When it comes to social media, I begin with three assumptions:

1)  Social Media is a good thing.

Whether or not this is true is moot.  Social media is a thing and it is here to stay.

 2)  Social Media IS real life.

Real people are on social media.  Real relationships are created and sustained through social media.

3) The church needs to engage in social media.

Social media is the new mission field.  We need to be there.

Back in 2012, Church and Social Media guru Meredith Gould spoke about the importance of encouraging church members to be “Brand ambassadors” in  Church Social Media Strategy: Use Twitter to be a “Brand Ambassador.

When a church or pastor talks up their church on social media, people expect that.  What makes a difference is when church members talk about their church on social media. People pay attention when members share.  So we need to encourage our members to use social media to share about their faith and church.  This includes youth.

Here are some facts from 2015 Pew Research on Teens and Social Media.


  • 24% of teens are online “almost constantly”
  • 75% have access to a smartphone
  • 91% of those online go online daily
  • Facebook is still the most used for 13-17-year-olds
  • 71% use more than one social network

We tend to be fixated on warning youth about the dangers of social media.

The fact is, youth are more savvy to the dangers of social media than most of us.

One of the reasons youth are not as active on Facebook as they are on other platforms is that they are getting more discriminating about how and with whom they are willing to share information.

Instead of warning youth about social media we should be encouraging and training them to be “Digital Missioners”.

Imagine what influence youth can have on their peers when they post and tweet about their church and faith.   They are already on sharing about their activities, their pets, where they went to eat.  Many of them haven’t thought about including their church activities, but are very open to it when it is suggested.

I recently taught a confirmation class at Redeemer Lutheran in Waverly on this called “Digital Discipleship”.  After that kids started to take selfies at confirmation.  As a result, several of their friends asked if they could come to the class with them.

Despite rumors of youth abandoning Facebook, the average teen has 145 friends on Facebook.  Do the math of the exposure when they share something from church. The typical teen on Twitter has 95 followers and 150 followers on Instagram.

What about Pinterest?  I still say Pinterest is one of the most underutilized platforms by churches.  33% of teen girls are on Pinterest.  Why not ask them to make a board about the church, or ideas for church?

Invite youth to create a story on Snapchat with video snaps of a worship service or event.

I tell youth that they may have friends or followers who don’t go to church and don’t really know what goes on at church.  When they share what goes on at church, they help make others more comfortable about coming.

Your youth can be some of your most effect digital missioners.  Take advantage of that and let them go!

If you are a member of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network, you can download both my presentation on “Be a Digital Missioner” for youth and my Confirmation presentation “Digital Discipleship” from Martin’s List.


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.


Digital Ministry


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