Email and Youth Ministry

Email and Youth Ministry

John Hebenton

Getting the Email Message Through

John Hebenton, Regional Youth Facilitator from Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, looks at a few ways of using email to enhance your youth ministry.

Before we start, a note for people who see themselves as computer illiterate… Before you dismiss this page as ‘beyond you’, read the confession: I, John Hebenton, write this as a barely computer-literate lay person, from my experience rather than deep knowledge. There is a heap about the Net and email that I do not know. So read on to discover the joys of email.While I would hope that the technology would never replace the face-to-face relational stuff, email does offer some important ways of doing this youth ministry thing better. 
The wonders of emailBasically email is writing and posting mail, and clearing your letter box without ever leaving your computer.Wonder at all the time saved, not physically posting your letters.
And wonder at the time saved with multiple letters. You type the letter once, and then send it out once using a distribution list. One letter to 20 people for only 4 cents. Cool! Think of all the trees still standing!Wonder too at replies to your letter within hours. People seem to answer you much more quickly.

What I have found is that, even allowing for the quicker time it takes your message to find their electronic mail box and vice versa, people tend to answer more swiftly on email. They get the letter, and can answer it there and then, press send, and hey, it’s all done.

The only trouble is lots of people haven’t discovered the wonders of this new thing. Luckily lots of young people, and lots of people involved in youth ministry have.


So how can email be used for youth ministry?

Keeping in touch with other youth workers/leaders

Youth ministry is not easy. Those who are involved in it need to the support and encouragement of others also working among young people. Email is one good way of helping this happen.

Most of us also enjoy sharing ideas that worked well, particularly what worked well for others. Then we can flog it and use it ourselves.

But for many leaders this is relatively difficult, due both to distances and time constraints. Email is a good way to keep in touch with others that allows for both those constraints.

Want resources on something? Just send out a request to all the fellow youth leaders on your address list and wait for some answers.

Keeping in touch with ideas through email discussion groups

Three groups I am part of are:

1. The Youth Workers discussion group is a new Aussie-NZ group run by the Uniting Education, the Uniting Church in Australia. To subscribe, Send an email to: this text in the message (not in the subject): subscribe youthworkers

2. The Youth Affairs Research Network in Australia. YARN is not a Christian based group. It is an electronic network focusing on youth-related research. Information is circulated amongst a group of people about this topic. It is very applicable to New ZealandTo subscribe send an email to: saying ‘SUBSCRIBE YARN’. Include your email address and a little bit of information about yourself, such as place of work/study, city & country you live in.

3. Youth Field Xpress. YFX is the electronic monthly newsletter of the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies.To subscribe, send an email message asking to be added to the YFX distribution list.

Keeping in touch with Young People

Email is also a good way of keeping in touch with some of the young people. You will find that some senior high school students have access to email at school.

Electronic technology must not replace the face to face stuff, but is a great way to get information out to people quickly. You can send memos on what’s happening, or ask for feedback on your ideas. You can send personal notes, or newsletters. Remember, though, that not everyone has email, so you still have to use the paper!
Keeping in touch with those who leave for tertiary education

For many of us out of the varsity cities, most of our young people leave town at the end of the seventh form for higher education. Increasingly, tertiary students are given access to email facilities. I believe that this will be incredibly helpful in helping us stay in touch with these young people as they leave behind so many of their support systems.

Go for it! This really only scratches the surface of the potential of some of the technology now available. Be bold and give it a go. Don’t use it to avoid young people. But do use it to resource how you live among them.� 1997 & 1999 Churches Youth Ministry Association