At EDGE Clubs, it’s no secret that we love and champion the local church. We believe the Church is God’s plan to reach the nations, and though we train students to reach their peers, we want to ensure their peers are plugged into a local church so they can grow in their faith and be discipled.
So what happens when the local church is, seemingly, taken away? Or is that even accurate?
We reached out with a survey to over 40 youth pastors in the
Northern Virginia region and heard back from 11, so over 25% return. We learned some fascinating things.
First, student engagement with the online platforms youth leaders are using is dropping. Youth leaders are mainly using Instagram, Zoom and Facebook to reach out, but the majority of youth leaders noted that their number one concern during quarantine was non-responsive students. We prayed with pastors for more students to be reached online; for engagement with students to increase; for wisdom moving forward about how to connect with students, and how to incorporate new strategies to meet students.
While grappling with this frustrating task of reaching non-responsive students over the internet, an interesting, perhaps concerning piece of data emerged. 72% of survey participants said they knew what to do with social media: 63% used Instagram and 81% used Zoom. Yet, no one used Tik Tok, the most popular app among teenagers, and only 2 noted they used YouTube, the second most popular platform.
So where’s the disconnect?
It’s not that students aren’t online: the average teenager spends 7.5 hours a day behind a screen of some sort. 84% of teenagers own a smartphone. If the goal is to reach more students online and maintain relationships with current students using virtual means, then how do we bridge the gap between youth leaders and students? How can we equip youth leaders to use social media to actually engage students to disciple them?
EDGE sees these questions as paramount to our mission to connect students to the local church, especially now in an era where more students than ever are spending time in front of a screen.
There are no easy answers to these questions but we’re asking them because we want to be a tool God uses to reach this generation for Christ. We want to adapt to the online world of connection. We want to equip youth ministries
to still reach students for Christ; to still disciple students and to still see organic growth, though the tools to do it may be changing and look different. Lets not shy away from that; let’s embrace that change and learn together how to use the right tool to delve into this new world or ministry.
As we pray for and engage with new solutions to reach students during this time, what was surprising (or not surprising) about our survey results? We’d love to hear in the comments!