(This is a part of a series: Reaching Teens in a Digital World)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36- 40
Don Tapscott in his book, Grown Up Digital, states, “The majority of young people (57 percent) prefer face-to-face communications among their closest friends…In general, electronic social tools are an important means of augmenting close personal relationships, but they do not replace face-to-face contact.” Do you have enough face-to-face contact with the people you are leading? It is way easier to sit in our offices and work on youth ministry programming than it is to spend time out with students. The trap for youth pastors who use social media is to replace the face-to-face connection with digital connections. What Don Tapscott is saying is that the students you work with want to know you! They don’t want to only know you online, or through your facebook page, they want to know you, and you are the pastor over them. We need to disciple the students we have. And discipleship happens one-on-one, or face-to-face.
One of the biggest problems today in youth ministry is the reliance on programs. I know that we(youth pastors) say we are using a missional model for our youth ministries today, but I think are stuck in the programmatic attractional model. We are stuck because this is our only frame of reference. We don’t know anything else.
Programs devalue relationships. I met a youth pastor awhile ago who couldn’t even look me in the eyes because he was so focused on getting students out to his youth group. At the end of the meeting I realized that I felt devalued because this youth pastor couldn’t focus for an hour to chat. The reality is that we have all done that. We have all been so focused on our own little kingdom that we have forgotten the grander mission, and calling, the Kingdom of God!
Think about why you have a program. What is the end goal that you want to produce. The goal isn’t to just have a program, its want you are going to do with the program to fulfill the mission. I try to start with the end in mind. What is the purpose for a youth group night, What is the purpose for an event. That helps me stay focused on what matters, and what I am called to do, and thats discipling students!
Students today have so many connections online that they know when you are not connecting. When you don’t care. Wanna know why? Because they have 300+ online friends who don’t care. They already have people in their lives that don’t care. They treat them like another number in a sea of social media.
When a student shows up at your youth group, or if you connect outside of your youth ministry, take time what that student to know their story. For me, tuesday nights are the nights that I connect with everyone. Its the night where I am able to schedule appointments, and get to know students. I want the students I work with to feel loved, and cared for by the church, and my the youth ministry. I want to fulfill the Great Commandment to love God and love others. For me to fulfill this I need to live it out.
The students I work with need face-to-face contact. I know this is the foundation for everything I do in youth ministry. You can use social media and leverage it after you know the students in your own youth ministry.
In youth ministry today we need to realize that our mission is to reach people, not put on a nice program.
What do you tend to focus on? Programs or people?