Last week we asked this question:
Among the several responses submitted, Andrew Thompson, from the church at Priceville, might have said it best…
Impact: to influence, to affect. This is exactly what Hashtag is doing in the young people at Priceville. Not only is the series impacting their life, but it is helping them to evangelize more. At Priceville, we are a very small congregation of around 100 people. Our youth (6th-12th grades) is around 15 kids. Each week we have a core group of people showing up, but we also have new visitors coming because their friends want them to come and be a part of this awesome series that has been put together. As one of our students said, “The speakers really put it into terms that teenagers and kids can understand.” Another one said, “The series seems to be speaking directly to my life.” If I were to ask everyone that participates and is involved, then I am sure they would all have the same answer. For the first time since my arrival (December, 2011), they are truly excited to be a part of something and because of the impact it is made on our students, they in turn are impacting our community by making sure others get involved, as well.Hashtag has given the Priceville Youth Group energy, fire, and passion. We are beginning to see positive spiritual growth in our ministry, growth in numbers, and growth as a unified group. To sum up the impact in 300 words is just impossible. God is doing great things through Hashtag, but I can’t wait to see what is to come because God always has greater things in store. Thanks to Hashtag we are experiencing something great, and because of it I know greater things will come.
Our prayer is truly for the Hashtag Youth Series to make an everlasting impact on the hearts and minds of young people. Like, Andrew, we hope you’ll continue to share stories of your group’s experience and growth throughout this project.
Let me introduce Monica Cope.
Monica is a 10th grade student that began attending midweek services at Spring Meadows about six months ago. After the first three messages in the Hashtag Series, (Blake McCaskill on Creation, Joey Sparks on Relationship, Joseph Horton on Redemption), Monica responded with desire to profess her faith in Jesus Christ through baptism.
As we sat down to talk with her family, she confessed, “I want to be baptized to have a richer, fuller, deeper relationship with God, to have my sins washed away, and to be reborn as a new person.”
So, it’s true. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Let’s continue using this series to preach Jesus to young people. As students return each week to hear the life-saving news of the gospel, we pray for more belief, and more baptisms.
Let’s continue to reach young hearts like Monica’s. To draw them into deeper, fuller, more rich and excellent understanding of our salvation. For us all to be captivated as we comprehend the width and depth and height of God’s love. Continue pointing them to turn from sin and to trust in the saving gospel work of Jesus Christ.
For His glory,
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV)
Part of what makes the Hashtag Youth Series so unique is the different experiences we can share together through the marvel of technology. So we thought it would be beneficial to tell stories and share photos along the way about what is actually happening in the hearts of young people across the world.
Wherever you were this week, we hope you got to hear Blake McCaskill’s lesson on creation. It was awesome to hear all the responses to such a passionate, thought-provoking message about Jesus as Creator of all things. Here were some of his impact points we saw retweeted across the web…
Students in Mobile, Alabama helped spread the excitement about the series, contributing to the 267 original tweets that got shared and retweeted multiple times. The beauty of Twitter is seeing young people put their faith into words. Articulating personal faith is a positive sign of spiritual progress and growth.
A group in Topeka, Kansas actually lost electricity but didn’t let that stop the conversation. Their youth leader, Nathan McBroom said this…
The power went out! After two days of setting up our room with cool decorations and getting it arranged to watch the video we were stuck upstairs in a small room because it has windows to let in light! Even so we watched the video on my laptop (thanks for making it a download!) and had a positive discussion between our teenagers. Satan was against us but God was greater!
We even saw our first piece of Hashtag art created by teenager, Morgan Page. From all the feedback and positive response from leaders everywhere, this series is making an impact. Thoughtful discussion, challenging questions, and life-changing transformation is happening through a shared-experience of the gospel. Young people are in fact growing in their knowledge, love, and joy of God’s Word. And we praise God for that.
Hashtag Youth Series was designed to create conversation around the person and work of Jesus Christ. Enjoy these pieces of that conversation.
Learning about Jesus. Score.
It’s amazing to see the partnership and continued growing interest in this series. Churches, missionaries, college ministries and more are partnering to have the gospel preached to the next generation.
Here’s the link for our “#Hashtag Nation Map” – an up-to-date Google map of world-wide partners in this series.
You can zoom in and out to see your state, region, country, continent or the entire world. Register at hashtagyouthseries.com/register to have your church, ministry or family added to the #Hashtag Nation Map.
Praise God for His glory being shared across the globe.
A few missionaries in Asuncion, Paraguay have been preparing the way for us to preach Jesus in South America! They discovered the series online and have decided to make the most of it – and not only for themselves – but for the world.
The missionaries in Paraguay have graciously volunteered to translate all the #HASHTAG manuscripts, articles and videos into Spanish. Their hours of hard work and diligence in translating video sub-titles and manuscripts is making the gospel available to Spanish-speaking students and churches across the world.
Students in Asuncion, Paraguay are excited about sharing the experience of a summer youth series with churches in America. Teenagers want to post the Spanish sub-titled videos on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. They’re joining other teenagers thousands of miles away in the message and mission of Jesus Christ.
Here’s what some of their students are saying…
“Wow, it’s in Spanish!”
“What a great opportunity to invite my friends!”
“We aren’t the only ones out there! It makes me feel emotional to think about studying with so many youth like me from so many different places!”
“Can I go ahead and upload the video to my Facebook page?”
“How awesome to study the same thing about Jesus this summer with so many youth who are experiencing the same things we are!”
The global bond of partnership between brothers and sisters in Christ is more real than ever. It is a connection no one can take, and a connection that will last eternally. A connection that surpasses land borders and language barriers.
We’re overwhelmed and excited about the potential of gospel advance and outreach through Latin American Missions and other missionaries in Spanish-speaking countries. We are humbled to be partners together with God and with His kingdom across the nations. The flame of the gospel is being fanned in the hearts of young people everywhere.
Jesus is using young people to build His church. And we don’t believe even the gates of Hell could stop them (Matthew 16:18).
Brittnea Dye Yegros and Scott Bond
In January of this year I traveled from FREED-HARDEMAN-land to a place where there is very little knowledge of the university or it’s traditions. I wanted to get my youth group in GO! Camp this summer, but I was having a difficult time getting them excited about it. So, after much thought, I figured that the best way to get my group to GO! was to bring GO! to them first. I knew that Scott Bond was planning on attending the camp as well, so I approached him about throwing a registration party for both of our groups. I’ll give some details in a second, but I’ll just say that the night was a tremendous success. We had a great turnout and several young people decided to register for camp that night.
Now that the #HASHTAG Youth Series is coming next month, Mr. Bond thought it would be cool if the participating churches threw similar events for the premiere. It has been asked of me to share just a few simple things that I did to make the night memorable. So. . .here we go.
Consider teaming up with other youth groups.
Being a youth minister shouldn’t be about trying to outdo some guy in the next town. It doesn’t matter if you have a group of 10 or a group of 100– always put your heart into it. I realize that this idea is sometimes easier said than done, but you have to remember that we are in this together. If you are struggling with comparison, I’ve got two words of advice for you: QUIT IT. You’ll only drive yourself crazy trying to equate your abilities and talents to someone else’s. (I’m speaking to you from experience.)
Shouldn’t all of us be working toward the same goal? With that in mind, why not team up with another youth group to make something special happen? Getting to team up with Scott Bond on various projects has been a tremendous blessing. Both of us bring different things to the table, yet both of us are working toward the same goal: Helping young people grow closer to Jesus Christ.
Ask people to help you.
If you aren’t very skilled in decorating, don’t kill yourself trying to do it. Ask a parent or two, or maybe even a couple of teenagers to help you out. I stink at a lot of things, and I wouldn’t get anywhere without awesome parents that volunteer to help me. Again. . .you’re not Superman.
Give yourself plenty of time to advertise.
To me, this is the obvious one. Chances are that many of the people in your group aren’t going to hear a simple announcement the first time you make it. Or the second time. Or the third. . .
Anyway, it’s important to try to market your event from several directions. There are a wide range of personalities in your youth group, but many of them will have one thing in common: Facebook and Twitter. If you are not using these, I would encourage you to sign yourself up and then make a ￼“Facebook Group” for your youth group. It may take some warming up to, but utilizing Facebook and Twitter is a great way to distribute various types of content (news, pictures, video, web links, etc.). You can also create an “event” on Facebook, but these days a lot of people ignore them. I wouldn’t invest much energy into one, but that’s just me.
There are also going to be kids like me in your group. These are the kids that benefit from having something they can hold in their hands. I would suggest handing out “invitations” to your event. these are just nicely printed, colorful cards that include a time and location. Be careful with these, though. Some people might take these a little too literally and think they can’t attend if they aren’t invited. I’m including a simple, generic invitation that I made so you can print them off and hand them out. If you would like something slightly different, I would be more than happy to help you out.
If at all possible, keep the space small.
“Better to have too much than not enough” is a general rule that I have heard several times in reference to planning a youth event. This may be true if you are ordering pizza for a group of hungry adolescent males, but it may not apply to your facility.
When I was getting ready for the GO! Party, I had to be completely honest with myself. Since we were teaming up with Spring Meadows, we probably could have just used their super sweet Auditorium / Fellowship Hall / Gymnasium. (I love their building, by the way. You should go check it out.) However, I started to think about how much of a bummer it would have been if we threw this party in a big, open space and only 30 kids showed up.
Instead, Bond and I opted to use the fellowship hall at Millview. This was probably one of the best decisions we could have made. Taking this relatively small area and packing it with 50 teenagers and 20 volunteer adults made the night seem more like a party. If you are planning on having 60 teenagers or less, consider using a smaller space than an activity building. There is a use for this area in the next idea.
Just a few hours before the party, I stopped by Walmart and headed to the party section to get noise makers, balloons and bubbles. As ridiculous and infantile as it may seem, these little items were a special touch to make the event more like “a par ty”.
Try to make your setup nice to look at. Millview has a portable projector screen, but it was too small. . .So I built a screen out of PVC pipe and a king sized bed sheet. It was really easy to do. I also surrounded the “stage area” with large, transparent tupperware containers that I covered with multicolored sheets. If you put lights inside of these it looks really good. Make sure you get the proper bulbs, though. It would be a shame if you burned your church building down because I suggested this.
Another thing that helped make our event more like a party was music. Some congregations seem to be a little more cautious about playing music than others, so I would check to make sure it’s cool before doing it. A lengthy playlist with energetic tunes can be a nice touch, though.
Keep the excitement up with games / activities.
We started off with pizza, the staple of youth ministry. By the time everyone got done eating, the energy in room dramatically increased.
This is where teaming up with someone else came in handy. While I was in the main area of the fellowship hall setting up for the devotional, Scott was with all of the kids playing games. The activities took place in the second half of our fellowship hall that was separated by a big partition. This layout worked great for us, but if you have a gymnasium, this would be the time to utilize it.
Events like this can stress you out if you let it. Don’t let it. These were just a few things that Scott and I did to make the event more like a party. You might have some great ideas that are completely different from mine. I would love to hear them. Another thing to keep in mind is that the kids will make it a party. You can never know for sure what they will say or do. Sometimes some of the most seemingly insignificant things will be a huge hit. So remember to enjoy. After all. . .it is a party. Try to have some fun. At the end of the day, the most important thing will be the message they heard.
So here’s the scoop. All the information you wanted to know and more about next month’s premiere event. The first ever #HASHTAG Youth Series.
Right now, 23 churches across the country, with 535+ students, are officially registered on our website at www.hashtagyouthseries.com/register. Here’s a look at who’s in so far…
Again, we want to be crystal clear in our mission & objectives: this is an online HD-video series for young people. We hope to create life-changing conversation around the person and work of Jesus Christ. We will release one new teaching video message each week of summer 2012 for your group to download, display, and discuss.
This is on the world-wide-web! Anybody with an internet connection can participate. All blog posts, activity/discussion guides, resources, and video content will be released at hashtagyouthseries.com. You can also follow the Twitter feed, like the Facebook page, and subscribe to our video channels.
We are ONE month away! The premiere video will release Wednesday morning, May 23rd! Scott Utter will be sharing a post tomorrow “Hosting a #HASHTAG Party”. It’s packed full of helpful instructions for how to get ready for the big first day!
We believe in the ability of God’s Word to captivate the young person’s mind and heart with the power and relevance of Jesus Christ. We believe every available technology and resource should be leveraged to display His glory and reach the lost with the gospel. We believe life change and faith-development happens through the hearing of God’s Word.
Many questions are rolling in about how to download and engage with the content. This Wednesday, Joey Sparks will be sharing a post “How to Use #HASHTAG in Your Ministry”. It will cover all the technical details about how to maximize the effectiveness of this series in your context.
For now, you’ll want to make sure your group is registered so you’re plugged-in to the latest news, blog posts, special releases, activity/discussion guides, resources, and video content.
#Hashtag is intentionally flexible to meet your ministry’s needs.
Each week, beginning May 23rd, videos will be available at 9 AM (Central). You have the option to directly download the video to your computer or stream them through YouTube or Vimeo. In addition to the video, we’ll also provide activities and questions for discussion.
We’re releasing the videos on Wednesdays, but you can show them any day at any time.
Get creative with how you use them: Show the video (10-15 mins) and use the rest of your class time for discussion and application. You can choose to only show the video in your group and then facilitate discussion online throughout the week. Or have students watch lessons prior to attending your discussion sessions each week. You need to do what’s best to reach your students as effectively as possible. #Hashtag’s format makes that possible.
Because #Hashtag videos are the primary source of teaching each week, use your energy to: 1) create exciting environments in which to view them and 2) inspire authentic discussion, application, and most importantly action in your students’ lives.
You may decide it’s best to use these weekly videos in your traditional Wednesday night Bible Study times (or Sunday AM class, just the same). If you do, here are 20 tips to make it happen:
Creating Social Media Environments:
1. Advertise your meetings. Start talking it up about a month before your first meeting. Use every arena possible: bulletins, announcements, flyers, business cards, and so on.
2. Focus on social media. You best accomplish #Hashtag’s purposes by generating online excitement. Post regularly to Facebook and Twitter. Saturate your students’ (and their potential guests’) timelines with reminders about this great opportunity.
3. Provide details. When you first heard about #Hashtag, you naturally had questions about how it works. Assume some students will ask similar questions. If you choose to leave details secretive for suspense, be sure you’re not creating confusion by leaving out too much.
4. Eliminate steps for students. Write social media posts and send them privately to your students. Encourage them to copy & paste as their statuses. Put paper flyers, postcards, or business cards in their hands to pass out.
5. Leverage social media-saavy students. Challenge students who “get” social media to generate momentum for your #Hashtag efforts. Use them write posts for #4 above. Use their feedback to reach as many people through the internet as possible.
6. Challenge your students to invite ______ friends each. Send invites via Facebook/Twitter, text messages, phone calls, and letters. Pray for each students’ potential guests by name.
7. Explain and repeat your vision for #Hashtag in your group. Tell your students early and often about the specific impact you have in mind for #Hashtag. Tie your vision to #Hashtag communications as much as possible.
8. Make a BIG DEAL about students bringing smartphones and tablets. Even though you already “allow” them in class, make sure students know you want them to post and interact online while watching and discussing sessions.
9. Keep online momentum going throughout the Summer. Promote the final session (and sessions in between) as much as you did the first session.
Creating Physical Environments:
10. Whether you download or stream, test videos each week. Don’t let the first time you play the video be with an audience. Measure how lighting affects your projector and screen. How will it look at the same time of day you show it to students? Check audio levels in your room. How will it sound with a roomful of students? Sit in every seat (or at least every angle) to see how it looks and sounds for every student.
11. Go BIG. Use the best projector and biggest screen, wall, or bed sheet at your disposal. Maybe a furniture or electronics store will rent you a large HD TV for the Summer. Quality portable speakers don’t have to be expensive. (We scored a nice pair of Bose speakers with AT&T Small Business Rewards points.) You don’t have to spend a fortune to make the experience memorable.
12. Decorate. Display #Hashtag banners. Print flyers. Use black drapes to focus everyone toward the screen.
13. Decide whether or not to provide food and drink. Do you provide dinner each week? Or just snacks and drinks? Or you might rather create a coffee shop atmosphere each week.
14. Create incentives for those who arrive early and/or bring guests. Provide rewards/giveaways each week or keep track over the Summer and give prizes at the end.
Discussing and Applying:
15. Decide ahead of time which questions and activities to emphasize. Read over important scriptures and add your own thoughts to the discussion. Yet another reason to test and preview videos each week.
16. Begin each session with follow-up from the previous week. What did the students notice online throughout the week? Display screenshots of great posts and comments from your students or others across the country.
17. Encourage posting during videos and in-class discussions. Remind them to make comments, quote worthy statements, link to powerful Bible passages during the lesson. If they use Twitter, show the power of hashtags. Remind them to include each week’s #Hashtag in their posts (and mention @HashtagYouth).
18. Give attention when it is due. Which of your students made the most #Hashtag posts? Who generated the most comments? Whose post had the most “likes” or re-tweets? Who had the most unique/funniest/thoughtful posts? Praise and reward their spiritual thoughtfulness.
19. Keep the conversation going throughout the week. Students will naturally create excitement during sessions and immediately following. So give them a push in the days between sessions. Balance conversations between thoughts from the previous week and previews for upcoming sessions.
20. Inspire students to act. Make sure students learn something each week. But especially make sure they act on what they learn. Is there something they’re–or we’re–not doing related to this lesson? Challenge them to do it. Make sure you don’t overlook a specific spiritual response to each lesson. Don’t let them leave without knowing the answer to “so what?” and how to act on it in their lives.
It’s our prayer these tips excite you about #Hashtag’s potential in your students’ lives. We appreciate all you do to reach students with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ!
What ways to make #Hashtag work for weekly studies would you add?