This is the final post in an eight-week series on Youth ministry and social media.
I am often asked by youth workers, pastors and parents questions along the lines of: “What’s out there that can teach me about social media?” “Where can I find some help figuring out how best to effectively and safely use it?”
The tempting answer is, “Well, Google it!” But the truth is, like anything you “Google,” you’re bound to get way more information than you want or need. There’s some scary stuff out there, and mostly I think we do more harm than good when we blindly execute an Internet search on any given topic.
Below is a list of things I’ve culled from my own web searches on social media. I’m sure there are many more, but here’s a good list to get started with. Not all of what I’ve listed comes from a strictly faith-based perspective, but then, social media isn’t really faith-based in and of itself (though if this blog has done anything, I hope you’ve learned something about how to use it to strengthen, connect, and enrich faith-based communities and ministry).
I’d also encourage you to reach out to church leaders, middle and upper judicatory leaders, your local library and perhaps even ... here’s a thought ... your own son or daughter or niece or nephew or neighborhood kid. Chances are, though they might not always make the best social media decisions, they can tell you something about how to use it, and why they are so taken with it.
So here you go, some starting points to get yourself educated, equipped, and empowered to embrace the blessings of social media:
There’s a fabulous cache of resources at PBS.org. Check out the Children and Media page. It has a plethora of links to educational and parent-focused social media informational and instructional sites.
Youthworker.com is a popular spot for youth workers from a wide variety of theological traditions. And it has a great page that serves as a mini-clearinghouse of sorts for youth ministry and social media.
Wendy Manganaro is the founder of Social Abundance Marketing, and while her work primarily focuses on helping businesses harness the power of social media for their own use, she is also quite savvy when it comes to instructing parents and children on the blessings and curses of social media.
And, obviously, you’ll want to bookmark the New Media Project, particularly the information on children and youth. Also be sure to check out the resources listed in the previous posts in this series.
Finally, on a pop culture note, I’d highly suggest that anyone trying to understand the explosion of social media set aside two hours, grab some popcorn, find a conversation partner and watch The Social Network, the movie that chronicles how Mark Zuckerberg created and produced Facebook. Part entertaining, part disturbing, it’s an up-close and personal look at how it is that the craze caught on in the first place. It’s worth your time, and it might even help you get your head around how it is we got where we currently find ourselves in the digital landscape.
As I’ve said and written in multiple places, social media is here to stay and grow and adapt, and if we aren’t going to get left behind or sidelined by it all, we’d best learn all we can about it. Especially, perhaps, when it comes to the church and social media. In the end, at least part of the role of the church has always been helping her people make sense of the world around them.
This world—this new media world—is one that needs a great deal of interpretation and thought. And if we’ll do that, we just might find ourselves ahead of the curve, and find God in the midst of it, still.
Julie Richardson Brown is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Her passion has long been youth ministry. She serves as Team Minister for Youth Ministry for the Christian Church in Indiana and does some speaking and consulting with congregations regarding youth ministry training, development, leadership, and issues. She writes and can be reached at www.julierichardsonbrown.net.
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