This post was a request from my good buddy Rich Ward who serves in the National Training Department for Young Life. Thanks Rich for the opportunity! To my new friends attending New Staff Training for Young Life,
It’s a great privilege to write to you about technology and ministry, as a matter of fact it is a privilege to write to you at all. Not one of us who has gone before you is perfect or more talented than you are. Most of us are bruised and humbled from life and ministry experiences but we would also tell you these “pains” were worth it in order to share hope with kids in our communities. Your call is to speak about Jesus in the way Jim wanted us to, as though he is the most whimsical person anyone can know. The challenge to the YL job is will you create daily space in order to believe that as well? So far, from what I have seen on Twitter and Instagram it looks like this has been a prevailing message during your time at NST and I hope it becomes the foundation to your time on staff.
Now, in regards to technology and ministry you are probably one of the most tech savvy generations to come aboard the Young Life Staff. In 2000, my first year as a staff associate, I spent a large part of my time transitioning our office from dial up internet to wiring high speed internet via ethernet cables to six office computers.
You’re like, “Wires? You had to use wires?”
Not only did I have to use cables (wires) to get internet to each computer, I had to make sure every PC had an assigned IP address so our email would work properly. This means little to you but what it created in me was the desire to lean forward with technology instead of lean back. Which means I went from pager…to Nokia phone (raise your hand snake fans)…to Palm Pilot….to Blackberry….to iPhone. And you know what I did with each of these devices?
Ministry with high school kids.
As these technologies have grown they have shifted the way we use them. At first they were merely tools to communicate what we were doing but now they are tools to see what’s happening in the lives of kids. Our current technology should not be a billboard for who we are and what we do. Instead, our current technology should be a window, maybe even a microscope, into the lives of the kids we care so much about. Social media is not our high school, middle school, or college friends “fake life,” it is actually the life they hope to be seen for.
But you and I know where hope is actually found. And until their life becomes an imitation of His life than they will always project their chase to find it. Do you want to help them find hope? (and in case you’ve missed it I’m referring to Jesus as our hope)
Here are some ways to lead well in ministry and use technology:
- Use it to spiritually grow - The amount of resources online and through technology to spiritually grow are unlimited. Podcasts, Bible apps, sermons on YouTube, etc… Technology becomes a negative in our life when we use it to avoid spiritual growth. We need to model this to the next generation of kids we reach.
- Use it as a diving board - We are, and always should be an incarnational ministry. This means we enter into the lives of local kids, spending time in the places they spend time, and earning the right to be heard about Jesus. Technology provides us opportunities like knowing a kid’s name quicker so we can say, “hi (kid’s name)” at a basketball game or we can start praying for that kid sooner by name. Technology doesn’t threaten our ability to be relational, technology threatens a kid getting to see Jesus work through you. If you don’t jump into their world they only see the online you, the projection of who you hope to be as well. Life on life ministry is what we do. The most impressive thing about my Young Life leader was his spiritual life and how he showed up to the things in my world I thought were important. Don’t stop showing up. Use technology as a diving board to accelerate your jump into their world (I dare you to do a gainer).
- Lead through it - You know what is maybe one of the most powerful phrases in our life? “I saw you.” This should be how we use social media as Young Life staff. With your volunteers - “I saw you and what you did was awesome!” With our committees - “I saw the pictures of your daughter’s wedding on Facebook! Way to go!” With our staff - “I saw the way you handled that and I’m really impressed.” With our donors - “I saw your recent trip to Bermuda, was that awesome!?” But most of all with the kids we reach - “I saw you and I think you’re amazing.” We have never had such a leadership tool to say “I saw you” like we have in social media. Use it as a blessing and leave the negative crap up to someone else.
- Use it wisely - You are by far the biggest threat to Young Life in your local community. I’m speaking directly to your use of social media. The things you post represent not just you but Young Life in your community. Be wise to how you use these incredible new social mediums. Give thoughts to the accounts you follow or retweet on Twitter. Think about the images in your Instagram account and are they clear or is there room for interpretation or fabrication.
You will help us as a mission get better when it comes to using technology in ministry. We want to get better, we have to get better but we also have to do what we’ve always done…bring the Gospel to local kids. This is my question to you - does your use of technology present the Gospel?
I want to end with this: Thank you for joining the Young Life staff. Kids in your community long for someone to come alongside them and care for them. Most of all, they long to see hope in someone’s life and local kids will see that in you as you seek to follow Jesus.