We often talk to student ministers and leaders about incorporating teen volunteers to help manage their student ministry’s social media. These student ministry leaders know that giving a student publishing rights on the youth group’s Instagram or Tiktok is akin to the discovery of atomic energy, simultaneously exciting and the most terrifying thing you've ever considered.
But with the right strategy and structure, your student ministry’s social media has the potential to reach students you otherwise wouldn’t reach.
So, if you’re going to use volunteers from your student ministry in this capacity, here are a few tips and guidelines that can help you expand your reach and engagement without getting the youth pastor fired.
Start with Strategy
Your goal should be to reach new students!
(Go back and read that sentence again.)
You will undoubtedly also want to keep parents informed, that’s what Facebook is for. But that’s not something you can hand off to a student volunteer.
If you’re wanting to get a student involved, keep them focused on reaching other students. This is what they intrinsically know how to do. They may not know when their next algebra test will be, or how long it’s been since they went to bed at a reasonable hour, but they definitely know what’s trending on social media.
Make it a team approach
You definitely only want to give publishing rights to the student who has some common sense and responsibility. But that doesn’t mean it should all rest on their shoulders. Form a team around them!
Your students, and their peers, will engage most often with posts featuring them or their friends. So you want as many students featured as possible! When adding to this team, look for the students who are motivated, creative, have larger social media profiles, or students who post often (selfies don’t count).
Also, be wary of students who have private social media accounts. While there is nothing automatically wrong about this, it does put the student ministry leader in an odd spot if something were to happen as you have no way to monitor their personal page. Unfortunately, you will likely be held responsible for anything inappropriate posted on the personal pages of your social media team. While some teens have their accounts private at their parent’s request, in order to protect from creeps, some teens have their accounts made private so that mom and dad (and especially grandma!) won’t see everything they post or comment.
Once your team is in place, you have a two-fold job: Give them freedom to be creative while providing a structure that keeps things pointed in the right direction.
Strategies we recommend
1. Scheduling on a platform like Later.com so that posts can be audited. This also give you the ability to constantly be ahead of schedule (we like a two-week outlook). This may also be the role on the team where you need an adult volunteer to audit, freeing the student ministry leader up to focus on other things. We recommend keeping an adult in this role, someone who is detail oriented and who can hit the brakes if needed.
2. A monthly content generation night where other students can come together to create the posts for the month. Social distancing may require this to be a zoom call with the students sending in pictures and videos to your team). Give them structure so it's not a waste of time, but allow them to use their creativity and do what will keep the attention of other teens. Plus, they will be much more likely to share/comment/like if they or their friends are in the posts.
3. Find some way to note that students are publishing. This not only draws attention to your account while celebrating what’s happening, but it also explains to outsiders why there may be misspelled words, teen slang, or accidental posts. This one simple strategy can save you so very many headaches.
4. Set the expectations as early and clearly as possible: what to post/what not to post, when to post, etc. Anyone who has spent time in student ministry knows that brainstorming with a youth group can be a terrifying activity. You can ask a student for ideas on how to go viral and they’ll respond, “Let’s burn the principal’s car on the 50-yard line of the football field!”
Give them guidelines for their creativity: no booty-shaking, don't break any school rules in creation, no negative comments about other people, no destroying your principal’s Ford Focus, etc.
5. Let them be teenagers. The whole point of doing this is to get the content and engagement that only someone born in the 21st century can give. THEY WILL POST THINGS YOU FIND WEIRD. As you move forward, you'll begin to learn what posts are odd and need to be reviewed, and which posts you simply don't understand because you are old.
Remember, you are not alone! Digital Church Movement offers social media management services along with training for your volunteers. We are ready to help you grow, reach new students, or train up volunteers!