Depending on when you are reading this you find yourself in 1 of three situations:
- Your ministry is still forced to meet online due to state and local restrictions or choosing to out of a sense of social responsibility.
- You are like us and due to changing numbers in the Covid-19 Global pandemic are transitioning back to virtual ministry.
- After the pandemic you have realized there are benefits to offering virtual ministry options for your students as well as applications in other areas of your ministry.
Wherever you find yourself. I want to share 3 tips, based on the 3 most common mistakes I see made by youth pastors, that I believe will make your virtual ministry sessions more successful, impactful, and engaging.
1. Balance Security & Outreach.
The Internet, and social media, in particular, present exciting opportunities for youth ministry but also big risks. You may have heard of zoom bombs and other situations where meetings were hacked and lewd images and videos were loaded in. At the end of the day, you cannot always stop the bad people. But if you are smart you can minimize risks and take full advantage of the benefits of the Internet.
In this example, many of these situations could have been avoided if people did not post their meeting ID and password to their social media feed. If this was you, don’t tell me. But also, go take it down.
The reason a lot of student pastors, and other leaders, do this, is it is enticing to think, “Wow! One click and a thousand people can come attend my group.” But you do not know who all those people are. So you do not want your event info that public.
There are still ways to reach more students in these times though and still grow your meetings, events, and your ministry. You could send DM’s to students or parents that you know who may have never attended or only attended once. You could use a private group and then invite students, including prospects, to that group. The idea is do not give up on outreach but also do not sacrifice safety and security at the same time.
2. Do what you do best.
A lot of people get on a computer and become a completely different person. Do not let this be you. Technology has great benefits and sites like zoom have great tools built in. But just because they are there does not mean you have to use them. Just because there is a whiteboard or chat you do not have to use it. Just because you can stream a video does not mean you should. If you are engaging from the stage, be engaging from the computer. If you are a great facilitator around the table, then be a great facilitator in the virtual meeting room. Whatever it is you do well continue to do that, look for ways that technology can and enhance and support that, and you will not only enjoy your meetings and events more but so will your students.
3. Don’t just put on a show. Make it personal and meaningful.
Whether it is Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or something else, it seems like we as youth pastors decide we are here to entertain. Let’s be honest, we always strive to be a little entertaining and engaging(some of us more than others) but a lot of the live streams I see become a full on show. I think part of the reason is that your students watch shows online and therefore you think you need to match those shows to keep their attention. But you cannot compete with those and you do not have to. Your students watch each piece of online content for different reasons and they are taking time out of their day to watch/meet with you because they know you care about them and have something meaningful to share.
Yes. You can and should make your meeting fun. But make sure that you also find a way to make the time meaningful and connect with as many students as possible. That is what will make your time stand out and keep students coming back. Not being the “best” show in town.
Virtual youth ministry is tough but does not have to be something that we do just because we have to do it. It can actually be extremely beneficial and expand our ministry’s impact and reach if we go about it in the right way.