By Jacob Eckeberger on July 29 2014
Original photo by Andrew Fysh.
It’s easier than ever to connect with and encourage students through social media. There are so many benefits to using social media to reach students that it can be easy to forget the importance of having simple self-imposed boundaries that help protect youth workers and students. In this 1Q interview, we ask 3 incredible youth ministers to share their expertise in response to this question:
Our Youth Ministry team actually just adopted a social media policy to be established in the fall for all volunteers and staff. We recognize that social media is the number one way of communicating directly with students, and don't want to discourage that! In fact, Instagram has helped my relationships with my students grow, as I'm still relatively new to the church. The main boundary that we have established is to make sure that all communication between adults and students is traceable--this means that social media like Facebook and Twitter are great, while Snapchat and Ask.FM are not so. Another advisement that we have is that when texting, be cautious about autocorrect (which I fail miserably at), abbreviations (like LOL, JK, LMAO, etc!), and emoticons. We also advise that you should always proof-read before you post, and if you think it has some way of being misconstrued, don't post it! Best example: One time I accidentally texted a student back, "Sorry, I'm really busty today. :-*" Well, I added the kissy face to prove a point to you, and that point is: Use common sense and proof-read what you post!
I believe that scripture provides great boundaries and guidelines for living today, including how we interact in social media.
1 Peter 4:11 says “Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (NLT)
In light of this verse, I think that our Social Media interactions with students should be R.E.D. lettered.
Stephen Ingram is the Director of Student Ministries at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL, a coach with Youth Ministry Architects, and author of "Hollow Faith and [extra] Ordinary Time." organicstudentministry.com
I use three simple rules when determining how and what social media I use.
Be wise as snakes and gentle as doves in the social media jungle and you will do well in student ministry!