6 ways college students can redeem social media

this infographic portrays the complexity of social media. and you know what this graphic is designed to incite in us? that overwhelming feeling of being smothered.

and it works.

our college students are not engaged with most of these services, but there is little doubt of the role social media plays in their lives. most of the students i work with spend a considerable amount of time on any combination of facebook, twitter, and pinterest.

it’s smothering.

most college students are not using social media in a redemptive manner, and i believe that’s what frustrates me the most. the opportunities for meaningful engagement and ministry are abundant in social media. they are mostly squandered, however, by selfish and meaningless banter.

and so, here are 6 ways you can encourage college students to redeem social media for meaningful ministry, engagement, and Kingdom impact:

1. create.
we are made in the image of a Creator God. we have, i believe, a divine bent towards creativity. we must encourage our students to do as God does…look out into that darkness and create light. this could be in any form for our students: a blog. photography. poetry. a small business. anything that can be shared via social media.

social media, on the surface, can be all about consuming. but creativity moves our students out of the realm of consumption and into contribution. from taking to giving. from selfish to selfless.

2. transparency.
transparency comes from a latin word meaning “to show light through.” college students value transparency in their community. they love raw honesty and openness. these values must be carried over into the realm of social media. students can and should honestly share their feelings, struggles, and questions.

but we, as campus ministers, must lead them one step further. if Jesus is the “light of the world” (john 8:12), and to be transparent means “to show light through,” then our students must allow Christ to shine through their facebook, twitter, and other social media dealings.

3. question.
to ask questions to show a desire to know someone or something better. this is true online as well. we must train our students to ask better questions. asking questions conveys humility. it conveys openness and honesty. it conveys a desire to engage. but most importantly, asking questions conveys you care.

and people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

(note: the best question i have asked on social media is simple, “how can i pray for you?”)

4. listen.
if we are going to train our students to ask better questions, we must also train our students to be better listeners. the old mantra your mama always said, “God-gave-you-two-ears-and-one-mouth-for-a-reason,” is in effect here. our students must listen on social media twice as much as they speak.

one of the beauties of social media is conversation and the definition of conversation is two-way. it’s not two-way if our students are talking a lot but not listening.

5. love.
according to Jesus, one of the ways we prove to be his disciple is to love each other (john 13:35). this must be true for our students as they navigate social media. there is no room for anger, malice, or character assassination. foolish arguments and debates are pointless. gossip and slander and self-deprecating humor must be banished.

love wins. even in social media.

6. proclaim.
if our students are living as missional followers of Christ, they understand their charge to carry the message of the gospel to where the people are. and the people are on facebook and twitter and other social media. and so our students must engage in that space so as to earn the opportunity to declare and demonstrate (don’t miss that second one) the gospel.

this must not be done obnoxiously or flippantly and our students needs to know that lobbing “holy hand grenades” won’t work any more effectively in cyberspace than it does in the real world.

the only chance our students have for getting this important message to stick will be if they follow numbers 1 through 5.

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question: do you, or your students, feel smothered by social media? why do we do this to ourselves? what would you add to the list of ways to redeem social media?

(HT for image: www.businessinsider.com)

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