When it comes to communication with parents and students: print is dead, email is on life support, and blogs are quickly following suit. So how the heck do we connect with our people outside of our services?
I don’t know.
But I keep trying, and you should too! If we can agree that the only real failure is a no-try, then we can easily motivate ourselves to experiment with new forms of communication. Each Nextgen family behaves differently and responds to different forms of communication. Those differences can come from geographic, cultural, age, and genetic influences, just to name a few. It is impossible for me to give you a complete set of “how-to’s” to connect with your group. But I do want to share some ideas that you might be able to use with your NextGen organism.
- Print – When Egon Spengler said, “Print is dead,” in Ghostbusters, he wasn’t wrong. What I think is that print has been out of use for so long that it might be coming back again. Experiment with the birthday card or the handwritten note or letter to some of your students. I’m willing to bet that this foreign form of communication might just be out-there enough to grab their attention and let them know that you are thinking of them outside of services. But please, if you try this, make it personal. The more this feels like spam, the less meaning it will have.
- Email – Small town America tends to live a few years behind the times. The smaller the town, the longer it takes for popular trends to infiltrate the system. I live in a city of about 74,000 people and we are still 2-3 years behind the big cities when it comes to social media fads. So if you are in a small town, email might still be a viable option for you.
- Text – With free programs like REMIND, setting up a text group for your NextGen ministry is fairly simple to do. I have experienced some challenge getting the younger kids to sign up for those messages over the past couple of years. Even still, this is a great way to communicate with a large number of people in a way that they are less likely to gloss over.
- Blog – I had a group of students for a while that were very into writing. During that time, having a blog worked very well, because not only did I write posts for it, but I had my students write posts as well. This formed a community of writers that was – for that time – very beneficial. Since those students have grown and moved on, the blog form no longer reaches as it once did. Which leads me to…
- Vlog / Youtube Chanel – I recently read that blogs are giving way to the vlog or youtube channel. Since I was getting virtually no traffic on my site, I decided to give it a try. It’s not hard to make a post with technology being what it is. I used to make videos each week using a “Flip” video camcorder. Now I have a 4k camera in my pocket everywhere I go. It’s called a phone, and I use it for gaming, too.
- Social Media – Follow the social media trends. Some of your students, most of their parents, and all of their grandparents will be on Facebook. Some NextGen’rs are on Twitter. Many are on Instagram and Snapchat. I don’t use every social media app because they tend to be trendy and I don’t really have time to learn and maintain that many accounts. I pick a few of the more effective ones for my group and give them my attention. I would encourage you to talk to your NextGen group and see what they are using to communicate and invest your efforts there.
I’m sure there are a million more suggestions out there. Hopefully this list provides a jumping-off point to help you evaluate your communication situation.
What ways have you found to successfully communicate with your NextGen students? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment’s section. Seriously! We’re all in this together.