Why Social Media in Ministry Matters
Social media is often a touchy subject. While it can be toxic, it can also be used for good. It might be hard to believe, but social media is like a secret weapon for youth ministry.
Research on Gen Z shows that nearly 99 percent of teens own smartphones. Of that 99 percent, 85 percent of teens use social media every day. The average time teens spend on social media is at least almost three hours a day. Do you see 85 percent of your teens daily, for nearly three hours? Probably not.
So, it doesn’t matter if you loathe social media, or it is your best friend – your teens are on social media. Social media is where you are going to make those connections outside the walls of your youth room and church.
We need to GO to where our teens are, meet them there and introduce them to Jesus. Sometimes, however, it seems like we are more willing to climb Denali to reach our teens than we are to grab our phones or laptops and open up social media to meet them there.
Why? Why do we make it SO challenging for ourselves? Social media can be very intimidating for some of us because there are numerous platforms, an overwhelming amount of content, and millions of people using it. I’m not going to sit here and tell you social media is the answer to all of your obstacles in youth ministry because it is not, but you don’t have to figure it out in one day. Like everything, it takes time to learn and become comfortable using it.
Practical Tips For Using Social Media In Ministry
Here are some practical tips for using these platforms effectively and stepping up your game:
Create an account only for your youth ministry
Don’t post from your personal account. When you’re only posting from your personal account, things can get messy
Today teens on social media follow an average of 700 accounts. How do you stay relevant? How do you get them to see you along with the other hundreds of accounts that they follow? When should you use social media?
- Every day. Seriously. Try to have content every day to stay relevant. Do not be shy about your posts. One post every day is not too much.
- Promote events. Create Facebook events and Instagram posts for things that are going on. Advertise retreats, Life Nights, Mass, Generation Life, Steubenville Youth Conference, service projects, and community outreach. If you have a registration link that you want the teens to fill out, stick that in your Instagram Bio website field. Quick and easy access for the teens to reach that link.
- After events. Teens love to see themselves on social media. Other teens will get FOMO (fear of missing out) when they see the fun things you are doing and who was there, so it is a win-win when they get their friends to show up the next week. Tag them in the photos. You get an automatic like when you tag a teen in a picture. (Be sure to have up to date photo releases on all of your teens, so you don’t have to worry about legality issues!)
- Weekly updates. Post a weekly update every week with what is going on that week in your youth ministry. Before you post, decide on one day to post and stick with that. Consistency is key. If you post every Monday, teens will know to look out for your weekly updates every Monday.
- Be contemplative. Do not be afraid to post things that will encourage your teens to stop their scroll and think about their faith outside of the typical youth group setting. Post prayers or the saint of the day. Remind them when a holy day is coming up with your parish’s Mass times. Post photos of your favorite prayerful spots around campus to give them ideas. Post when you are going to Mass or Adoration and ask how you can pray for them during that time. It shows your kiddos that you are thinking about them and shows that you care, even when you are not on the clock.
- Stories. Sometimes when teens do not want to scroll through their feed, they will watch the stories instead. Use this to your advantage. Share your Instagram posts to your stories as well – they will almost always click the post. Use the stories as a way to take polls, ask questions, and share fun updates throughout the week that you would not typically post on your actual page. Create highlights from your stories. Utilizing the highlight feature saves the stories, and the teens can see them when they go to your page. For example, some of the highlights on our page are: Readings – we post the Sunday Mass readings on our story to help them prepare for Mass that evening. Prayers – if you say a new prayer at your Life Night, post that on your story for your teens to refer back to. Retreats (this helps them go back and see the fun things you did at Steubenville, Luke 18, and the other retreats that you host).
- Show off your beautiful faces. While teens love to see themselves on social media, they also like to see you. Use this platform to introduce your core team. This is also an opportunity for parents to see whom their teens spend time with at youth group. Have a core team member of the week. Post their picture and a fun little bio for the teens to read. It helps build that relational ministry. If you cannot decide whom to post each week, maybe choose whoever is giving the proclaim at Life Night that week.
Resources for posting
- Later.com. When I was hired in September and was learning the ropes to social media, it was exhausting trying to remember to post every day. Once you create your content, you can schedule all of your posts for the week in 20 minutes tops.
- Canva. Canva is a great tool to use for creating your graphics, both for desktop and mobile devices. The best part about it is that it is free! There is also the option of upgrading to Canva Pro (which I highly recommend). The monthly cost for Canva Pro is $12.95, or you can save some money and purchase the yearly subscription for $119.40. It’s SO worth it.
- Lightroom. Unless you have one core team member assigned to take pictures at your events, sometimes photos are far and few between. When you are lucky enough to get pictures, none of them probably look the same due to lighting and camera quality. I use Lightroom to help with that. You can find filters that aren’t TOO filtered. Pick one and stick with it. It will make your photos look 100x better, and your photos will be cohesive on your page. Teens love that.
- Life Teen. If you subscribe to Life Teen, every series has posts, captions, and hashtags for you to use on social media. What more could you ask for? This helps with your theme, as well.
- Connect. Link your Facebook and Instagram accounts. In doing this, anything that you post on Instagram is automatically posted on Facebook. This feature is very convenient, and it saves you time.
- Hashtag it up. Don’t use too many hashtags, (that gets annoying), but use them when appropriate. Hashtags help people who are not following you to find your youth ministry account. Create a hashtag for your youth ministry to use on all of your posts. For example, ours is #sacredheartlifeteen
- First impressions. Your youth groups page is where you are making first impressions and they matter. I’m all about aesthetically pleasing Instagram pages. Teens are too. It is easier to stay consistent with the looks of your posts if you decide on a theme for the month. Canva and Lightroom make this SO easy to do. Canva has thousands of set ideas for you to use. Before deciding on a theme for the month, think about what is going on that month. For example, in October, we used an orange theme to go with the fall and Halloween events, and in December, we used a pink and purple theme to go along with Advent.
- Flow. When you are scheduling your posts, try to stay consistent, (there’s that word again), with what you post. It makes your page easier to scroll. Currently, I post three photos of people, and then three graphics.
Support each other
- Follow other youth ministry accounts in the STL Archdiocese to like their posts and help them gain followers. It also helps to build those relationships with other youth ministries so that you know what is going on across the river, and you know when to pray for them.
- If you want to look at some other Instagram accounts to get inspired, shout out to: St. Therese of Carmel YM (@stocym), HRSJ Life Teen (@hrsjlt), and St. Mary Magdalene YM (@stmarymagyg). I dream of being on their level. But if you aren’t on their level, do not be discouraged. You will get better with time.
Happy posting; your hard work will pay off!