Selasa, 22 Maret 2016

How to Improve Your Middle School Ministry Communication

How to Improve Your Middle School Ministry Communication

Use these tips to make sure your message is being heard by your students.
With my firstborn child entering sixth grade, his excitement level for starting middle school youth group at our church has been off the charts. He actually quit his basketball team (his choice) with three games left to go in order to participate on Wednesday nights. I know not every kid is as excited about starting youth group, but I applaud our church for making it fun, engaging and age-level appropriate.
That said, when our youth pastor pulled me aside one Sunday and asked for help with better communication to parents, I got to work writing so that other youth pastors might also benefit. Since I’m a parent and not a youth pastor, I’m going to write this article from my perspective.

1) Be Organized

Being organized is easier said than done. For parents, it is a herculean task if you have one kid or more than one kid (I have four, trust me, it is a full-time job juggling our schedule). If you as a youth worker can be organized and think ahead to envision what you will need from parents in terms of volunteers, trips, resources, funds, etc., we will love you. Having a schedule of events—both regular youth group meeting times during the week, special Sunday mornings, parties and other special events—is extremely important. Adding events the week-of is “no bueno” and will at minimum tick off parents who already have to juggle to get their kids to mid-week youth group.
If you can plan in advance enough to give a schedule out mid-summer or toward the end of summer as parents are planning out their fall schedules, they will love you even more. Last minute additions and changes to events are stressful for parents, so better to plan ahead and stick to what is already planned.

2) Communicate the Lesson

Have you ever tried to pull information out of an 11-year-old boy? It’s no picnic in the park, let me tell you. It helps us parents if you can give us a heads-up or follow-up email with what your lesson was on during youth group and Sunday mornings. I know this might be a lot to ask and you may be putting your talks together last minute, but it will help us parents reinforce what you are teaching them at church if we can re-read the Bible verses with them, or harness those “teachable moments” to drive home the lesson when life throws them a curve ball. You could even go the extra mile and create a short video to email out and engage both the parents and the kids by talking through one key point and posing a question for kids to discuss with their parents.
I realize that middle school is supposed to be the zone for “letting your children off at the curb” both literally and metaphorically, but please allow us parents to support what you’re teaching them by keeping us in the loop with how you’re engaging with them at church.

Now on to tactical ways to communicate:

Because legally, kids under 13 are not supposed to sign up for their own email accounts, Facebook accounts or other social media accounts, this poses a slight problem/risk with communication for middle school ministry. There’s a reason this age group is called  “tweens.” The are in-between being a child and being an adult.
That said, the primary audience with which you need to communicate is still the parents, or caregivers.

1) Email

Email is still one of the best ways to communicate with us parents—especially if you have more than a few words to say. If your church uses church management software, then first talk to your database administrator to find out how to get all your parents into one email list that you can then email efficiently from this software (without all of us seeing each other’s email addresses in the “to” column). Don’t create your own email group—it will be out-of-date when people update their email addresses in the master church database. It’s easier to use one central church database to avoid nasty data silos.
Set up a day (maybe once a week, every-other week or once a month) and communicate/remind parents about upcoming themes of talks, events, trips, parties, costs. Keep the information simple, bullet point when you can, don’t write a sermon here. Using video is an awesome way to connect (see point two above). Here’s a great tool for video email that even syncs with many church management solutions on the market. Asking for feedback or checking in with parents to see if there are any specific concerns related to ministry is always a nice touch.

2) Text Message

What did we ever do without text messaging? I can hardly remember. Sending text messages is a great way to remind parents about special upcoming events. Text the day before or the morning of a special event. Again, check your church management software to see if it has built-in texting services, or check out one of the many stand-alone messaging providers.

3) Social Media

If your church already updates its social media channels on a daily or weekly basis, check in with this person to find out how best you can submit updates to be included on the church-wide Facebook page, or ask to create your own Pinterest board just for your portion of ministry within the church. If your church doesn’t already use a social media management tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer, it might be a great time to put your heads together and tackle social media as a team. With multiple users allowed, a handful of people can see updates that everyone else has scheduled—all in one place.
Some churches opt to have separate Facebook Fan Pages for youth ministry so that they can get a little bit crazy and engage with kids on their level—this is fine—just keep it at their level and make sure those ridiculous photos of nose hair are not going to make us parents throw up. Remember, most likely our kids will be viewing your page through our account.
If you’d like help with each of the seven biggie social networks out their to evaluate if any or all of these fit into your communication needs, free free to download any of our free ebooks: Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+.
For additional help with youth ministry communication, check out these incredibly helpful articles from other passionate youth workers around the web:

What communication tools is your youth ministry department using successfully to keep parents (and kids) in the loop?  

Original article appeared here.

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