In the months of February, March, and April of 2014, I did an academic research project for my Masters degree at Denver Seminary that surveyed more than 800 youth workers in full-time, part-time, and volunteer roles at their churches regarding how they used social media personally and in ministry. Sifting through the data, I found that 73.1%% of youth workers believe that teenagers are on social media away too much, yet more than 45% of you are on social media at least 13 hours a week and over 72% of that is for personal use.

Pew Research current statistics on social media use for teenagers and adults plays out like this:

Age Range % on Social Media Frequency of Use
Teenagers1 81% 29% everyday, 20% twice a week
Adults2 67% At least 63% everyday, 22% weekly
[1] numbers based on February 25, 2014 report titled Teens and Technology (http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/25/teens-technology-understanding-the-digital-landscape)[2] numbers based on September 16, 2013 report titled August Tracking Survey (http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/12/30/frequency-of-social-media-use)

 

My findings for youth workers was even more dramatic:

Age Range Frequency of Use
Under 25 59.2%
25-35 40.9%
35-45 51
Over 45 47.3%

What Does This Mean For You?

youthmin failSo what this tells me is that youth workers are upset about teenage usage of social media, but they themselves are using it as much more frequently than teenagers and only a very small percentage is for actual ministry. The disconnect comes in the fact that we need to be better examples for the next generation.

  1. If we as youth workers feel that social media usage for teenagers should be minimized, we need to be a good example and use it less personally.
  2. Otherwise you may need to change your attitude towards how youth use social media to communicate.

These two statements above might not be easy to come to terms with, but I have a couple of ideas to help you stop failing at social media and be more effective with your time.

Tips for Better Social Media Usage

Every person’s use-case for social media is different, so take these as foundational only. Also note that this is not a how-to for using social media, but instead practical tips I have learned as I worked with youth ministries across the nation to improve how they do social media.

1) Better Compartmentalize Your Usage

I advocate 100% of the time for youth workers that find social media to be necessary for ministry to have it put into their job description. At this point, it is now a responsibility that can be effectively established as working time. From here, you and your ministry need to establish what is needed to have a successful social media campaign. Identifying posting once a day or twice a week to your ministry’s Facebook page, sharing pictures when able, marketing all events with ads and/or event pages, creating banners for the page, and engaging in groups for volunteers, small groups, or with individual teenagers can all be put as time. Further, a time limit of number of hours dedicated to this task should be given from the senior pastor.

2) Establish Boundaries on Usage

One barrier to social media usage success is the fact that it is too difficult to understand what is and is not personal use. I find too many times that youth workers go on to create a Facebook event to promote the next youth group, maybe check in with messages on the youth ministry’s Facebook page, or post pictures from the last activities and find themselves hours later having not completed the task and surfing the social network for fun. Logging in not with your personal account, but instead switching to your ministry account can help you avoid catchy newsfeeds with baby pictures or lifelong friends. Even better, dedicate only 30 minutes each morning to social media and avoid using it any other time.

3) Do Not Go Mobile

One of the biggest distractions are the notifications that come in from social media posts onto our smartphones. If this is something that happens to you often, my recommendation is to use the “Do Not Disturb” feature on iPhones or notification settings for Android that helps you silence all notifications during work time. You can do this for individual applications that allow you to silence Facebook but still get text messages or phone calls as appropriate.

4) Use Accountability

I hope and pray that you have accountability within your church. Ask this person to include social media usage and even give them access to your internet history if necessary to see what time is being consumed on social media.

As with all things, social media is a great tool for communicating with a whole generation that is living digitally, but if overused, it can actually hurt progress in ministry and connections with teenagers. We need to move out of a life of time wasted and towards effective social media use.