This post is part of the series on Social Media in Youth Ministry. Now that we have looked at social media in youth ministry in general and have discussed the question whether or not Facebook is still ‘hot’ amongst youth, let’s have a look at some creative ways you can use Facebook in your youth ministry:
1. Personal Facebook account
The most obvious one is to connect and befriend them via your personal Facebook account. I’ve done this and it works very well for me. I try and read most of their updates and I respond when appropriate. That way I have a pretty good idea what’s going on with ‘my’ kids. It helps me to pray for them specifically. Also, I get automatic notifications of birthdays (very handy!). And they know what’s going on in my life as well. I’ve always tried to live my life transparent, give them access to my life so they can see what being a Christian means in everyday life. Facebook has made that easier (they see what I write and share) and harder (they see everything I write and share) at the same time.
Remember that the goal of social media is an interactive dialogue. So don’t just read updates, but respond and react in a way that shows interest and compassion. If a students’ update reads ‘Nervous for math test, scared I’ll flunk’, how cool is it if you respond a few hours later with ‘well, how did it go?’
2. Facebook page for youth
A second one is to create a Facebook page for your youth group. Youth who ‘likes’ this page, will then get all updates in their Facebook stream. The most important thing with a page is that you update it regularly so youth will actually see it appeas in their stream and will visit it. You should also give them a reason to visit the page. Ask yourself what you can do to make them come, what can you offer them? Why would they come and come back?
Secondly, remember that it’s not a static website, but that the goal is to get a conversation going. In my experience, the best way to do that is to not only give information, but to ask questions as well. People seem to be genetically wired to want to answer a question, so make use of that fact!
It’s also important to ask your leaders to become active here as well. If they show up regularly and engage in conversations with the youth, it will go a long way in making a page work.Keep thinking of ways to use Facebook as an extension of the face-to-face contacts you have. Make it all integrate and complement each other.
Another big yes is to post pictures here of your events (just set the privacy settings in such a way that only ‘friends’ can see the pictures) or even videos if you can. If you put some effort into it, I’m sure you can think of many ways to use this page to get your youth to visit the page and to keep coming back for more. Thinks of polls, birthday things, celebrations, funny pics or videos, etc.
Brandon Baker wrote about his decision to go from a static website to a Facebook page in a post on his website. He reports ‘social chatter about pictures and events’ and says that ‘private conversations move to direct messages’. That may be a good tip in general to keep others from reading too private information.
Be sure to think ahead if you want your youth to be able to post stuff on your Page wall. It may work very well to get them involved, but there are also risks involved. You can block this option in the settings of your page if you want to.
3. Facebook group for youth
A third option is to create a (closed) group on Facebook. Your youth can become a member and then will get all updates in their stream. Again, you can add events and stuff and enter into conversations. The same advice we gave for pages pretty much applies here, including the option to allow or block your youth being able to post stuff themselves.
Groups have the big benefit that you can make them closed, thereby controlling who can read what you post. Youth worker Luke Trouten has found this to be very effective and he says teens speak more freely in closed groups. Luke says his youth group uses both pages and groups, but the interaction in the groups is higher. Youth worker Marcus Scotney has good experiences with a private Facebook group as well for his youth group:
We have our own private group which you can only get into if your invited by myself and one of the other youth leaders who is also an administrator. We use to share photos from events, no tagging is allowed as this appears to allow people to view the group! We use it as a notice board as well posting walls about events and reminders of events happening. And some discussion happens on there too mainly about some of the silly things we have been getting up to and I do post some Bible verses on it too.We have also started using Event’s invites more and more to promote and invite young people to events we are either organising or going to.
4. Facebook group for your team
A very interesting use of a Facebook group I came across is the use of a group as a knowledge community. Dutch youth worker André Maliepaard tweeted to me that he has a separate group for his leaders:
We use this group to post announcements, communicate our vision, do some knowledge exchange and training. We also have plans to start using it for a form of coaching. We also use groups for specific events as an addition to face-to-face meetings. First we meet in person, then we do the follow up via Facebook.
I’ve personally never used Facebook this way, but I’m thinking there are loads of possibilities there!
5. Use lists
Well, it’s not actually a completely different way, but it sure is a very handy tool. I’m not going to go into detail, because Luke Trouten has done that already in a post on using Facebook lists that I can recommend. It’s a complementary tool for when you use either groups or pages, but also when you only use your personal Facebook account.
6. Use events
Again, I’m referring to a post Luke wrote on using the option of events in Facebook. It can be used with both pages and groups.