Social Media

Social Media For Youth Ministry (What Most People Miss)

Brady Shearer
November 6, 2020 โ€ข 6 min read

Social media is undeniably a powerful force in the lives of teens and young adults.

But of course, if you’re working in youth ministry you know that already.

So here’s the thing:

It is your responsibility as a youth pastor or leader to walk alongside your students and to model behaviors that demonstrate how to use social – while not letting social be the one that uses you.

Ready to learn how to do that?

Let’s dive in.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Easiest Social Media Strategy For Churches – get instant access to 39 copy-and-paste social media posts for your church

Popular social media platforms amongst teenagers

Let’s start by taking a look at some cold hard facts ๐Ÿ“ˆ

7 in 10 American Teens Use TikTok (2020)
7 in 10 American Teens Use TikTok (2020)

This data comes from Statista and was gathered early in 2020 – prior to the pandemic. What you can see here is the percentage of American teenagers that use a social platform at least once a month.

Something to note here is that YouTube is not included in this first chart. Perhaps because it’s not a social platform in the traditional sense like Instagram or TikTok – but do not underestimate YouTube.

Instead, take a look at this other infographic also from Statista.

YouTube is the biggest social media site for teens
YouTube is the biggest social media site for teens

This data set is from early 2019. You’ll notice TikTok isn’t even tracked here – which just goes to show you how fast social changes, especially with young people.

Here YouTube is ranked as the most widely-used social platform amongst teens.

Here’s the bottom line:

Social plays a colossal role in the everyday life of a teenager. And the platforms teenagers are spending the most time on are: YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Your two responsibilities on social media

As a youth leader, it’s imperative that you consider this ๐Ÿ‘‡

Social media comes with two responsibilities:

  1. Reach publicly
  2. Connect personally

All of what we do on social media is summed up in those two statements: reach publicly; connect personally.

Reaching publicly is likely what will come more naturally to you – and that’s because it’s the visible side of social. We can see what others are doing and take cues from them. We get that.

It’s the connect personally side that we often miss on.

This is because it’s the part of social media that takes place behind the scenes.

But for you as a youth leader, here’s what you need to know:

There are generational differences in how we use social media. Older folks will generally use social more to reach publicly. Younger folks will use social more to connect personally.

Consider this:

The vast majority of the time your students spend on their phones on social is probably going to be private messaging their friends and consuming content rather than publicly sharing content with the world.

This needs to influence how you use social to connect with them.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Easiest Social Media Strategy For Churches – get instant access to 39 copy-and-paste social media posts for your church

Social media for youth ministry – Strategy #1

Let’s get practical now.

Here’s a useful strategy that every youth ministry can try:

Start by setting up an Instagram Direct group for your students. Groups can have up to 32 people in them.

(Need more? Create multiple groups.)

This creates a private channel for your students, youth pastor, and youth leaders to connect personally.

Alternatively, you could spend a ton of energy creating content for the Instagram feed and trying to engage your students that way.

Orย you could set up this Instagram Direct group and get all of your students in there. It’ll be less work and it will synchronize with how your youth prefer to use social.

Click here to watch a walkthrough video on how to create an Instagram Direct group for your student ministry

Social media for youth ministry – Strategy Number #2

For most of us, our first impulse on social is to create content for our students.

This is misguided though.


Because students are unique in how they use social media.

This is actually good news though. Because the more effective approach isย to concentrate your energy on creating content with your students.

Think about it this way…

If you grew up in a youth group, you likely attended basketball nights, laser tag night, mini-golf – or similar activities. Why? Because those are the kinds of recreational activities that young people have traditionally enjoyed.

Today, creating TikTok and YouTube videos are the kinds of recreational activities that have ascended to peak popularity with young people.

Accordingly, your focus as a youth leader doesn’t need to be on creating content for your youth, but instead empowering them to create the content for the student ministry.

Instead of hosting another games night – try hosting a TikTok night. Break your students up into groups of three or four and have each group create one or more TikToks.

The group that creates the best video as voted on by all the students wins a prize ๐ŸŽ

Now you get to go ahead and use all of that content for the days ahead.

Want to see a youth ministry creating content alongside their students for TikTok? Check out @praiseyth here

This will work for you, too

I spoke with one of the social media leaders at Life.Church earlier this year and they hosted a TikTok creator night like this. I spoke with a pastor of a youth group of about a dozen and they hosted a night like this.

Bottom line:

Whatever the size of group you have, this makes for a great night.

You can even take this one step further by empowering a social media team made up of students to create content for the youth group. Youth love to do this sort of thing because it’s what they’re choosing to do in their spare time already.

Intersect that passion with their faith, put a bunch of gear in their hands, and you’re off.

As an added bonus, now the burden to create content is no longer entirely on your shoulders.

Helping your students navigate the dangers of social media

If you finally get to the place where you are using social to connect personally with your students, and pastoring them through these digital platforms, while also empowering them to create content for the student ministry, you are now in a privileged place where you can play a role in teaching your students how to wisely navigate the dangers of social.

The truth is, as long as humans are involved, social can and will be used for evil.

Knowing this, you have two options as a leader:

  1. Reject social altogether
  2. Equip your students to be agents in redeeming social

A wise man named Jesus once talked about how we are the light of the world – like a city on a hill that was never meant to be hidden.

Just like you would never light a lamp just to cover it up under a bowl…The Good News is meant to be shared.

So where do we share it? Where the people are.

Social provides a tremendous opportunity for us. And yes, it comes with challenges. Because whenever humans are involved in anything – challenges will follow.

This is your opportunity to partner with a student’s parents and be a voice and influence – modelling behaviors for your youth and showing them how to use social, while not letting social be the one that uses them.

Dive deeper into social media for youth ministry

Ready for more? Here are links to other popular resources we’ve published on social media for students:

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Easiest Social Media Strategy For Churches – get instant access to 39 copy-and-paste social media posts for your church

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