Social Media can so often be the nemesis for any ministry worker. Stand in the shoes of any youth pastor or lead pastor in the front of the room, and you will easily see heads down with a blue light reflected on faces throughout the congregation or youth group. Recently, I had a youth pastor tell me, “We have a whole generation of teens that don’t know how to talk to each other. They can take pictures, post and comment, but they don’t know to have a conversation with me.” Our teens can be connected to hundreds of people through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter etc. and yet they long for someone to care about them.
Did you know that Generation Z (anyone born after 1995 aka - your youth group) uses an average of 5 screens and spends an average of 7.6 hours a day on social media?
79% of Generation Z demonstrates emotional distress when they are kept away from their electronic devices.
Generation Z has the average attention span of 8 seconds! They are growing up in a time where they are being served information from several levels and angles. They have adapted and can quickly sort through and assess an enormous amount of information.
So how can we connect?
1. Use Social Media To Your Advantage.
Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus use what was in front of him to connect with those he was ministering to and I think one of the greatest mistakes we can make is not using the platform given to us. We have access to speak life into young people at any given time throughout the day and with everything else being thrown at them, they need to hear truth. Create a Youth Group Facebook page, Instagram or Snapchat. It’s the quickest way to get info out to your teens but also to connect to them. Send out a quick video showing people what you’re doing at Youth Group that night or a share a video of yourself encouraging them to bring a friend. Connect to their world!
2. Be ACTIVE On Social Media
Ok, this goes with number one, but you can’t have a social media presence and only post when you’re canceling your event. Take time to “Like” things that your teens are posting, comment on pictures and find what you have in common with them. Teens (ok, lots of people) post practically everything on the internet and you have a window into the things they like and dislike, what type of conversations they are having, when they are feeling discouraged etc. One youth pastor told me being active on social media has created lots of dialogue and given her opportunity to minister to her teens because she notices what they post. Engage with their lives right where they are at. Be active where they are at!
There is no way you will get everyone to turn off their phones at youth group, but you can for portions of the night. During the worship and message portion of the night, have everyone turn their phone on silent but explain it early on in the night and say it every week. This helps your regulars to know what to expect every week and you will be surprised when they help tell the new people to turn down their phones.
4. Create A Culture
Make them have so much fun that they don’t want to look at their phones! Have active games that get them moving around and make them interact with other people. After your message, break everyone into groups of 4 or 5 and have your other leaders lead discussion questions with some “get to know you questions”. Have a group outing to your teen leaders basketball game, have lunch all together at school etc. Be intentional about getting them interacting and talking with each other.
5. Check Yourself
Now I know I just told you to be active on social media but at the end of the day, your teens will only experience Christ and His love through His people. If you are on your phone all night during Youth Group, they will be too. Teens will emulate what they perceive is socially acceptable for them. Take a picture during the game, send it out to the social media world and then put it down. Show them that they are important to you with your attention and time. In a world with so many voices, it may be the loudest thing that speaks to them.
Darci Black is a graduate of Elim Bible Institute and College. Darci has been serving with Campus Target for the last 6 years living in Asia and America and she currently serves as the Intern Director with Campus Target in Lima, NY. She is a writer and a photographer and loves traveling the world. You will easily find her reading, writing, extroverting, watching classic b&w movies and always drinking coffee.. all of the coffee. Darci’s heart is to see broken and hurt young people know the love and power of Christ.