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How Do I Develop Authentic Relationships With New Kids?

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The Social Part of Social Media: A Love Story


The title is a bit long but that is the question your were wondering about wasn’t it? When a new kids comes to our group for a visit there are several wrong first moves, such as
  • Asking them if they would like to be baptized that night in the kiddie pool you used for game
  • Saying things like “I hope you stay because this group is dying.”
  • Sending them stalking messages on Facebook after their visit like “Thanks for coming, Please don’t ever leave us. Thanks.

Feel free to leave your creepy first impressions with new kids below.

In light of this terrible engagement I think this Fantastic article about what a real social media relationship should look like and I found some great parallels between social media relationships and youth ministry relationships.
The infograph breaks it down this way
Your Twitter Feed (and most social media) Is Like A Party
Your Youth Group FB page. Twitter feed, or Blog or where ever you aggregate kids comments is your party. Maybe you’ve posted a picture that needs a caption and a bunch of kids respond. instant party. Maybe a kid who doesn’t go to your group (or any group) comments. Ah, a newbie! What now? This, of course, applies to you your weekly meetings as well as your social media meetings.
Make Your First Impression A Lasting One
In the article I mention above, they show an example of a guy tweeting out about a steak house meeting him at the airport with a stack. To his surprise, they did. He was already a fan, they did not have to sell him on their steaks, they just wanted to, in my churchy vernacular, wanted to bless him. Do you look for ways to bless your new  or current kids based on their comments on social media? If a kid posts they feel like they could eat a pizza, would you ring up a pizza joint and place an order and send it them? Yep, I just thought that up. It’s going to happen. Find ways to “bless” a comment, even if it’s just a “like”.
Keep The Conversation Going
I have seen many guest strategies for keeping, retaining, (choose a word) new guests to our youth group or church. Part of this is keeping the conversation going. If a new kid comes t our group, I make friends with them on the Social Media of their choice and send them a message thanking them for coming. That’s it. Unless they comment back. Then  I feel I have permission to engage and invite them to an upcoming event, etc. It’s good rule of thumb to wait for permission other wise we are become spammy youth pastors pushing events rather than youth pastors who really want to help, serve, and build relationships.
Seal The Deal With A Personal Gesture
A personal gesture is if welcomed after a few contacts or visits with a new kid. Offer a gesture too soon and it looks like you are “too interested”. It would be like offering a dozen roses on the first date. Or saying, “I wrote this book for you.” Too soon. So, what can you do? Based on the permission factor, and getting to know them a little, you could send them a link to a funny video saying, “I thought you would like this” or maybe a funny meme based on something they said or one of their favorite movies. The gesture does not need to be big it just needs to be personal.
You’re Both Only Human 
Mistakes will happen. You may make an awkward comment or you may chime in on something that is none of your business. You’ve built up to this moment through permission contact, building relationship, and offering gestures. We do all this, first of all, because we want to show the love of God. But the love of God is not spammy. It’s natural and so is making mistakes. Take care of the former and you will get a pass for the latter.
Don’t Let The Love Fade After The Honeymoon
If your guest comes back a few more times, make sure to include them somehow in the fabric of your youth ministry. We have a wall of fame filled with pictures of past and present members. I was tempted to take down a few pictures because some kids do not attend any more, but just because they do not attend any more does not mean their time here was useless or worth forgetting. Every kids who comes in our group leaves a footprint for good or bad. If that kid made a contribution in word or deed, include them in the ethos of your group. Maybe they only came to camp with your group or a missions trip. Remind them of that time and let them know it was a good time. Maybe post a picture of the event on their wall and say “Remember this?”.
Building relationships does not come easy to everyone but if you’ll if you give it your best shot, it will pay off.
Your Turn :
What does your strategy for welcoming and integrating new kids?
Have you mad mistakes? What were they?
Have you made some cool personal gestures? What were they?
Share away!
Off Topic: I started a new training series on my You Tube channel called Nights Of The Round Table. Come by and give it a watch and don’t forget to like and subscribe to keep up with it. Thanks.

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