How to Use Technology in Ministry With Young People
Tech is a touchy subject on which EVERYONE has an opinion. One youth director declares, “All technology is banned from youth group!” Some leaders collect phones and other devices at the door to meetings. Some have a basket or hanging organizer where devices can be parked, away from everyone’s hands and eyes. Some leaders ban tech usage when at a specific experiences (like summer camp, mission trips, etc), adopting a “no cellphone” policy for the sake of community and presence. Other leaders think tech and connectedness IS AWESOME! They look for ways to engage youth using devices on which they spend every waking moment possible “connecting”. Need to take a poll? Vote with your phones! Every youth event get’s its own hashtag! Who needs printed Bibles? We can pull up scripture on our own devices!
What’s right? What’s too much? Can technology “liven up” your youth ministry program?
Before we tackle answers to those questions, first and foremost must be the consideration of safety and boundaries. Safe Sanctuaries (abuse risk reduction) best practices apply to all activities in the virtual world. The concept that some conversations need to happen in the open, with others present, still applies to virtual communication. The last thing a youth leader wants is for someone to misinterpret an exchange between them and a youth. I always say that virtual communication should be informational only. A ministry-wide or church policy regarding online interactions is also recommended so expectations, responsibilities, and accountability are clear.
Going back to our original question:
What are some examples of the technology out there that could “liven up” your ministry?
Group Messaging Apps - Great for information to your group, I use these for large youth events, Annual Conference, and weekly reminders.
Survey or Review Apps - Vote on topics, answer questions or give opinions on topics where anonymity is favorable, or reviews on an event or lesson.
Bible Apps - Scripture look up, In Depth Bible Study
Presentation Apps - Creative, visual ways to present information beyond Power Point
- Haiku Deck
- Swipe (for audience engagement features)
- Prezi (for animated, non-linear presentations)
New Ways to Think About YouTube - Go beyond cat videos!
- Pre-record announcements to be intentional about the time it takes during your youth group time.
- Video clips to liven up your lessons
- Record meetings for parents that cannot attend.
- Google Hangouts On Air recorded for small group meetings
Organizational Apps - Ways to organize your notes, ideas and projects
- Basecamp – Shared Project app
- Redbooth – Shared Project App
- Evernote - online notebook, great way to organize prayer requests and ideas
Here are some resources from within our denomination:
- Devo Direct – text messages of scripture, inspiration and encouragement.
I signed my own kids up for this (without them knowing) when they were in high school, it was pretty awesome when they started receiving “text messages from God.” It is a gentle easy reminder that God is with them all the time.
- Safe Sanctuaries - a webpage devoted to sample documents, webinars, resources and contacts that include safety in the virtual world.
- Media Review and Information - A way to keep up to date on the apps and websites that are new and being used by young people.
- Young Adult Devotions - through the Young People’s Ministries area of Discipleship Ministries, devotions written by and for young adults. I have used these devotions in spiritual preparation for my young adult camp staff, posting questions and responses on our staff Facebook / Twitter page.
Love it or hate it, technology is an intricate part of our young people’s lives. You can’t ignore it, but you can be intentional of when and how technology is present in your ministry.
Go beyond distraction and annoyance and create tools to organize, energize and engage yourself and your youth.