Communication + Confidentiality: Web-based Tools

It’s been a  busy week here at Diving for Pearls…and such great fun meeting so many new friends who have stopped by! I’m so glad you were here.There’s still time to enter this week’s contest. Entries are due by 6 pm EST. I’ll announce our winner this evening…along with Five Facts for Friday.

As we wrap up this series, I want to share a few web-based tools that other ministry leaders use with their teams. Please have a look at these and see what might be of use to you and your team.

  • Ning     Mike Woods, Director of Special Friends Ministry at First Baptist Orlando uses Ning with his ministry volunteers. He says, “It’s a social networking site that for our ministry page is an invite only. We can talk, share information, post training videos and keep it only to members who are invited.”
  • Google+  Another way to create online group communication
  • Facebook  Facebook has an option for “closed” groups; this application might be helpful for GENERAL communication between parents, volunteers and Sunday School staff (e.g. posting Bible memory verses, links to curriculum activities or videos, outlines of plans, upcoming events.)
  • FreeConferenceCall   Another recommendation from Mike Woods: “We’ve been able to have volunteer or Buddy meetings from the convenience of everyone’s home.”
  • Yammer  Laura Haas who works in Children’s and Inclusion Ministry at Faith Family Church in Canton, OH recommended this resource (and, along with Mike Woods, helped with this series!)
  • Wiggio   Our friend and colleague Sara Moses suggested this tool; she used it for several groups, including an inclusion ministry.
  • LiveBinders  Recommended by Michelle Thomas-Bush, Associate Pastor for Youth and Their Families at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. This site allows you to upload documents, power points, links, forms and other information to share with your team.
  • Google Docs  Another method of sharing information, including training materials, spread sheets, presentations, even brainstorming lists. Google also has a calendar feature that team members can access and edit.

Remember, you can use these tools for a variety of different reasons; one web-based tool need not fit all of your needs. As you peruse these sites, keep in mind that the privacy is paramount. In your ministry, you’ll be privy to sensitive information about children and their families. As such, you cannot rely not only on the privacy capabilities of social media sites…your volunteer and staff training MUST include in-depth discussions about handling information with care. (including a rule that forbids volunteers from sharing ministry site passwords with friends, family or colleagues who are not directly involved in the ministry.) Privacy settings are only as sensitive as the people who are using them.

This post is NOT an endorsement of any site or product…please use the information as a springboard for research and discussion.   Find what works in your church’s unique culture (and what doesn’t work!)…and then tell me about it! I’d love to hear what you’re learning.

One final note…God created people long before computers ever appeared on the scene. People first. There isn’t a high-speed connection anywhere that can ever replace human relationships…and while technology, used well and wisely, can enhance communication, it won’t ever replace community.

Stay tuned: Contest winner announced tonight, along with Five Facts for Friday!

The BLAZE Conference at Montreat: “Young People ARE The Church”

Last week, I had the privilege of teaching at The Blaze Conference for Youth Leaders at Montreat. What a treat! If you’re looking for an opportunity to meet and learn with some amazing, dedicated, welcoming folks…this is it! I was taken with the genuine hospitality and eagerness to learn I observed in all of the conference staff and attendees. In addition, I was astounded at the intensity of attention~ during lectures, worship and workshops, folks were focused and interactive…cell phones were turned off and laptops and IPads were conspicuously absent. I couldn’t help but think, “The kids who are served by these folks are incredibly lucky to have such a passion and focus for learning.”

The keynote speaker, Michelle Thomas-Bush, provided not only excellent information and insight, but modeled sound teaching strategies as well. Many times, people think of a keynote address as a formal lecture. Michelle blazed a new keynote trail by involving her audience in every aspect of the two sessions. Audience members watched a movie clip, took a quiz, worked in groups, sorted and categorized topics, and observed role-plays. By teaching this way, Michelle modeled how to engage kids and keep their attention. She might not know it, but all of these strategies are essential when working with students who have issues like ADHD, anxiety and other hidden disabilities. Plus…her style made the sessions riveting!

A few takeaways from Michelle’s lectures:

  • Kids today communicate much differently than their leaders did when in middle and high school; as leaders, we need to understand and learn how to communicate with them
  • With social media and texting taking a huge role in youth culture, it is critical to have communication and safety policies in place. This not only protects the students, but the adult staff and volunteers as well.
  • Students identify their parents, teachers and youth leaders as role models BEFORE their sports heroes or pop icons. This is great news! Young people also indicate that they want role models who have overcome adversity and who have achieved goals. Michelle pointed out that it’s important to share our struggles and how we’ve managed them…kids want us to invest time and attention in them. AND…they’re watching us! They want role models they can emulate.
  • Youth ministry is about more than signing kids up for retreats and lock-ins; it’s about connecting with kids and developing relationships.
  • When college students reflect on their middle and high school youth group experiences, they say that they wish they’d had more time for in-depth discussions and service opportunities.
  • Students need guidance and boundaries. Youth leaders and parents who use an authoritative approach help students to learn how to develop their own standards and boundaries as they gain independence.
  • Finally, Michelle emphasized that we need to shift our thinking about youth. “Young people are not the future of the church…Young people ARE the church.”

Michelle told the group on the final day that as the Church, we share! To that end, she has created a free online resource so that you can use and enjoy the resources she created for this conference! Her lectures will also be posted the Montreat website soon; I will post the link when they’re available.

Thanks, Michelle, for the information and inspiration!

Happy Monday, everyone!