Written by Mike Sheley
You work really hard to prepare a great weekly program that will draw junior high students in, engage them while they are present, and challenge them as they leave.
But you and I both know there are so many sources fighting for their attention throughout the week.
How can you help increase the impact of the teaching and experience you provide beyond that hour or so they spend with you?
With junior highers, if we are going to increase impact, it has to be a “both/and” strategy targeting both the students and their parents.
They are not like the children in your church where most of the work is done focused on their parents.
And they are not like the high schoolers yet where large percentages have phones and multiple social media accounts.
They are somewhere in the middle.
So I want to share with you some tips that I am starting to use in our ministry to help spread what we do when students are with us into their everyday life away from the church, thanks to a little help from social media.
Email Parents Before
The last thing you want when a junior higher gets into the car after your program is to give a vague answer to what they did while they were with you.
So set the parents up to be great discussion leaders, much like you do for your small group leaders. And you can do this without making a ton of extra work.
Send an email out a few days before your junior high program meets.
Make sure you highlight the day, time and location of your program.
Then include a point or the main points from your teaching. And add in a few questions small group leaders have or that you are using to generate discussion during large group time.
Share these with parents as suggested questions to ask their junior high student after your program, in the car on the way home.
By doing this, parents have a stronger connection to what you are doing in your junior high ministry.
And you have helped them by allowing them the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with their child through specific questions, which extends your impact out the doors of your space into their car and home.
I know one youth pastor who even put the discussion questions in short, text-friendly format and scheduled them to be sent out while students were in the program so parents could review them from their phone in the car while waiting to pick up their children.
Take this idea and run with it!
Or, if you use a service where you can schedule text alerts, you can send these out throughout the week so that parents can take advantage of time in the car to have some great faith-based conversations with the conversation starter tool right there with them on their phone.
You could also use this with students.
If they have a phone or other device with texting or a text app, you could send out Bible verses, main point reminders and even the main challenge from your teaching during the week as a bit of accountability.
Share Your Slides
No matter what you use to put images and text on the screen in front of your students, you are using some kind of software to create those images.
You may just put up slides from Keynote or PowerPoint.
You might put text over looping video backgrounds using ProPresenter.
You could be a pro creating high level images in Photoshop.
Or you might still be writing announcements on a chalkboard or overhead transparency.
Take a few extra minutes, however you are creating your visuals, and modify them into a format that fits well into Instagram.
I know it doesn’t have to be a square anymore.
However, to get the most value for what you create, square images still function best on instagram.
If you are using something like Keynote, all you have to do is change the slide size to square and then export slides as images.
All the formatting is done for you, unless you want to tweak things.
What should you share? Again, let’s not create a ton of extra work.
You probably have some kind of series title slide.
You probably have slides with their verse references or the Bible verse typed out. Share those.
You can add photos someone takes.
Have a good mix of fun pics from a game you played, reflective pics of the worship time, and group shots of small group elements.
Share these so people can see a good sampling of all that goes on in your weekly program.
Echo with Twitter
Junior high students don’t have cars with bumper stickers. But they do have social media and texting where they share all kinds of phrases and emojis.
Take your key points, main verses, challenge(s), and some questions that you asked either the large or small groups and share these through Twitter.
Even if students don’t have a twitter account, they can go online and see what you’ve posted.
Then they can copy and paste the text to share with each other.
Share More on Facebook
Facebook does’t have the limitations of other social media sources like Twitter.
So use it to share copies of your parent email, lesson summary, and maybe even a parent challenge related to your lesson.
Basically, any image or text you would create for Instagram or Twitter you can share on Facebook.
And, once again, you keep parents connected and give them more conversation starters with their junior highers.
There is no guarantee that doing all of this will definitely increase your impact beyond your weekly program.
However, not doing any of these is a guaranteed way to limit the impact of what you are doing with students.
The good and bad of the internet and social media is that this content can live online forever and take on a life of its own.
By putting content from your weekly program online, you equip parents for the potential to have engaging conversations while also sharing content that parents and students can interact with and share with their online communities.
And all that takes place in their everyday world outside of your weekly program.
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Mike is the Middle School Pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana, where he oversees their ministries for 5th-8th graders. He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 15 years with most of that time focused on preteens and junior highers.