Good lines of communication exist between the youth ministry and all interested parties.
So on twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan the king’s secretaries were summoned, and a decree was written exactly as Mordecai dictated. It was sent to the Jews and to the highest officers, the governors, and the nobles of all the 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. (Esther 8:9)
We live in a time in which communication is easier than ever before. In Biblical times, communication was limited to written decrees that could take months to be delivered. Today we have at our disposal a whole array of ways to communicate well and an effective youth ministry will utilise as many as possible to get its message across.
A basic rule of advertising is to communicate the same message using as many means as possible. There are three broad types of communication that we can use.
Electronic communication is evolving so quickly that whatever means of connecting I write about here will soon be outdated and besides, many of you will no doubt be more up to date with the strengths and weaknesses of what is currently available than I am!
Some points are worth noting though. Firstly, don’t limit yourself to only one means of electronic communication. Clearly, you don’t want to clog up everyone’s personal messaging accounts and inboxes with the same message but identify a few of the most effective communication avenues and utilise these.
Secondly, a personal message always wins over a “broadcast”. A social media post is useful for providing information to everyone but sending a personal message or text shows you care about people individually. The personal approach is more likely to get through to the “undecided” than another social media post.
Finally, when deciding what means through which you will communicate electronically, think of your target group. For example, your young people may not read emails but perhaps their parents do. Many businesses are recognising that email is still a better medium for communicating information than social media.
A personal message always wins over a “broadcast”. A social media post is useful for providing but sending a personal message or text shows you care about people as individuals.
Similarly, you may think that providing information via the church website is a waste of time but this will be the most common source of information for families looking to find a church that suits their teens. Our youth ministry benefitted from having three outstanding young teens from one family turn up to our youth programme simply because they read what we were doing on our church website.
Despite the growth of electronic communication, written communication still has its place in getting your message across. At the start of each term, we would hand out attractively printed, postcard-sized cards that listed programmes we were planning for the coming term. Not only was it another way to keep the young people informed, but it also helped parents see what was coming up as we would tell teens to “take it home and stick it to your fridge!”.
When newcomers came with their friends to our youth programme or when new families with teens visited church, these cards were a quick and effective way to show them what we were doing. Include them as part of a welcome pack that lets people know more about your youth ministry. If you try to describe all you do face to face, much of it will be forgotten, whereas a welcome pack will allow people to take all the information in at their leisure. Include a brief profile of your leaders and a description of your youth ministry values.
Another helpful way to communicate via written media is to make use of the church newsletter. Even if your young people don’t read it many of their parents do, as do other people in your church who like to hear what the youth ministry is doing.
The third method of communicating your message is verbal communication. We have probably all had the experience of giving notices at youth group only to find that minutes later someone asks a question that shows that they didn’t understand or weren’t listening! True, it can be discouraging, but don’t dismiss this way of getting your message across entirely.
Some pointers I’ve found helpful is to use young people to make announcements. If they are involved in planning an event, their enthusiasm will make the message more memorable. Besides, we all know that young people listen more carefully if one of their own is giving a notice instead of a leader!
Making announcements in church can also help keep older members of the congregation informed. It is the perfect opportunity to let everyone know what has been happening in the youth ministry. When you run a notable event such as a camp, find some young people to “report back” to the church. In many churches, the youth ministry is the best-kept secret of church life. The majority of the adults who attend on Sunday have no idea what takes place at youth group each week and know little about the teenagers who attend. Use Sunday mornings to spread the word and celebrate what God is doing. Often people are more eager to know what’s happening than you think.
In utilising these methods keep in mind the following additional points. Firstly, as helpful as announcements, flyers and social media posts might be, personal, word of mouth communication is always the best form of “marketing”. Don’t just use Sunday mornings to catch up with teens. Talk to their parents too and make sure they are receiving your communication. Talk enthusiastically about what you are doing and give them an opportunity to ask questions.
In the same way, encourage your young people to communicate with friends and personally invite them, especially to those programmes and events they are likely to enjoy. In these instances, a shared link or written invitation to an event are helpful but they can’t compete with a face to face invitation.
Secondly, ensure that your senior pastor and elders are well informed. Put them on your mailing list and provide them with regular reports. If they don’t offer, ask to come and speak to the elders to tell them personally what you are doing and why. Again, encourage them with stories of God at work.
Finally, when it comes to communication, it is increasingly important to have a church-wide communication policy. This is a document that guides leaders in safe practice around communication via texting, social media, and phone calls. It can be invaluable in ensuring you and your leaders communicate with young people wisely and with integrity.
CHECKLIST: TEN CHARACTERISTICS OF A YOUTH MINISTRY WITH EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
- Information is communicated to young people by a wide range of means and media.
- Communication is carried out in written and electronic ways that make it easy for young people to pass information on to their friends.
- A written term planner is given or sent to the young people and their parents.
- Face to face communication and word of mouth are seen and utilised as the most effective means of communication.
- There is good communication with parents, letting them know what’s happening in the youth ministry.
- Regular reports on the youth ministry and its activities are made to church leadership.
- Regular announcements and reports are made during the church service to keep the wider church informed of what is taking place in the youth ministry.
- There exists a newcomers pack that contains useful information for people who are new.
- Up to date information about the youth ministry appears on the church website and is aimed at non-attendees.
- A communication policy document exists that guides youth leaders in safe practice around communication via texting, social media and phone calls.
CCCNZ Youth offers a coaching programme for key youth leaders and youth pastors who would like help in implementing these principles as well as learning leadership skills. Contact us if you are interested.