Imagine a conversation taking place in a party where you’ve been invited. Its going on in the kitchen and some are your friends, but some are acquaintances you don’t know well, some even people you don’t know at all. Would you jump in immediately and say ‘hey what’s up guys who wants to play poker!?’. And then someone turns to you in the ensuing silence and goes ‘uh, we were just condoling Jim on the loss of his wife’.

First of all, its awkward. Secondly, you wouldn’t do it. Why? Because ideally, you’d walk in, quietly join and listen first.

This is the single most important advice I can give you regarding social media. ESPECIALLY when you use it for Christian youth ministry: Listen first.

A huge mistake made by churches and groups worldwide is they start a social media campaign or network on Twitter and Facebook and get it all wrong. How? By immediately starting to tell youth about Jesus.

Don’t. There’s only one thing you should be doing when you first open your account on any social site.

Listen.

For as long as it takes for you to actually hear what they’re saying.

In countless polls across the world by churches of their youth, the highest number was always attributed to youth saying their leaders never listen to what they have to say, and instead TELL them what they think.

Jesus always listened first. He got personal. He wanted to get into your life, not tell you how to run it. ‘Let the children come to Me’.

So how? How do you listen when its not vocal? Simple: search out youth forums on these sites, look up Twitter hashtags on Jesus etc. And see what they’re saying online. You’ll find ample.

“I prayed but nothing happened”, “I love Jesus, He’s my hero”, “I hate Jesus”, “where is Jesus when my boyfriend breaks up with me”. The one that got me more interested in listening instead of speaking first: “Jesus, if you exist, tell me why my Church thinks I’m evil”.

Ouch.

The smart thing to do is not say a thing while listening. You’ll be VERY tempted to say something, to help out, to give advice, to dish out your Jesus-rays. Don’t. Stop yourself. Pray before you start this. You HAVE to understand this audience and this medium before you begin a social media  ministry.

And when you do listen for some time, you’ll finally realise these youth are using these forums in a very paradoxical way: they want a place where they can air their frustrations privately, AND a place where they can cry out for help.

That’s where your social ministry comes into play. This is where you become an apostle and start doing His wonders.

Continued tomorrow…