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Communication avenues for my youth group

Communication avenues for my youth groupCommunication in ministry is vitally important because it really sets the stage for how people will perceive the ministry. Solid communication gives the impression that the ministry’s leadership is trustworthy, capable, and competent, whereas weak communication, even if the actual ministry is solid, leaves people feeling that the leadership is lacking direction and credibility. Probably about 80% of my office time each week is spent communicating our ministry with others, not just calendar events and news items, but the vision of who we are that drives what we do. (UPDATE: I usually do the communication stuff in the office, lesson prep and planning at home, and of course all the relationship stuff outside in other places. So, it’s not 80% of my total working hours, just my office hours.)

On a very practical level, here are the avenues my ministry uses to communicate with teens and parents throughout the week. In fact, we even have a handout that sits at our youth kiosk at church that lists these for newcomers.

Youth Group website

www.AlexandriaYouth.com
This is our main hub of communication because it’s a neutral place that almost everyone can access. On the front page site visitors will find the most current information, where and when to be places and who to get a hold of for each thing. There are also pictures and videos of past events, and lots more!. Here’s more information about how I made our website and the thought process behind it.

E-mail list

Whenever news is posted to our website, that info is automatically emailed to our mailing list. We use Feedblitz.com to automatically distribute the emails and manage the subscription list.

Text messaging

Text messaging is a great way to get last minute updates, reminders, and cancellations, but we use it for a lot more than that. There’s a lot of mass text messaging services out there, but I highly recommend TXTSignal.com.

A note about Tatango.com
I know a lot of youth ministries are using Tatango.com, but, although their service may be okay, I can personally vouch that their marketing ethics are highly questionable. Their VP marketing guy emailed me two weeks ago and, after some exchanges, started calling TXTSignal’s service illegal (citing a list of “best practices” as evidence, all of which TXTSignal meets and exceeds) and pointing me to a misleading blog post on their site about the SMS technology. Kinda ticked me off because people who aren’t familiar with the technology could easily get sucked in, like they were trying to do with me. I’ll never use them.

Facebook Page

www.Facebook.com/AlexandriaYouth
Many of our youth group kids are on Facebook. We use it to keep in touch, posting not only youth group pictures, videos and status updates, but video clips and pictures of high school sports games and performances. When kids start commenting on the media, it highlights the videos and pictures for most of their friends. Some of them check out the rest of our page and even become fans. More about using a Facebook page for youth ministry here (although, it’s slightly outdated already).

Bulletin inserts

Every Sunday we basically copy and paste what was posted on our website and distributed via email to a bulletin insert. This is mostly for first-time visitors and those who don’t use email or the web too much at home.

Youth kiosk table at church

We have a youth kiosk table at church right outside the main entrance to our worship center (sanctuary). The lights and motion on the TV and digital picture frames catch people’s eye as they walk by. We have a lot of general information sitting out, as well as sign-ups, pictures, promo flyers, and our weekly news video on a loop. Hanging around it on Sundays is a great way to meet new visitors with teens. See a picture of it here.

Twitter

twitter.com/AlexandriaYouth
Although only a couple of our teens use Twitter, the real reason I use it is to easily easily post short little updates to the front page of our youth group website. (Parents love it when I post updates while we’re away on trips!)

iTunes News Videos

http://www.alexandriayouth.com/itunes
Most weeks we publish a fun video that gives and overview of announcements, highlights of past events, previews of what’s coming up, contests, giveaways, and funny clips from YouTube. I found that if I stand in front of the youth group and make announcements, no one listens, but if I say the exact same thing on a screen, everyone is glued to it.

We post these videos on our website, our Facebook page, and show them at our weekly large-group jr. high and sr. high meetings. Publishing the videos in iTunes allows teens to automatically sync them to their iPods to watch on the bus, in the gym, and share with friends.

Personal contact

And, of course, I make my personal contact information readily available.

A video of my seminar on youth ministry communication

Last year at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference I taught a seminar on, “Communicating with teens and parents throughout the week,” which went into some of these areas in more detail. You can watch the video of the seminar here. Although some of it needs to be updated now (especially the Facebook part), it’s still generally true.


Posted on October 28, 2009

  • Good reminder of communication and great thoughts on all the different ways we can communicate. I am all about texting, email and facebooking. If those avenues are available to us and students use them, why wouldn't we engage them there. I don't think I have ever heard of someone telling me that I communicate too much. I always hear when I don't communicate enough.

  • A few questions on communication…. do you find that it's possible to over communicate things? For example we use Constant Contact which allows us to see the rate our email is opened. When we were doing a weekly email the rate dropped when we started doing special events only emails the rate kicked up. Second question do you find that students use your website? Our experience is that that mainly parents read our webpage for info dates times etc. so we make that stuff as well as broad vision stuff simple to find. Thanks for a great blog.

    • Good questions, Dave.

      It may be possible to over-communicate, but I haven't seen a ministry do it yet. It's definitely easier to under-communicate than over-communicate. I'd rather error on the side of the latter than the former.

      I think our website is used mostly by parents. The teens use the Facebook page and text messaging the most. The videos are used by everyone since they're placed pretty much everywhere.

  • Chris Folkestad

    Do you have any examples of what your bulletins look like? I am trying to find a format that works for our students. One that catches their eye AND is informative. If you could share, I would really appreciate it! Thanks!

  • JLB

    80% of your time seems like a lot of time to be spending on communication. Don't hear me wrong I think that communication is important, but I think relationships and discipleship of kids is worth way more time than the other 20%. I was wondering if it is you who did all that communicating, because that is the way it sounds, or do you delegate it out? I have parent liaisons who do a lot of the communicating for me to parents, to get them plugged in, to let them no our vision and to let them know what is happening within the ministry. Also I have a guy who takes care of our website and the person who does the bulletins just takes the info off our website, thus leaving me with a whole lot more time to build relationships, study and equip ma youth and leaders, just wondering, thanks!

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I should've specified in my post, but didn't. When I said 80% of my time, I meant 80% of my office time. That's what I was thinking of anyway, but I obviously didn't make that clear. I usually do the communication stuff in the office, lesson prep and planning at home, and of course all the relationship stuff outside in other places.

      I don't do all the communication, no. Like I mentioned in a comment above, the youth administrative assistant does a lot of it, too. I do the videos and type up the info that's published to the website and emails and use the text messaging/facebook updates as needed. My assistant does the bulletin inserts, keeps the calendar updated, and stuff like that.

  • Umm, no, I don't, sorry. Usually the youth administrative assistant takes what posted earlier during the week and puts the content in an insert form instead. Since she does it, I don't have an electronic copy to show you. However, if you use iWork's Pages, there's a lot of good templates there you could start from that look pretty slick.

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  • Here’s how I think about communication: I usually try to ask, “What can we do to communicate well to people who don’t really make an effort to be plugged in?” Yes, we want to do a great job across the board, but those who are engaged in a small group, always at every meeting, and check their email often will usually get the message no matter what. What about the students and families we’d really like to engage who are kind of on the fringe of things? Personal contact has in the past worked well for me, but I’m no longer in a position where I can personally contact everyone who perhaps hasn’t attended for a few weeks or who kind of fade in and out. That’s why I’m considering the mass texting route as an addition to our communication tool belt. How do you communicate with the students and families who don’t put much effort into finding out what’s going on, but we really want to have them in the loop? Our church is currently overhauling our approach to communication, and this is great food for thought for us right now.

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  • If I haven't said it enough… you. are. the. man.

    Did you build your own kiosk or is that one that you ordered?

    –Terrace Crawford
    http://www.terracecrawford.com
    http://www.twitter.com/terracecrawford

    • The wire frame was there when I arrived at the church, but I added everything else: posters, banner, TV, digital photo frames, etc.

      • know where someone can order a wire frame like that

  • I don't, sorry. :-/

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