This article is part of our Is the missing generation’ still missing?” report to find out more click here.

The website is the new foyer of church, claims Carey Nieuwhof, founding pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario[i]. In the last year, with a physical foyer redundant because buildings have been closed, our online spaces have become window front, foyer and main hall combined.

For many of us, however, the world of social media seems transient and elusive. What seems intuitive to one generation is alien to another and just when you think you’ve grasped what’s going on, a new trend, platform or craze shifts the rules of engagement yet again.

But the opportunities to engage young adults with the gospel are widespread. Research by the Centre of Digital Theology in October 2020 found that during the pandemic, over half of 18 – 34 year olds regularly engaged in prayer and worship activities. Centre director Pete Philips sats, Lots of people are keen to engage online and religious bodies should take seriously the move to online expressions of religion during the pandemic crisis.”[ii]

Sponsored

So with the plethora of social media platforms out there and an already over-committed to do list on your plate, how do you even know where to start when it comes to making the most of social media?

Know your audience.

Know who you are trying to connect with,” says Nicole Lewis, from Agape UK. Know your audience and know what you want to say to them.” This advice may be obvious, but it is also foundational. Understanding that if you want to connect with people under 25, you’re unlikely to find them on Facebook, should help you navigate the first challenge of where to start. There are so many platforms out there, and with new ones like TikTok or Clubhouse popping up all the time, it can feel overwhelming or impossible to properly engage. But you don’t have to be everywhere; you just need to be where your audience is. When it comes to young adults you are most likely to find them on Instagram or YouTube, but audiences vary and so will your platform. Do some research and work out the best way to connect.

Be a little choosy.

The second point by Nicole is just as important – what is it you are trying to achieve through your social media activities? What it is you want to say? Old habits die hard, especially when it comes to communications. If you’re trying to connect with a new audience in a new way, it’s crucial that you don’t just point out the same old material on a new channel. Let’s say you’re wanting to use social media to engage people who are exploring faith,” says Nicole, but then everything you post is very Christian, it’s likely you won’t have a lot of users who aren’t yet Christians follow your page because it looks like a page that’s only for Christians.” Curating the content on your page is key to connecting with the people you are looking for. Language, look and tone all play key roles when it comes to building a following and engaging with people. American Bible teacher Beth Moore uses Twitter, because she loves words.[iii] Others use Instagram because of the artistry. In other words: know your strengths in communication and select the best platform for you to engage with.

Listen.

Once you’ve worked out who you want to connect with, where they are and what you want to say, the next step is to listen. Nicole recommends finding some of the people you want to connect with, following them, and following who they follow. I think you can do a lot of a lot of good work learning what your page might need to be just by knowing what the people that you’re wanting to connect with are talking about or looking at on social media.”

Try something new.

As you learn what your audience’s needs are, you can produce content and start conversations that address where they’re at and what they’re interested in. Rev Chris Lee started delivering 60-second sermons on Instagram when he realised he had an opportunity, a gate way into people’s lives through social media”.[iv] Through quirky, engaging content, he has connected with over 176,000 people on Instagram (especially 16 – 24 year olds) and has been explicit in his desire to encourage people and share the gospel with them. Instagram only lets you post 60-second videos onto your feed, so the constrains of the platform forced Chris to innovate something accessible but engaging.

Think about what 60-second content can look like, what you can say with 280 characters or what you can make with a single camera on YouTube. The constraints of each platform may feel restrictive, but those restrictions can also be the springboard to creativity. Remember, you don’t have to be an Instagram sensation to connect with people. Challenges, posing questions and running story campaigns are all good ways of encouraging people to engage with you and stay connected. As Nicole puts it, social media is so dynamic, creative, reactive and responsive, that we are all just experimenting on the platform and that can be really encouraging.”

Relationships, even digital ones, matter deeply.

The late Dr Bex Lewis consistently reminded people that online friends are real friends. Online community is real community. So, if you want to build community, you can’t just broadcast content, it is vitally important that you are willing to reciprocate, engage and respond. If people comment or share, do make sure you engage whenever possible. Social media requires presence, as much as you are able – get involved.

God is at work in the lives of the people we connect with online. He is faithful and more than able to use our posts, comments and words to draw young adults to Himself. It’s a journey, using social media. But so many of us have found it to be a fruitful and exciting one, when we jump in.



Is the ‘missing generation’ still missing?

Is the ‘missing generation’ still missing?

A brand new resource for every church to be encouraged and to facilitate a conversation around making young adult disciples in this season Find out more