Nothing in history has so rapidly revolutionized the way we communicate as social media. Today’s online world is a quite sobering social reality, where a great deal of teenage existence is lived. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and a growing number of other social media platforms are just some of the spaces in which teens in America spend a daunting 7.5 hours each day.
Our recent popes—John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis—have all made it clear that, while the prudent and controlled use of social media is critical, we must recognize it as a gift from God that can further advance the way we communicate and build relationships.
In his final Apostolic Letter, The Rapid Development, John Paul II declared: “Everything possible must be done so that the Gospel may permeate society, stimulating people to listen to and embrace its message.”
Engaging teens and being culturally relevant now means that youth ministers must embrace digital media tools and integrate them into youth ministry life.
Here are five suggestions:
- When designing a youth ministry event, use a digital media component to help communicate the message. Movie segments, short films, songs, and images can all be used creatively to accomplish this.
- Use social media to connect with teens and their parents. Flocknote, Facebook, Twitter, and the parish website are great communication and promotion tools. Be sure to follow your diocesan policy on the appropriate use of social media.
- Promote the personal use of apps and email alerts that help teens grow in their faith. Daily Scriptures, stories about the saints, and inspirational quotes can be subscribed to and received on any personal media device.
- Encourage teens to personally and proactively be Christ’s online presence in their communications. They can counter all-too-common cyber-bullying with posts that affirm, encourage, and value others.
Challenge teens to take a break from using social media. Overuse causes stress, dysfunction, and a feeling of being disengaged from the physical world around us.
Eric Groth is president and executive producer of Outside da Box.
This article was originally published in RTJ’s creative catechist November/December 2013.
Photo credit: Luke Porter on Unsplash