The recent Nashville gathering of Youth Pastors Anonymous centered our ministry discussion on the idea of Communication.
In the midst of the discussion there were some tremendous ideas that should be a benefit to any youth worker, whether in a large or small ministry setting.
Put Into Your Funnel:
One of the general thoughts that I found to be most helpful is determining what “your funnel” will be. The idea is that every ministry has a way that they communicate with the large variety of people that come into contact in their ministry. Two of the obvious groups we communicate with are students and their parents. But we also communicate with the larger congregation, the church staff, the church leadership and even the larger community outside of our church. So one of the key things to think on is what is “your funnel” and encouraging people to make sure they know how information flows from your group.
For instance, at my current church, the most important funnel we have is a weekly email that communicates the absolutely necessary information needed for that week at the top and the further down you go, the less important items. So, an average weekly email has that week’s schedule, notes about anything that is out of the “normal” and at the bottom it would contain dates for larger events that are scheduled down the road. (Services recommended for this included MailChimp, which will allow you to see who actually opened the email, which can be helpful or disappointing depending on the results.)
We use the church newsletter and bulletin to serve as the funnel for information to the larger church structure. We use meetings, both staff and leadership, to share success stories and try not to use it for general information that can be handled in email.
So, it is worth the time to think through your “funnels” and how you are or aren’t communicating right now. Also, be wise in knowing what to invest the most time and energy into and help your core groups to understand what your primary way of communicating information is.
Lots of other great ideas & links were shared at the meeting as well
Obviously in the social media world that youth and parents live in, how we use that can be vitally important.
Here are some ideas:
Facebook: The recommendation was that Facebook is worth doing in two different ways. First, a general group page that is used for information that you wouldn’t mind making public. The second should be a closed group where students and leaders can share a variety of things. Having this group to be moderated is important and ideally, you would find a responsible student to take the reins on that effort.
Twitter: Numerous ones of us have noticed that teens, who initially wanted nothing to do with twitter have jumped on because it has become a place “where adults aren’t”. We talked about the various dilemmias involved in friending students and how sometimes navigating that world could be challenging, especially in knowing what to reply to and how to reply to it.
Text Messaging: Lots of the youth workers that were present talked about using text messaging to a higher level and degree of success than they receive in email. With that in mind, it is worth finding the best messaging system that works for you. Here are some of the ones that were mentioned:
- Greeter Cheater: An Andriod smartphone application
- Group Text!: An iOS (iPhones and iPads) application
- Simplytxt: a service that might be worth pursuing for larger groups.
There are a ton of services and ways to use this so investigate what service might work for you. (In researching this piece, I found this article aimed at teachers who want to text parents and students. It lists a variety of services I had never seen or heard before. Might be worth checking out.)
There are a variety of ways to share calendars with people, especially those with smartphones. Using a Google Calendar for your youth ministry is a great idea and having people subscribe to that in the calendar application that they use. (Be sure not to clutter it up too much! Have a calendar that is very separate from other church events and your own calendar.)
As the web has evolved, many different websites were mentioned as possibilities to manage food and people preparing it. Among those that were lifted up:
- Sign Up Genius: This site can be used to manage a large variety of different youth ministry tasks, from food to volunteer coordination. People are free to browse and sign-up on their own, on their own schedule.
- Perfect Potluck: This site is great for managing a specific event or meal that isn’t being prepared by one person or group.
- Take Them a Meal: Great sight for managing a weekly meal event where predominantly only one or two people are in charge of preparing the meal.
- Meal Train: Another site that can be used to maintain a more regularly occurring meal or food event.
Hope one, two, or maybe three of these ideas will prove helpful for you. We certainly had a rush of energy sharing amongst our network.