As I prepare to move to a new youth group in Minnesota, one of my first tasks is to establish a system for communication with a couple hundred students, parents and volunteers. Every youth group I’ve led is already used to a certain form of communication before my arrival and every group needs to be re-trained and educated a bit for it to be more effective. Typically my primary communication takes place online, but with dial-up still running rampant in this rural town I may have to adjust my approach a little and try to hit cells phones a little harder.
Here are my ideas for mass youth group communication so far:
- Website/Forum: A no-brainer to set up and use, but a little difficult to use effectively. Unless you give youth group kids, leaders and parents reasons for returning, they’ll visit the site once and leave it at that. The site needs to be very interactive to generate return traffic so users actually see the frequent news updates that are posted.
- Call-in phone number: It’s not very original to have an information hot line people can call to listen to the latest updates and information, but new tools like SkypeIn make it so easy and very affordable. For less than $40/year anyone can get a local phone number with voicemail and never have to deal with a phone company.
- Mass text messaging: Since almost every student carries a cell phone with a text messaging plan, this seems to me to be the best way to communicate quick messages that may point them to the youth group website for more information. I used to do this with the free “IM to cell phone” included in AOL’s Instant Messenger, but for larger groups it might be more beneficial to use a bulk SMS service.
- AIM away message: A lot of my current students use AOL’s Instant Messenger, so I created a special youth group screen name that I left online 24/7 with updated info in the away message. To train kids to check the info, I ran several “be the first to message me” riddle contests and identify movie audio clips.
- E-mail mailing list: Sometimes the tried-and-true method works best, as long as people check their e-mail and actually read the information.
- Facebook/MySpace group: I know several youth groups that utilize these social networking sites quite effectively. They create a group for their youth group and use it to message information, post pictures, discuss ideas and stay in touch. Since teens and leaders visit these sites regularly anyway, placing your youth group information there can be quite effective.
- Newsletters: Although the age of formal newsletters seems to have passed, the idea of monthly communication in one concise format is still attractive to some parents. It allows them to have all the information they need in one place once a month and not be bothered by all the reminders throughout the next four weeks.
- Fliers and handouts: This works as long as students take the paper home, remember where they put it and remember to look at it later. Most of the time I pick the fliers up off the floor when the kids go home.
- Bulletin board: It’s easy to hang one of these things at church and tack up the latest info. What’s not so easy is expecting that everyone will check it out and take the info home with them.
What other methods of bulk communication have you tried with your youth group? What worked and what didn’t? I need some more good ideas for Minnesota.
Posted on February 2, 2007