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Dodgeballs and Social Media Assumptions

*Sweeping declaration alert* …Social media has woven itself into the fabric of society. Okay, so I know that this is not news to anyone with the internet, a television, a smartphone, or really anything that connects you with the world beyond your driveway. This unnecessary sweeping declaration is worth saying, though, because of how monumental this is. 

Facebook launched in 2004 and as of December 31st, 2016, they had 1.86 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) actively monthly users. I’m no math genius, but with only 6 billion people on the planet, that’s almost a third of the world’s population actively using this social networking site every month. 

Facebook isn’t alone in it’s pervasiveness in society. Instagram, which only launched in 2010, recorded 600 million active monthly users in December of 2016 and Snapchat which launched in 2011 has 300 million active users each month. It is no small feat for something that lives on the internet to find its way into every corner of our society, but somehow social media has done it. 

My passion is to equip and encourage churches and organizations with a burden for students in their community; to help them run their organization in such a way that 100% of the time that they should spend developing relationships with students and families can be used to that end. With my heart on the table (so to speak), one of the things every student ministry organization must think through is the “why” and the “what/how” of social media. This post is all about the “why,” when you’re done with it, go check out the “what/how” here! Let’s start with my basic assumption of social media and student ministry. 

Your student ministry’s social media is first and foremost the online, digital representation of who you are as a student ministry. 

Most student ministry social media profiles are used exclusively to announce or report about events. You post a picture of a line of dodgeballs to get your students excited about the game that night. You post a video of your students getting into the rusted out church van to show people that you are going to youth camp. You post a picture of three unrelated items on a table to build intrigue about what will happen at the lock-in that weekend. I’m not hating on this…I’ve done it myself. Using social media to announce events is one of the best ways to communicate information about your student ministry to your students (because they spend most of their free time engaging social media). 

This is not the main function of your student ministry’s social media, though. Because of the prevalence of social media in modern society, the things that you post online are one giant advertisement of who you are and what you value as a student ministry! Sure, the content has to do with specific things that are happening, but because of the inherent story-telling aspect of social media, the way you tell your story online says a lot about who you are. If you fill your student ministry’s online story with lots of fun events, it says to everyone engaging you online that you are all about fun events. 

No matter what social networking sites you choose to engage for your student ministry, consider the story you are telling about your organization before you post. I’m not saying that the pictures of camps, lock-ins and dodgeball nights are bad; students need to know that they are going to enjoy being a part of your student ministry. I would encourage you to think about what else is going on with your group. What else is important to you? What are the things about your student ministry that make it a unique place for students and families to plug in? Work those things into your online story and you will begin to see it reflected in the kind of people that are drawn to your student ministry. 

I’d love to hear what you think…let’s talk about it in the comment section!