The “Snowpocalype” has landed on Arkansas in full effect, I was able to sled with my son, pull a dozen brain-dead rednecks from ditches, and catch up on some reading.  I wanted to pass on a good idea that was pulled off by a Youth Pastor friend in Texarkana.  He is a very humble guy and attributed the idea to his brother Brian Mills, but since I haven’t met Brian and creativity in Student Ministry is “forgetting who you stole the idea from” AND because Brian is still using blogspot…Brian is out of luck on getting props from me. 🙂

So onto my friend Sean and his team at Beech Street Baptist Church in Texarkana, AR.  Snow fell all over the place and most of us had to bail on our mid-week services around here…so with a video camera and Bible in hand, they busted out a quick Vlog to bring church to their students (and mine) via Facebook. Check it out here.  Another good use of tech and social media. Read Sean’s post about it on www.seanmillsh2o.com as well as other insights into student ministry.  This is surely a trick that anyone with a shoulder-cannon and software that is packaged with any computer now-a-days can do.  For those of you that are perfectionists and have the newest Mac…you can be as elaborate as you want.  But in the end, great message via great social media avenues that a lot of students are using…equals a good way to connect God’s word to those at home.  Grab a Mt. Dew and sit down and think about how you could do something like this.  Have a great continued snow day! DVS

Even though it is just June… the wickedly cool Youth Specialties Blog has come up with a list of the top Youth Ministry Blogs out there in cyberspace.  There are more and more YMBlogs out there now and I would consider us all friends…even though most of us have never met.  Several of them are new to me and I wanted to pass the list along to those of you that may not have YS Blog on your “things to read” list.

*side note on tracking info about your blog:  I love looking at the data from my blog. I use Google Analytics and it gives a ton of stuff that I use and a whole bunch of stuff that I have to get my friend David Summers to explain…but my favorite is the humbling “Map Overview”.

The “Map Overview” gives me a peek at the locations of those that click on my Blog.  It kind of brings to light exactly how small the world really has become.  Other quick looks at unique visitors and what content is drawing the most interest is the bomb.  You may want to check it out if you are looking for ways to track your info.

I am glad that YS spent some time stalking some of the best blogs out there and helped compile a list like this…it cuts my time down considerably when I can just add these blogs to my Google reader.  Top Drawer my friends.  I don’t think of it as a competition thing and I don’t even need the info broken into other categories…just the pooling of resources is great.  Good things happen when we challenge one another to do a better job at sharing our faith and living it out right in front of our students.  It can get overwhelming though, I even got cheesed recently when I read something on Jeremy Zach‘s blog, it made me mad and I was about to write a comment or send him a note on Facebook when I realized that I agreed with him…whew! Near miss there.  I realized that I needed to take a break and go kiss my kids.  Keep up the good work and keep spreading the good news around.  DVS

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Updated.  If you are not using social media to further your ministry you are missing some great opportunities.  The social media footprint that you and your ministry has, needs to be examined on a regular basis.  For example, our student ministry used to have a myspace page, not anymore.  Not because myspace is going away (it is not) it is just because the demographic of our student ministry is less impacted by myspace than it is with Facebook.  But there are tons of ways to connect with students via social networking.  To better use your time, try this…print up a quick survey for your students and ask!  Crazy, I know…keep it simple, we all know that the combined user totals for twitter and Facebook are over 600 million (if you didn’t know that, now you do) so you don’t need to ask how many use what…just ask which they prefer.

Some questions you may want to ask:

  • Would you rather get info about (your name here) from Facebook/myspace/email/twitter/ning.com etc.
  • Do you have a smart phone?
  • What apps do you use?
  • Would you be interested in YouVersion Live? (see below for video explaining this wicked cool feature) I am finding more and more students using their cell phones during our teaching time to follow along with the scripture that I am teaching from.

Just get a feel of what communicates to your students the best and spend your valuable time on those.  Your students still may be the type to want a postcard.  I have students that don’t have access to internet unless it is at school, so I just have them on a list to mail calendars to.  There are not many, but I don’t want to exclude those students that cannot afford the Inet at home.

Feel free to add your thoughts of questions to ask students…

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A huge resource of testimonies from www.iamsecond.com .  If you haven’t seen these videos, you need to.  Sometimes when I need to be encouraged, challenged, or inspired…this is where I go.  That is the power of video.  I encourage our students to watch these when they ask how to share their story.  Sure it won’t be as dramatic as some of these…but people want to here how your faith has changed you, not anyone else.  Share your faith.

This video of Chris sharing his story strikes a chord with me.  I pray for our armed forces, have family in them, family that retired from them, students that serve…they give so much and get much less thanks for what they do and the sacrifice that is a part of something bigger than themselves.  I hope it moves you as much as it did me. …DVS

Social Networking Clients Compared

With so many social networking sites out there, a person can easily become overloaded with alerts, requests etc.  Anymore, it is just not reasonable to go to each separate site, several times a day and keep up with those who found a “lonely pink cow” on their farm (You know who you are).

With that said, I still believe that online engagement is critical in the church today, especially in the youth ministry field.  Lucky for us, tools have been developed to aid in keeping up with all of the feeds, streams, statuses, tweets, posts, etc.  The only decision is; which one do I use?  Hopefully by giving you a little insite on some of the more popular “all in one” social networking applications, you can make a decision and free up some time in your day to do other things, or become even more involved with your online communities.

>We will be focusing on 4 of the more popular clients that engage in all or some of the following communities: “Facebook“, “Twitter“, “MySpace“, and “LinkedIn“.  Sure there are other networks out there, but these are more prominent today.

Seesmic Desktop

This is one of my favorite clients for managing all of my social networks.  It is “Adobe Air” based, so you have to have “Adobe Air” installed to run it.  You can download that here.  This is a good thing because “Adobe Air” applications are multi-platform capable (You can run it on Windows, Mac, or Linux).  “Seesmic Desktop” currently integrates with Facebook, and Twitter however, having just aquired “Ping.fm“, integration to over 50 social networking sites is soon to come.

If you are on a Windows platform, you might look into “Seesmic for Windows“.  It currently integrates with Twitter but is only in beta.  There is more integration to come, and it is a native windows application.  Performance is good, and the UI is fantastic.

If you’re not interested in installing an application, Seesmic offers a web app that is currently integrated with Twitter only.  It is quite nice.

Seesmic does have a mobile app available for Blackberry, and Android devices.

As quoted from their website: “Build your community in one central place with Seesmic Desktop, which integrates both Twitter and Facebook. This all-in-one tool makes it easy to reply to your friends and share text, links, photos and videos all in one screen.”

Web Site: http://www.seesmic.com

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is another great client.  It is also “Adobe Air” based.  Tweetdeck currently integrates with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn.  Naturally the more integration that you have, the more bloated that the app can feel.  However, I think that they have done a great job not “overcrowding” the interface.  It runs well, and has tons of features.  If you check all of the sites mentioned above regularly, you might want to give it a shot.

Tweetdeck does have a mobile app available for iPhone.

As quoted from their website: “TweetDeck is your personal browser for staying in touch with what’s happening now, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook and more.”

“TweetDeck shows you everything you want to see at once, so you can stay organised and up to date.”

Web Site: http://www.tweetdeck.com

DestroyTwitter

DestroyTwitter is an app for the Twitter “PowerUser”.  If you are a beginner in the client world for managing your social networks, I would probably look at others first.

Like the others, this app is Adobe Air based.  It supports multiple columns.  It’s integration is limited to Twitter, so if your’re looking to manage multiple social networks, this app is not for you.  However, it does what it is intended, and runs smoothly.

As quoted from their website: “DestroyTwitter is a compact though robust Twitter application built to run on Mac, Windows, and Linux using Adobe AIR. It consists of a series of canvases that constantly update to keep tweets up-to-date using notifications that appear when a new tweet arrives. DestroyTwitter uses a minimal amount of memory compared to its AIR-based alternatives without sacrificing functionality and performance. As a result, it can easily run in the background as an automated process.”

Web Site: http://www.destroytwitter.com

PeopleBrowser

PeopleBrowser is the one stop shop for the information junkie.  It supports many social networks.  It is personally too much for me.  The interface can seem a bit crowded and response time is sometimes slow.  However, it can provide a wealth of information on trending topics, and what is happing in the social world.

PeopleBrowser provides a multi column web interface that is authenticated via your Twitter, Facebook or PeopleBrowser account.  There is also an Adobe Air application that you can download after logging into the web interface.

As quoted from their website: “PeopleBrowsr is a data mine and social search engine for real time conversations. We’ve built a set of applications sitting on the data mine to monitor your brand, identify your audience, analyze tweets sentiment, filter the buzz, manage feedback, share accounts, run campaigns, track keywords, build widgets and engage across multiple social networks simultaneously.”

Web Site: http://my.peoplebrowsr.com

What do you use to manage your social networks?  Let us know!

Amazing use of video to explain something that some of us know…but all of us should.  My question is how can we embrace the technology in a way that brings Glory to God?  Sure the social networks are great for marketing/advertising/getting the word out…but how can we use it to share Christ.  This is something that I ask myself over and over…can we as Christians create culture?  The message is amazing…better than any new ipod or flat screen…how can we get Gen Y and beyond to use social media to share their faith?  Is it just a high tech Christian T-shirt or can it be much more than that?  Isn’t this fun…?  There are many apps that allow us to read scripture and share “thoughts of the day”…but what else can we do?

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Great video illustration of a great illustration.  Sit back and enjoy Tim sharing wisdom.  Visit Life in Student Ministry

www.studentministry.org is Tim’s site, he is the full-time youth pastor at Alexandra Covenant Church in Alexandria, Minnesota.  He is a resource generating phenom that has developed some great stuff, including www.ministryquestions.com .  You would be wise to subscribe or just visit regularly.

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Weekly highlight videos I put together during our L.I.F.E. Emphasis during ’09.  Always a crowd pleaser for students to see themselves on the bigscreen!  Used Adobe Premiere for editing, shot on a Sony Mini-DV video camera.

Below you will see a few more examples of how to use video in your ministry.  I repeat…everyone looks cool in slow motion.

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The following video was literally shot in about a half-hour at a Student Leader (STUlea) pool party when we thought of a way to promote the new website for Flipside 517…and yes, I know it says it is under construction, we are reworking it right now and it will be up soon lookin’ sweet.

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Room Invasion TRoberts…example of trying to get footage from a room with minimal props/material around.  Obviously these won’t be near as funny without knowing the particular student involved, but we do what we can.  I hope this gets some creative juices flowing in your ministry.

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What is it?  Not really sure…these type of things have been going on since the technology of capturing home movies has trickled down into the hands of people that work with students.  I am sure if someone looked hard enough, there would be some sort of room invasion, student highlight, “me and my locker”, or something of that nature on reel-to-reel 8mm somewhere.  That would be fun to see.  So, from shoulder cannon VHS to the latest HD Digital, we can assume there are youth pastors that use this technology to highlight students and improve our relationships with students all over the world.  Keep those cameras rollin’ and here is our little take on subject of shining the spotlight on students.

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I have done different variations of this for many years, but I think we have found the right mixture of fun and shenanigans to share with you as an idea that can really go places in your ministry.  It is easy and students love it.  The mission we have is to highlight a student’s room, ransack it, and clean it up without getting caught.  Obviously you want to get the parents involved otherwise…or you will have to explain to your Pastor and church how you were arrested and wonder if the bail money could possibly come out of your travel expense…or even better, jail ministry mission trip!

I begin with a mass sign up…students can sign up to have their room “invaded”, but this is not a guarantee that their room will be hit.  We use “Room Invasions” as a special treat in our ministry and it is not a scheduled event.  This helps you as well since there really is no “deadline” to have it cut and ready for primetime.  So with a base list of students to choose from, we work with the parents and get permission from them. Get the details on the “subject’s” room and even let them participate if they wish.  If it is a female student, you specifically want to know from the parent which “areas” of the room are off-limits.  These are articles of clothing that could embarrass both you and the student and with the goal of fun…not abuse…you stay away from those areas.  No worries, because most students have plenty of material in the room to fill a 5 minute video.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Highlight things that make the student unique. Hobbies, sports, awards, collections, i.e. stacks of broken skateboards
  • Take tons of footage, sure there will be dull moments or things that are not remotely funny…but those will never see the light of day and you don’t want to get to editing and not have enough footage.
  • Remember-everyone and everything looks cool in slow motion.
  • Bring props…the right goofy CD or “mom’s” prom dress in the closet can make for good fun and many laughs…but make sure you know your student and that they can take it.
  • All else fails…embarrass yourself.  Fall down, put on the clothes, taste the make-up, etc.
  • Pick great music to drive the video forward.  A great soundtrack can make ok-funny clips hilarious.  i.e. I once found a Kenny G CD on the floor…enough said.
  • Trash the room, but don’t break anything…explaining a broken tiara that is treasured to that student is not where I want to be.
  • Then clean everything up.  We have done tons of these videos and still haven’t been caught.  I even leave hints that I was there.  Money missing, names written on boards, hats left behind, etc.  Still, no one has come up to me before we roll that beautiful bean footage on Wednesday and asked, “Hey, have you been in my room?”
  • Thank the parents…burn them copies to keep.  It is a great tool to get to know the parents of the students and thanks them for letting their most treasured possession hang out with you.
  • Put your own spin on it…there are no real rules saying it has to look one way or another.  Have fun with it.

These are just a few ideas…but go crazy…you will find a niche that fits your personality, use college students if you are too old or just not funny.  It is ok and we won’t tell anyone.  There is a reason that MTV/VH1 latched onto the idea as well, however, I think a youth pastor invented it first.  But it wasn’t me.  Have fun.

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