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Building online Christian community for your youth group (2 of 2)

By guest blogger, Brandon Riley

Sell the Vision…
You can have the coolest website or forum that promotes online community, but if you fail to sell the vision to your community, it may be used only by the few that are fairly web-savvy. Helping your ministry see that these online tools are more than just ways of communicating, but are part of the culture and can be used as tools in the ministry will help them to understand the reason behind this new technology.

…To volunteers
When we first started building an online community for our students in August of 2007 I spoke with our volunteer leaders about the importance of being in the student’s world on the Internet. One thing I stressed was using their online profile information as a way into starting a conversation with them. We can in a sense be a student of students by knowing them better through the information they provide on these online profiles. Many students will (sometimes unfortunately) disclose more personal information on the Internet than they will in person.

…To students
In August of 2007 we started using a new online community platform that would allow us to also handle sign ups for our small groups, events, etc. It was a lot of work at first because we were changing the entire culture of doing things. We pushed it pretty hard in the beginning. We made a promotional video, sent home flyers, posted info on our website and had laptops in the back of our facility for students to sign up. We cast the vision as a way to stay connected with our ministry and a way to reach out to new people. One thing we did, which I think was the success to our strategy was that we forced our students to use it. We took one thing (small group sign-ups) and said, “If you want to be in a small group you need to be apart of our online community.” This worked for about 90% of our students over the course of 3-4 weeks.

Conclusion
I have found that people are sometimes skeptical when it comes to new technology or new ways of doing things. Giving them a clear understanding as to why you are using this or doing things a different way will help get them excited about these new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to stop using paper by going completely online. Yes there may be some road bumps, but in the end it will be revolutionary.

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Brandon Riley is the Technical Director of Student Ministries at Denton Bible Church in Texas and is also the Director of User Experience for Tuggle, a social network with built-in management tools for youth ministries.


Posted on February 26, 2008

  • Hi Tim and Brandon,

    I’m curious how you required small group sign ups online. Did you turn away people who hadn’t signed up online? Or did you make them reg online at the door? Do you require online event registration? Do you accept payments online? I haven’t checked out your student website yet, did you post a link to it that I didn’t see? Sorry for all the questions, this is something I’m interested in but hasn’t worked very well for us yet.

    -Jeff-

  • Hey Jeff. I think Brandon had Internet connected computers set up at church to ensure that students had access to register. More than that, I don’t know. They use Tuggle.it for their youth ministry website and management.

    For my ministry, however, I often do online registration through my youth group website at AlexandriaYouth.com for special events and such, mostly because it makes it so much easier for me to keep track of. My site spits everything out into a nice Excel spreadsheet that’s easy to manage and pass around. Plus, people can sign up even if they can’t make it to church. We don’t do payment processing online right now, but my site is set up for it and I know Tuggle.it is, as well.

    Feel free to ask if you have any further questions!

  • Jeff-

    Before we started using Tuggle I would create separate sign up forms for each event we had. I would give students the option to either sign up at our church or sign up online. This worked but it was always cumbersome and required an hour of my time to create a php form from scratch something I don’t recommend. We do our sign ups online through tuggle and the key has been getting them involved in tuggle and then it is that much more easy for them to sign up for things because they are already on a social network.

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