Showing posts with label youth worker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label youth worker. Show all posts

Monday, August 26, 2013

I am a Youth Minister: Not another Parent – Not just another friend

For some reason there is this assumption by certain people that a youth minister should be a parent figure in a student’s life. Still among others there is an assumption that if I succeed at connecting with students that means I become their friend.

I would like to take a quick minute to set to rest those assumptions and offer instead that as a youth worker I have the unique joy that goes along with its own unique relationship.

I am not another parent for students
Parents are wonderful they are by far the biggest influence in a student’s life even if the student or the parent does not realize it. I am a parent of my own child and it has a great deal of responsibilities and challenges to help my child grow. I do my best to provide for him and to keep him safe from harm. My wife and I control his schedule and contribute daily to his understanding of the way the world works. It is our responsibility to set our expectations of behavior and respect for our son and that starts even before he can walk.

As a youth director I get to have the blessing of being an adult example for a student. I get to share with them some of my wisdom of how the world works and I absolutely want to protect students from harm in every way that I can. However by not being in charge of a student’s daily discipline and schedule management that opens doors of relationship that are not possible for parents. My time with students each week is limited. In fact unless there is a special event, students spend significantly more time with a teacher at school than a youth director. I cannot directly control how students allocate their time in a week, no matter how much I would like that to happen. I can only indirectly teach about priorities and living a balanced life. I cannot nor would I want to have a say in a student having a smart phone or what apps are or are not allowed throughout the week. I cannot make a student put their phone down and go to bed when I see them tweeting at 2AM.

I am not just a friend for students
Friends are great; they walk through life with us. Friends are a whole lot of fun. Friends back us up when we are trying to make points. Friends hang out at school dances. Friends hang out together. Friends discuss things that are appropriate, and things that are not. Friends look out for each other’s needs and wants. There are a lot of similarities between youth directors and Friends, but there are a few differences.

As a youth director I will not be sharing a limo with any of you on your way to prom. I will almost always stick out like a sore thumb if I find myself in the student section at a football game. As a youth director you can share your life with me and I can keep a lot of things in confidence. However, students cannot tell me of a situation where they are about to break the law, and expect me not to tell anyone. I cannot keep confidence if you are about to harm yourself or someone else, I am obligated to call 911. There are certain subjects that I can’t participate in discussion with a student. There are times when I know what is going on in your life and times when I do not. There are times when I have to make a decision for the sake of another student or the group as a whole instead of backing you up or taking your side.

The biggest complements I can get come in wonderful ways. The first is when a parent of a student approaches me randomly and says something along the lines of “I just want to let you know how much we appreciate you, since Michael started going to youth we have noticed a huge difference in his life” and the second (not by order of importance) is seeing students become amazing Christian adults where their faith is a noticeable part of the way they live their lives.

Though I am neither another parent nor another friend, I am so glad because I get to be a unique blend of the two that comes with being a Youth Minister.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Social Media as a tool in Ministry - Facebook "pages"

So the concept of using a social media platform to distribute information to people is not a new concept. However people are discovering new and better ways to use the tools that are currently available. 

Most Recently I have personally started what Facebook calls a "public figure" page. The effort is to maximize utility of Facebook as a communication tool, specifically for me in ministry. Not many church workers are doing this yet but I think it is something that we all should do. So I want to discuss the reasons behind using Social Media as a tool and how that can impact both good and bad in our lives and ministry.

Why a "public figure" page?

quite simply here because there is not specification for Church Worker, Pastor, or any other religiously affiliated title that is specific. Other professionals get to use pages specifically titled for their line of work like "politician" "teacher" "artist" "writer" and many others, the title that most appropriately fits a person in local church ministry is "public figure." We have chosen to live our lives as an example to others and therefore become a figure for the public to look to, we should hide nothing of ourselves it is our witness. If we are afraid for others to see an aspect of our lives then we should rethink our position or involvement in those activities.

The next question that comes naturally is:

If you say you should hide nothing of yourself then why should you have a separate "public figure" page instead of doing all your communication through your personal profile?

Here the reasoning gets a little more logistical. The algorithms that Facebook uses to decide who sees what posts are very specific, they have to do with the number of "friends" you have, how many of them are online, who have you "recently" interacted with via Facebook. Is is a picture? is it a link? or is it just words? Is it a poll question? if so who has responded to it? The developers at Facebook know that we all get online to see something, however if they showed us everything then we would see less of what we "like" so their algorithm factors all these things in with all your friends and then decides when and where it should show up on people's news feed. So consequently the time of day that you post something could be the difference between it being seen by 3 people or 300 people. (if you have enough friends that it could be seen by 3,000 people then Facebook has likely already talked to you about changing your page format because posts are rarely seen by more than 2/3rds of your friends and there is a 5,000 friend limit)  When you use Facebook as a ministry tool, you should make sure you are maximizing its utility. A "page" that someone has to actively click like for the item to show up in their news feed, is more likely to be content that the algorithm will push to the people connected to your page. Additionally, it allows you to view insights into who sees which posts. Allowing you even further to make the most out of the ministry tool, in this case a Facebook "public figure" page.

The point is not to hide posts from people, and it is not to hijack people's news-feed but instead to get messages of value to the people who find value in what you have to say. 

Who decides what message is valuable, significant, or relevant, to the people on Facebook? 

In a personal profile, you do. In a "page" they do. They have to click the like button on the page to even begin seeing posts from it in their news feed. Where as through the personal profile algorithm it factors in interactions that you have made and your posts could start showing up on the news-feed of someone whose photos you browsed but otherwise have little or no interaction aside from sitting next to each other in the 6th grade and not wanting to hurt the other persons feelings when a friend request showed up in your inbox.

What this does not mean is that you should show less about your faith or make less ministry related posts on a personal page because we are not hiding ourselves from people in our past nor should we be. However, we should be paying attention to see if someone has clicked a link to an important article we posted. When we have a word we hope will inspire a specific group of people we should be intentional enough to let them hear it.

We should make the most out of the Social Media Tools that we have before us doing everything we can to communicate with people whose lives our touched by our ministry.

As Always thanks for your time and giving this a read. If you enjoyed it share it with friends, you can do so easily with one of the buttons below. I pray that you will embrace life in the Love and Grace offered to you through Jesus Christ, and that you will always remember Jeremiah 29:11.  – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to Proper You and not for harm, Plans with Hope for the Future.