Culture -

4 tips to navigate tough social media conversations —

By Becca Haines

Raise your hand if social media has, at one time or another, been a challenge within your youth ministry.

"As their spiritual leaders, we must continue to help students understand that their lives on social media are just as equal to their lives in the real world. "

You’re not alone. At CIY we’re in contact with youth ministers all over the world, and a lot of the conversations these days revolve around social media and its place among Gen Z.


Lance and Kellie Spencer walked into a volatile situation associated with social media when they started at Kissimmee (Florida) Christian Church last summer. To hear them tell it, the “drama” circled around inappropriate posts and people being blocked from one another … and it didn’t just involve students, but adults, as well.


During small group conversations at their week of CIY MOVE last summer, it became apparent that some kind of intervention or confrontation was going to have to happen. But before they could do that, they knew they needed to build some stronger interpersonal relationships with the students and the adult leaders. The connections they made that week were irreplaceable, they said, and students who were uncertain of their place with the new youth ministers started asking them for help in walking them through their spiritual journeys.


“Confrontation is a taboo word these days but there is a healthy way to do it – and it’s in love,” Kellie said. “That’s what youth ministry is all about ¬– investing in students and dedicating time and effort to correct them in love. That includes their lives on social media, too.”


Kellie went on to say that when she and Lance have to speak to a student regarding their words and actions, they intentionally use these four tips:


1. Do the research. Before you dive into a conversation, make sure you know the back-story. Words made in anger are often provoked or triggered from some history.


2. Pick a good location. Find a non-threatening environment where the student will feel more comfortable to speak freely. This can be a coffee shop, or some kind of park.


3. Listen – then speak. When we listen, we can guide with empathy and compassion. If a student feels the genuineness behind your time, they’re more likely to hear what you say and take it to heart.


4. Show the Scripture. Don’t guide students without it. Showing them a Bible-based reason to change will also show them how the Word is applicable to daily life.


“We still have our ups and downs,” Lance said, “but we’ve seen our group’s relationships drastically improve. It’s developed into a culture where students are feeling more comfortable calling each other out, leaning on each other and sharing struggles rather than judging and not resolving problems. We’ve even seen many people brought into the light through social media. As their spiritual leaders, we must continue to help students understand that their lives on social media are just as equal to their lives in the real world.”


Lance and Kellie Spencer lead the youth ministry at Kissimmee (Florida) Christian Church and have five years of ministry experience guiding junior high and high school students.