Texting is king. I was intrigued by this Mashable post with numbers on teens and texting. A whopping 71% of teens prefer texting to talking. And 45% of teens send at least 30 text messages per day!
The numbers suggest that texting (and typing in general, because Facebook and other social media have a powerful attraction as well) is the way teens want to communicate. They’re not big fans of talking on the phone or face-to-face interaction. So what does that mean for youth ministry?
As with every trend about how we relate to other people, two possible scenarios exist: We adapt it or can fight it. Which is the better choice in this case? Should we jump on the texting bandwagon as youth ministers and milk it for all it’s worth? Or should we condemn this horrid habit and steer clear?
Pros and Cons of Texting
First, let’s look at some pros and cons:
Pros of Texting:
- It’s fast. It doesn’t take long to create, send or read a text.
- It’s “actual.” Chances are high that kids will read the message instantly.
- It resonates with current youth culture. That may result in a favorable impression of youth ministry in general and of you as youth leader in particular.
Cons of Texting:
- It can get expensive if you rely on it for your youth ministry communications.
- It’s impersonal.
- As with all written messages, things can be easily misunderstood due to lack of “expression” and the necessity of brevity.
- It’s more anonymous than talking face to face. That results in lower barriers to certain behavior (such as flirting, crude remarks, criticism).
I think the biggest risk is that texting (and other social media) will take the place of personal conversations, either on the phone or face to face. In our busy schedules as youth leaders, it can be very tempting to send a quick text instead of a phone call, especially with phone calls being awkward every now and then. But if we want to disciple our students, we need to spend time with them, talk with them, hang out with them. Social media can never take the place of real-life contact.
Personally, I think texting is a great tool we can use with good results, if we remember the pros and cons. Nothing is wrong with the format itself; we just need to use it wisely. It’s best in cases where the pros apply. But we should choose another method of communication where the cons are a big risk. Whenever you consider using texting as a tool, analyze if it’s the best one and if any possible negatives exist.
Great Ways to Use Texting in Youth Ministry
When used in appropriate situations, texting can be very useful. Here’s a few ideas related to youth ministry at your church:
- For keeping in touch with your small group during the week and showing interest in what they’re doing. You can send someone a text to ask how an exam went or if they won the match. And don’t forget birthday wishes!
- To share announcements of events, for instance a few days ahead or a reminder on the day of.
- For cancellations. Notify students up front when there’s a chance of cancellation. Then they’ll know to watch their cell phones for messages.
- For prayer requests or urgent announcements. If you have all students’ cell phone numbers (and/or those of parents!) and the means to send a group text, you can notify everyone at once if an urgent prayer request arises or if something happens.
- Sharing news about events with parents so they know what’s happening in your ministry.
- Why not do some interactive texting during a youth sermon? Let students text their responses or questions and have them show up on screen.
- Take a poll during an event and ask students to text the answers.
I’ll bet you can brainstorm more creative ways to use this technology.