There’s often a lot of chatter that goes on in the youth ministry blogosphere on communication avenues. How’s the best way to communicate with students? What about their parents? How can we make it easy for those within our church to share communications with those outside our church, such as when someone invites a friend to a retreat? This is one of those nuts ‘n bolts of youth ministry topics that I don’t like to think too much about. Unfortunately, we do need to think about our communication avenues, because the way we communicate not only affects who actually gets the message about what’s going on in our churches; it also creates an impression of who we are, whether or not that impression is an accurate one.
Know that I’m no guru on this topic. I usually need to ask for advice in this area, and when something goes right in terms of communication, it probably wasn’t me that did it. We are blessed to have an amazing administrator, Angie, that handles a lot of our communication stuff for our youth ministry, and I realize I am spoiled beyond belief because of this. I’m just a regular youth pastor who doesn’t also double as a Ninja web and digital design master. That being said, here are some principles I try to keep in mind when communicating:
You communicate by not communicating
Unclear and inconsistent communication sends the message–mostly to parents–that you don’t value other people’s time, and perhaps that you don’t even care whether they are involved. Youth workers can gain or lose a lot of credibility depending on how you well you communicate. Whatever avenues you choose, make sure they’re useful, and that you’re consistent with them.
Get information in the hands of parents in any way you can.
Communicating about events to students is tough sometimes because they don’t always pay attention. If parents know about what’s going on, they are more likely going to encourage their teenagers to be in involved. In addition, when parents know what’s going on in the youth ministry, they are more likely to be involved in their kids’ spiritual lives.
Communicate vision, not just events.
Don’t be afraid to give the “why” of the event as well as the “what.” Is a retreat designed for people who don’t yet know Jesus? Let students know so they can invite friends. Are you replacing a “fun” event for a service event? Make sure you let people know. Take the opportunity to let families know what the ministry is about as you let them know what’s going on.
Use several different avenues.
You’re more likely to get the word out if you use several different communication avenues. Don’t just rely on Facebook and hope that everyone is on there five times a day. I’ll touch on this more later this week when I share how we communicate in the youth ministry at our church.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Sure, there’s a d danger in communicating so much it could turn people off or make them check out whenever they see a text from you. But let’s be real: over-communicating is not something most youth workers are in danger of. So don’t be afraid to send out another reminder text, even though you just sent one a few days ago.
Make announcements fun!
I am just about the most boring announcement-giver on the face of the planet. Thankfully, a group of students in our high school group film an announcement video each Wednesday that we show on Sunday at our large group gathering. Students love it, and it’s far more effective than Math Camp Benjer. So, have some students do a video, get a “guest announcement reader” from outside your youth ministry to do them, or find another creative way. Fun = memorable.
Clear is better than cool.
Good communication doesn’t have to be professional. Just make sure you are clear about the details. Last semester, we had an amazing poster to highlight a concert we were going to as a group, but we forgot an important detail: the date of the concert! Do your best to be creative and fun, but don’t let the message get lost.
In part two I’ll share a bit about how we communicate with students and families at our church.
What tips would you add?
Update: Check out the follow-up post on our church’s communication avenues here.