  • How many pictures have I taken with this particular individual or group?
  • Am I favoring one student or group over the other?
  • What can I do to encourage students to take the proper pictures of themselves and each other?

In the end, make good judgment calls when you’re ministering to your students and their families. Have open discussions with your student’s parents and your volunteer team on what they believe is appropriate for all social media outlets. When everyone knows what your guidelines are when it comes to social media, texting, pictures, volunteers, etc., then you can minister without fear of someone believing your motives are impure. Have fun with Instagram, and take lots of pictures to show the world how amazing our God is!

What are your guidelines for social media?

Do you believe it is appropriate to use Instagram in youth ministry?

The Key to Good Communication in Youth ministry

I’d like to say that when I was a student in Youth Group, I always relayed pertinent information back to my parents. I mean, I never missed any events and I always knew what was going on… but if I’m honest, more of that probably had to do with my Dad being the Pastor and already having all of the information.

But out of that, it was easy for me to fall into the trap early on in ministry that if a student got a piece of paper with important announcements, surely this slip of paper would make it into the hands of their parents before the end of the night. I think a lot of times we as Youth Pastors hope this to be the case and we trust students with the information, assuming that they are independent and fully capable of taking care of such a simple task.

But they rarely are able to relay important information. And when we assume they are, ministry suffers.

One time I handed out calendars for the next few months at the door as students were leaving.  I gave one to a kid whose mom had parked literally 10 feet from the door; he got the calendar, walked right out the door to the car, got in, and lost it. I didn’t see him lose it, but his Mom never got it, and they couldn’t find it in the van, his room, his clothes, anywhere… It was just gone.

To this day, I have no idea what in the world happened.

I’ve learned a lot about communicating with parents since then and I still am learning, almost every week, how to better keep parents in the loop; not just with dates, but with purpose, vision, and ideals.

I won’t say I’ve discovered any key to this; but what I am reminded of, and am sure you sometimes need to be reminded of as well, is the basic fact and truth that in Youth Ministry the key to good communication is to over-communicate.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate, and then Communicate some more.

We have a few events coming up in the next few weeks that I know our students all know about, but how many of their parents know? How many of their parents know why we are doing them? What’s expected of their students? What’s the cost? Can their students can bring friends?

And something I’ve caught myself saying in the past, and maybe you have too, is that it’s ridiculous for me to have to send out an email about every event, and then write a post on the student ministry website about it, and then post it on Facebook, and then post it on Instagram, and then make hand-out flyers…just to communicate that next Wednesday we are having ice cream on a different part of the campus.

But here are a few things that I have come to rest in for communication in Student Ministry:

1 – I’ll never regret over-communicating, but I will almost always regret communicating poorly.

2 – The ministry will be better if I can pass this off to someone else. It might take more work to get everything prepared for them to make all the emails, blog posts, Instagram images, etc.; but that will just force me to have a more organized event, which in the end, will turn out better.

3 – The reality is that it probably takes less than an hour to over-communicate. Is it worth an hour a week to ensure that all of our students and their parents are going to be aware of what’s going on next week so that they can come, know where to go, not be left out of the loop, and not feel like I don’t care about them? If I ever find myself answering “no” to that question, I only hope it’s because I’m resigning ministry.

So what are your thoughts on communication in Youth Ministry? Would you agree that, for the most part, Youth Pastors are poor communicators? Why do you think students fail to relay information, and how can we help them with that?

Youth Ministry Group Game – Shark Attack

This game actually started out as a bit of a joke as a few of my Middle School Leaders and I were brainstorming games. We thought about how you could make almost any game 50x better in, middle school ministry, by simply adding pool noodles to it, how even shark’s and minnows would become an entirely new game for the students who play it every year in the pool, if you simply added pool noodles.

Then the joke faded and we thought “well actually, that might be fun to try.” So we did.

To play this game you will need:

– Pool noodles, but get the ones at the dollar store that our like 60″ long, and cut them in half.

– clearly identified boundaries for your game to be played in

Shark Attack is basically the pool game sharks & minnows, but the rules for that game vary depending on where you live, so we’ll set it up.

We set up an area outside in our parking lot that wasn’t too wide or too deep for our size group, and then had everyone line up on one side. We chose one person to start out as shark, and the shark got two pool noodles. During the game, the shark can move anywhere he or she wants within the boundaries, and the object is to tag the minnows as they pass. To tag, you simply whack them with the pool noodle.

A leader will say go and all of the minnows have to run from the side they are starting on, to the opposite side of the game area without getting whacked by the shark. If they do get hit, they have to stand in the same exact spot they were tagged in, and a leader will bring them one pool noodle. They can’t throw their pool needle to get others out, they can’t move their feet in any way to get other people out, only stand as stationary towers. The last minnow becomes the shark in the new round.

Variations:

We played a few speed rounds of the game where everyone was free to move when they became sharks. These rounds were usually over fairly quickly, but what was nice about them, was because we played them after a few regular rounds, our students would primarily be concerned with getting their friends out first in these rounds, as opposed to the slower kids. So the winners of our speed rounds were, not every time, but often the students who were easy pickings with the normal rules.

Youth Ministry Group Game – Shark Attack

This game actually started out as a bit of a joke as a few of my Middle School Leaders and I were brainstorming games. We thought about how you could make almost any game 50x better in, middle school ministry, by simply adding pool noodles to it, how even shark’s and minnows would become an entirely new game for the students who play it every year in the pool, if you simply added pool noodles.

Then the joke faded and we thought “well actually, that might be fun to try.” So we did.

To play this game you will need:

– Pool noodles, but get the ones at the dollar store that our like 60″ long, and cut them in half.

– clearly identified boundaries for your game to be played in

Shark Attack is basically the pool game sharks & minnows, but the rules for that game vary depending on where you live, so we’ll set it up.

We set up an area outside in our parking lot that wasn’t too wide or too deep for our size group, and then had everyone line up on one side. We chose one person to start out as shark, and the shark got two pool noodles. During the game, the shark can move anywhere he or she wants within the boundaries, and the object is to tag the minnows as they pass. To tag, you simply whack them with the pool noodle.

A leader will say go and all of the minnows have to run from the side they are starting on, to the opposite side of the game area without getting whacked by the shark. If they do get hit, they have to stand in the same exact spot they were tagged in, and a leader will bring them one pool noodle. They can’t throw their pool needle to get others out, they can’t move their feet in any way to get other people out, only stand as stationary towers. The last minnow becomes the shark in the new round.

Variations:

We played a few speed rounds of the game where everyone was free to move when they became sharks. These rounds were usually over fairly quickly, but what was nice about them, was because we played them after a few regular rounds, our students would primarily be concerned with getting their friends out first in these rounds, as opposed to the slower kids. So the winners of our speed rounds were, not every time, but often the students who were easy pickings with the normal rules.

Recognizing Seniors in Student Ministry and the Church

I just started at my current church in the beginning of April, so the seniors here haven’t “grown up” under my ministry. Unfortunately, these seniors hadn’t had a youth pastor for most of their senior year, and I felt bad for them. So to make sure their senior year could end as great as possible, even with the circumstances, I did the following:

  • When I got here I made sure to reach out to each senior. They were some of the first students’ phone numbers I saved in my phone and the first students I had lunch with. I made an effort to show them that I care about them.
  • I built a relationship with them and showed them I cared about their future. I tried to engage them with questions about their future and their dreams about college. I would encourage them with the little I knew about the area schools and gave them the best advice I could give them from my time leaving high school.
  • I got them a good book, which I struggled with the most. Knowing the context I was in, I knew that their parents would be giving them good Bibles. I also didn’t want to give them good books they already read. I wanted to give them something that would prepare them well for college. I choose 99 Thoughts for College-Age people by Chuck Bomar. I tend to steer clear from “stereotypical” youth ministry books and publishing houses, not because I have anything against them, but because I just don’t tend to look at books that come out of there. It wasn’t until I was in a local Christian bookstore and thumbing through this book, that I had to reconsider my angst. This book is wonderful. It is short, thoughtful, and legit. Points on dating, spending money wisely, and how to look at campus ministries are just some of the many great suggestions and insightful tips that the author gives. His tips are exactly what I would tell the students.
  • I met with my senior pastor to find a way to for the church to recognize the seniors well. We blocked out about 20 minutes of the service just for them to be known and recognized by the church.
  • Lastly, I made a video with them in it to be played in service and posted on Youtube for them to look back on and share. I decided to make it upward-focused. From the music to the questions, I wanted the video to focus more about God and his work in the lives of the students, rather than just have a slideshow with baby pictures and a Vitamin C song.


How did you recognize your seniors at your church? What gifts did you give them? If you made a video, share them in the comments.