Students love likes. They post things to garner likes. They check on their likes immediately. They talk about how many likes they have on a picture. They’re emotionally connected to likes. They’re upset when someone gets more likes. They are easily impressed with the number of likes they have or that someone else has. They live for likes.
Youth Workers have a great opportunity here – to meet kids where they are. There are cautions of course, but here are some thoughts about social media likes and youth ministry.
UPSIDES, DOWNSIDES & CAUTIONS
Students are seeking input. Though it may be shallow and contrived, it’s an opportunity to encourage students – on the good things. The like button is a simple way to stay connected. The downside is that you need to have a solid measure of what to like and when to like. Typically, I think youth workers ought to only like posts once someone else has liked it. Additionally, it’s a good practice to like during the day, not during the evening. It sets a standard that you scroll through facebook for ministry purposes, not for personal reasons.
Friends of your students see your interactions on the page. The upside is that you’re able to be a witness, connect with other kids in your student ministry network and you’re able to add a level of accountability. The downside is that your students may feel like you’ve overstepping into their world. Again, too much is too much.
Students are seeking community. We probably all have read about the irony of our social media culture – more connected than ever, and at the same time, more alone. Students needs community. They need times to meet, worship, play, talk and be face to face with people of all ages. Student ministries need to help provide this. But in addition to having frameworks for students to be together in person, you can also support their connections with quick social media likes and comments.
Students need to be reminded. Did you just have a recent retreat, camp or event? Are you currently in a teaching series? Make mention of a point or a lesson from something you are doing in the life of the ministry, then like the comments your students make about it. Like if they share it. Pictures are often good to create energy and excitement after an event, but we need to be cautious as we post them. You never know where it will lead. And of course, everyone has to know the bounds of their own group and any rules your church or ministry may have. Some leaders may choose not to post pictures, but to only like what students have posted on their own.
Celebrate the good things. Did your student post a scripture verse? Did they post a picture of worship or church? Did they mention being in a Bible Study? Like those things immediately. There aren’t too many downsides to this, unless you become the only person liking all their stuff. Make sure you’re not the lone like on every scripture they post. That could become uncomfortable for the student. Additionally, don’t like the posts when a student is complaining, being rude or making a bad decision to say or do something.
Students also like comments. Likes are simple and when they stack up, make an impact. However, after a handful of likes, people don’t even really know who liked it. Sometimes it takes making a comment to really encourage. Not every comment has to be creative and witty – just be encouraging. A couple of cautions with comments: 1) sarcasm doesn’t bode well when typed, and doesn’t work well for adult to student and 2) be sure to comment evenly if you comment at all – no playing favorite on one students page.
Students connection to the church. Do you have a Twitter, Instagram or Facebook account for your church or student ministry. When applicable, make a comment from the church. The downside to this is that you have to be careful who is speaking on behalf of the ministry. Keep a tight reign on the passwords for these accounts. You can also involve others on your leadership team – small group leaders, volunteers and others – to help stay connected with students through social media. The whole church should be involved in encouraging the next generation and if social media helps in that process, utilize it!
Only simple, pure and good uses. Use Phil 4:8 as a guide to your involvement on student’s social media pages. Utilize the good things – stay away from the bad. It’s best to like the things that are harmless – pictures of animals, food, graduations, etc. Stay away from liking the bathroom mirror selfies or pictures in the swimming pool.
Take time to teach. Teach your students that life isn’t about social media. Help your students grow in confidence by having a ministry that is focused on Jesus, dedicated to transformation and Biblically sound. Students need to be grounded and need to know that social media is just one little fun part of life. Challenge the students who are growing in leadership to view their social media as ministry and a witness to their faith.