About one year into my current job as a youth pastor, I inherited the role of managing our student ministry’s social media account. I was excited at the prospect of connecting with our students in the digital world and establishing the brand of our student ministry. I’ve always been pretty tech savvy, and a user of social media already with my personal accounts, so I was ready for the task at hand.
I soon realized, however, that there was a noticeable difference between the occasional personal post, and maintaining a real social media presence. Posts needed to be much more frequent and I found myself almost exclusively using our outlets to invite students to program nights. “Don’t forget this meeting, come to this event, bring your friends, remind your parents…” these were the many messages I was promoting and they seemed to be falling on deaf ears, and getting us less and less engagement.
That’s when I sat down with my team and we came up with 3 words to help us evaluate our social media presence: information, celebration and inspiration. These are types of posts, or categories that our posts should fall into based on our desired outcome.
INFORMATION – There is no way around this. We desire to communicate information with our students and families, and that is ok. However, we have begun to think through our priority levels when it comes to this first word. Not everything we do is worthy of a social media post. What events and deadlines are important for everything that they require a prime location on our feeds? These are the things we want to promote.
If you find that you are posting primarily about information self promoting all your activities, start asking yourself what is important enough for me to want EVERYONE to know about it? A visit to speak at the local FCA may not be important enough to broadcast to all of your followers, however, a major back to school event for middle school and high school students where you are inviting parents probably is. Often we will also use information for last minute changes due to weather, travel delays or anything that everyone needs to know as soon as possible.
In the information section we also found that we would use a lot of photos with simple text over it. So besides overloading people with information we were also flooding their feeds with not-so-visually-appealing content.
All this needed to change, and that is when we decided to incorporate two more types of posts.
CELEBRATION – By following other ministry accounts, I started noticing other churches doing this really well. After a great turn out for an event, or after a certain number of professions of faith, baptisms, some students ministries would simply post a blurred out photo and the number of decisions made for Christ. The caption would read how the previous night they had seen God moving in a powerful way and they were excited about it. That’s it. No meeting times and locations, no “join us next week so you too can be one of these”. They simply celebrated what God had done.
They allowed their celebration of success tell the story for them. If God is at work in that ministry then people will want to attend. And if they want to attend, they will figure out that the “link in bio” will provide them with the information they are looking for.
In this category it’s important not to fabricate things. Not to embellish numbers, stats or even photos. If you are proclaiming God’s Word and students are responding, then there is plenty to celebrate. It is important to tell stories from your ministry. So find one student who made a decision, who had a revelation about his sin, who decided to help others and with their permission, share their story. Take a nice picture of that teenager and write a few lines about them in the caption. Boom, you’ve celebrated what God is doing!
INSPIRATION – The final piece of the puzzle is to inspire your followers. The simplest way we have found to reach our students throughout the week is to post scripture, quotes from authors, or maybe even the bottom line from our message the night before. As a student walks around school, or is riding home from sports or even procrastinating from his/her homework, they will stumble upon some Gospel truths. These have the power to really change their lives.
One semester we decided to run a campaign to hammer home this inspiration piece: theology Thursday. Every Thursday for about 12 weeks we would record and post a short, 60 second video of one of our youth pastors explaining a theological principle. It was quick, concise and thought provoking. We wanted our followers to interact with a deep thought during their social media break through out the day. We received a ton of good feed back in the form of comments, likes and shares. And hopefully our viewers felt inspired in their walk with God that day.
And now, to evaluate…
Think through your last few weeks of posts, over any platform. Which category would they primarily fall into? Maybe like us you are overwhelming your followers with information. Or maybe all you post are verses and quotes and your students just want to know what time to meet at the church for dodgeball and wings.
One way you can easily identify this is to color code your posts on your social media calendar (you are using one of these, right?). If information is red and that’s all you see, then add some more green for inspiration. If you haven’t had any blue for celebrations lately, find something to be thankful about.
Whatever you do, across all 3 categories, be sure to tell great stories about what God is doing. Let that be the promotion for your ministry.
BONUS – One last word we use for evaluating purposes is INTERACTION. This refers to likes, comments and using hashtags. We can’t control if others post or not, but we can try to create campaigns and opportunities to invite interaction with our posts.