School is starting back up again, which means church activities are, too. While it's normal to lament the end of another fun-filled summer, it's time to look forward to restarting regular activities and joining new small groups. In order to get ready for another year of learning, your church will need to figure out how to engage students—and because most students are already online, it’s the perfect place to target these teens.
Here are 5 ways your church can engage students online:
Make Good Use of Social Media
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but in order to connect with students, it's vitally important to meet them where they’re at. For most students, that means social media. On average teens are online for about 9 hours a day, and tweens about six hours a day.
Just knowing they're online isn't enough information to engage them, though. To make good use of social media, you will need to know what platforms most young people are using. Don't worry, we've done the homework for you, and this is what we found:
- The most popular online platforms for 13 to 17-year olds include YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat
- Only 51 percent of teenagers are currently on Facebook (but 68 percent of their parents are on Facebook, so it’s a great place to target them).
- 60 percent of all Instagram users are between 18 and 24 years old
- 32 percent of teenagers say that Instagram is their most important social network
Your church may have just gotten really good at using Facebook, but with the rise in popularity of Instagram, it's now time to turn your social media attention elsewhere.
In order to best engage students over Instagram, be sure to post regular stories and posts to promote your events. If you really want to get their attention, try highlighting water baptisms of young people at church, promote your online stream, and be sure to post funny photos that will get a laugh.
Provide Online Signups for Small Groups
Small groups aren't just for adults. Kids can get a lot of out of small groups as well. You just need to encourage the younger crowd to join while making it convenient for them to sign up. Since they are spending so much time online, the best way to do this is to provide a way for them to sign up there.
Make sure it’s easy for kids to sign up with their friends, as well as making sure the dates, times and locations are clear. Then, be sure to promote small group signups on all your social channels.
Keep Their Attention with Podcasts and Videos
It's easy for students to get distracted while in church. If you want to ensure they're not missing important messages, take advantage of their time online by posting messages that they can watch or listen to at their own pace.
While video has dominated the online scene for a long time, podcasts are becoming increasingly popular. Podcasts are mostly listened to by people ranging from 18 to 34 years old, but even kids ages 12 and older are listening to podcasts. The format of podcasts are perfect for youth leaders to record and present their weekly messages.
Promote Events on Your Social Channels
It should be a given by now that any event held at your church is promoted on your social channels. This is especially true when engaging students. As with small groups, make it easy for students to sign up for upcoming events online.
Whether your next event is a field day, fundraiser, mission trip, or concert, you can also encourage small group leaders to send the sign up links in their group texts.
Instagram stories are also a great outlet for event promotion. Because they only last for a day, you can upload a new promotion frequently, and link to the signup page easily. Instagram stories are also a fun place to offer incentives for coming to an event or weekly service. Maybe advertise that the first five people to send a direct message to the church get a $5 gift card or special privileges during the student service. Be sure to get creative here!
Have a Mobile-Friendly Website
A whopping 95 percent of teenagers either have their own smartphone or have access to one, and much of their time spent online is on their phone.
There are many reasons you need to have a mobile-friendly website, but if you want to connect with a younger audience, it's imperative.
This means that all of the pages on your website should be optimized for mobile. Aim for the following when you are optimizing your pages:
- It should take less than 3 seconds for each page to load
- Each page size should be less than 500 KB
- Avoid using Flash or Java on your pages
Keeping these things is mind will increase the chances of engaging with students on their phones.
If you’re curious what your students want to see on your website, ask and listen. They will probably be more than happy to tell you. One way to tell if you are engaging students on your website is to monitor your online demographics. If you’re seeing a gap in the data and you’re wondering how to solve it, check out our eBook “Getting Your Church Website Back on Track.”