by Maddy Bass
In high school, my youth group communicated through newsletters with dozens of different fonts, colors, and lengthy text chains packed with content. While the ministry had good intentions, I didn’t feel as inclined to engage as I would if they had taken a different approach to interact with the community.
Despite the strong presence of social media in teens’ lives, ministry can and will continue to thrive, so long as we guide ourselves and teens toward healthy, positive, and safe social interactions.
Be Appropriately Relevant
Content on social media may resonate with the teens, but that does not mean it will resonate with the Church. While it’s important to be relevant to teens, it should not come at the expense of being a good example on the Internet. For instance, Tik Tok is relevant, but not every Tik Tok trend should be interpreted as “good content” just because it attracts teens’ attention.
When asking ourselves what is relevant and what is not, it is best to consider the intention behind posting content. One question you may ask is, “Will this post encourage teens to live a life for Christ?” Social media content designed for youth ministry should be interesting, intentional, and informative. If it lacks these things, it might be helpful to consider how to establish boundaries and rewrite content so that it properly serves the needs of the ministry.
Here are some tips on how to guide your ministry in a way that is both healthy and relevant:
- Start an Instagram account specifically for youth ministry. Even if you’re not a huge fan of social media, it’s one of the most effective ways to reach teens, especially those involved in your youth ministry.
- Use social media not just to post for events but to engage with teens. This could be a great opportunity to plug into different app features that might boost online engagement. New Instagram tools such as IGTV, Instagram Live, and Instagram Reels (basically a knock-off Tik Tok) can add more excitement to your feed, all while communicating about events and sharing the Gospel. This could look like inviting teens to write a reflection through an Instagram post, collaborating with other ministries to host a livestream Bible study, reposting (and giving credit to) outside Catholic creatives, or doing a youth minister takeover on an Instagram story.
- Put as much effort into social media content as much as you do in-person events. It is easy for teens to turn away from content because it does not hold simple, aesthetic quality. Part of maintaining relevance is understanding the needs of the young Church. When teens see effort poured into online content, it shows that the ministry desires to connect with them in a new way.
- Don’t treat your youth ministry social media accounts as you would your personal social media accounts. If we are guiding teens toward positive and healthy online interactions, we should keep consistent goals in our online presence. This means understanding what would be appropriate for a personal account versus a more visible ministry account. With that being said, your personal account — though not the “official” youth ministry account — should always be a reflection of you and your job.
Social Media as Evangelization
While Generation Z is highly impacted by social media influencers and celebrities’ words and actions, ministry does not necessarily need to be an influencer, too. As you are taking advantage of digital space and diving into new online engagement strategies, focus on being intentional rather than influential. Understanding social media as a tool for evangelization can allow you to not only witness how teens might respond to the content, but also how teens will be encouraged to explore their faith more in the digital age.
St. Pope John Paul II says, “We must enter into this modern and ever more replete communications network with realism and confidence convinced that, if it is used with competence and conscientious responsibility, it can offer useful opportunities for spreading the Gospel message. One can also reach the heart of men and women of the new millennium through the Good News itself.” We are called to holiness in the real world and the digital world. Social media is by no means glamorous, but neither is the path to holiness. As Christians, we understand the messiness that is our faith, especially when it comes to ministry. Just as we are asked to be stewards of Christ in-person, we are also invited to show the same light digitally.
Even though social media can be seen as overwhelming and toxic at times, we are invited to enter into the social sphere with an even greater zeal to share the faith, with the hope that it will move the hearts of those who see it, especially teens.
About the Author
I’m a simple gal with a big childlike heart. In high school, I was voted “best to bring home to Mom and Dad” and I like to think that’s a foreshadowing of how cool heaven will be with the Father and Mother Mary. I’m always on the hunt for thrift shop deals and opportunities to be intentional. I’m convinced that Jesus is doing great things with every little “yes” I give to Him.