Communication 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
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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