On Saturday, April 6, 2013 I officially became an Instagram user. That's right. I finally joined Instagram a year and a half after basically everyone else started using it. I waited so long because sepia-toned pictures of food do nothing for me. (I'm looking at you, hipsters.) But last weekend as I was having dinner with a group of my teens, I noticed that they were checking their Instagram feeds constantly. That's when it finally clicked that I had an enormous youth culture blind spot.
I do my best to keep my finger on the pulse of youth culture, but in the whirlwind of spinning the million plates that we all have going, I missed a pretty huge trend.
And I bet you occasionally miss one too. (If you don't, just wait until you get old and out of touch like me. I'm 29. ☺) And if it's hard for us youth workers to keep track of the ever-changing landscape of youth culture, just imagine what it's like for your students’ parents and volunteers who don't have time to read the books, scour the blogs, track the memes, and watch the embarrassing amount of YouTube videos that you and I do. It can be overwhelming.
The good news is that the guys at ym360 have given us an incredibly powerful ministry resource in their Trends and Culture Updates. It's a useful tool for us youth workers, but it also presents us with an opportunity to equip our parents and volunteers.
Here's what I like to do:
1. I read the post myself to get the latest info on any trends I've missed.
2. I type up a short email to my parents and volunteers (we use ConstantContact for ease of use and quality appearance, but you can use whatever you like).
This email highlights articles I think my parents and volunteers would really appreciate or find useful, so they don't have to read every article themselves. At the end of the email, I provide a link to the YM360 post. (For an example of what this looks like, click here. Feel free to use it as a template or even copy it word-for-word in an email of your own.) Chalk this up to preference, but I like using a link-shortening service when I include a visible link. No one wants to click on a link that's three lines long, and there's something to be said for aesthetics.
3. Finally, if you use a service like Constant Contact, you can use their social media sharing options to expand your reach via Facebook and Twitter. A few weeks ago I sent an email out about the recent Facebook app, “Bang with Friends,” and then linked to it on Facebook. Three days later, it was still being reposted by friends of friends of friends of mine. That's the power of social media.
Providing your students’ parents and your adult volunteers with an easy way to access youth culture may be one of the most important things you can do for them.
By equipping these adults you enable them to engage teenagers on meaningful topics in relevant ways.
(Oh, and if you're interested in sepia toned images of what I eat, and all other kinds of meaningless images, follow me on Instagram: @AaronK13.)