social media

4 thoughts in regards to technology and your personal ministry

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Are you the leader we've all been waiting for online?

There is nothing more unattractive to people online than a leader who constantly self promotes. Nothing.

People would prefer self promoting leaders spend more time with a mirror than their Twitter account.

What does revolutionary leadership look like online?  Revolutionary leadership looks like a leader who spends time online in order to learn how she can serve people better.  It looks like a leader who wants to notice what's happening in the lives of others more than share what's happening in her own life.  It also looks like a leader who actually participates through responding and commenting on what they see happening in the lives of others instead of just posting what she wants others to know.

The same goes for an organizations attempt to have leadership online.  There must be real people who represent the organization and they must have the eyes to see as much as the desire to be seen.

Are you this leader?  Are you the one we've all been waiting for?


Before you build a platform, serve

Let's be honest, who doesn't like being known?  Being recognized is a nice feeling.  Titles are good.  The opportunity to have more responsibility and to be known as someone who accomplishes things by one's peers is an awesome feeling as well.  Everyone would like to be recognized as a difference maker.

The internet is a new frontier for people who want to make a greater impact but quicker.  Leaders have begun to build their online platform through social media, blogs, podcasts, and other online resources.  Unfortunately, a platform can be built for all the wrong reasons.  Self promotion, personal financial reward, and simply the desire to be recognized can cause some leaders to become addicted to platform development (If you check your Klout score weekly, there might be an issue).

I would encourage leaders to think less about platform development and more about finding ways to serve.  Platform development is a rabbit hole. Leaders can get lost in pursuit, losing the original purpose of leadership: Serving people.  There are some big names out there who are cashing in on their "platform."  And that's absolutely okay, it's good business.  But if you are just starting to be a leader who embraces the potential to serve more people online spend time using social media to find service opportunities instead of trying to gain a false number of followers.

Keep serving.



The #1 reason you should use social networks

  Because you can love people better.

I work for a non-profit and the financial funding is from the local community.  I've done this now for almost 13 years.  Part of the role is meeting with donors, asking them to support the work we do.  Our focus is relationships first, participation second.  That goes for any volunteer or donor in the organization.

When I started working for the organization in 2000 my boss brought me into his office and showed me his file cabinet.  In the cabinet was a file with folders for each of the top donors.  In each folder was nothing more than a sheet of paper with notes about the life of the donor.  This way when my boss met with a donor he could recall things happening in the life of the donor from the previous conversation and then ask follow up questions.  The ultimate goal: To demonstrate we care as much about the donor's life as we do about their financial gift.

Now fast forward 13 years.  The need for such a file is almost pointless.  The people we are trying to love are sharing their lives through social media.  This was my past 24 hours.  I had four conversation where I was able to invest relationally with someone and ask them about major events in their life because I PAID ATTENTION to what they shared online.  They were AWESOME conversations and so fun to have.  One conversation was even the first in six years, but you never would have known it had been that long. I knew the BIG things happening in their life because of Facebook and I could see it made them feel valued that I paid attention.

If you want a different culture you need to do things differently.  Join Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Don't do it so people can know more about you, do it so you know more about others.  If you continue to ignore these mediums you are less informed about the lives of people you are wanting to love well.  You're passing up on an incredible opportunity to "see" people.  Paying attention enables you to ask great questions and do acts of kindness for those want to care for.  Think about it.