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Email Is for Old People: Yth <3 TXT!

This post is part of a series on Using Technology to Further Relationships in Youth Ministry.

I want to tell you two reasons teens love text and what that means for your youth ministry.

BTW, that's not read "less than three"... it's a heart (tilt your head to the right... See, I told you so!) Much to the horror of English teachers everywhere, texting abbreviations and grammar are creeping into school work and, now, apparently into blog headlines.

The mindset of our microwave culture means people want what they want and they want it now. And that attitude towards life carries over into our communication with the people we care about thanks to our hyper-connectedness. The evolution of cell phone technology from a Zack Morris brick to the iPhone certainly helps.

Text is immediate.
Text is short, limited to 160 characters. Since it's short, it's quicker, both to send and read. The speed and convenience mean this is an immediate way to communicate. I also think there's something of a "hiding factor" to this for some people. I've had people tell me they use text when they have to communicate with somebody they don't want to have to actually talk to. They want to avoid getting sucked in and held hostage with chit-chat they're not interested in. Again, microwave mindset.

Text is mobile.
Email is tied to a computer. Messaging through Facebook, MySpace, or email... well, while many people now have PDA's and Blackberries and iPhones and all that can do email, most teenagers don't have the necessary phones or data plans for this. But so many text. And texting from their phone means text is in their pocket. And most of us know how attached some students are to their cell phones; it's like a surgical procedure to get them to lay that cell phone down.

What's this mean for ministry?
Ministry is about relationships, and one key to healthy relationships is communication. One of my youth small group leaders will text her girls to remind them of their weekly devotional reading. Another sends her group encouraging reminders that let them know she's thinking about them: "I'm hoping you do well on that Math test." A short note like that communicates care.

Just today I used short, quick text messages to set-up a one-on-one meeting for Friday morning, got a new volunteers phone number from the volunteer who recommended them, received an unsolicited music suggestion from a youth (Crystal Ball by Keane), and sent an encouraging note to one of our supporting adults. So, my examples are 3-to-1 with adult leaders for today, but all of this was while sitting in the drive-thru or waiting at the copier in the office. And I do use it often with students; reminders for worship band practice or about small groups or meeting up with them after school...

A tool to consider: SimplyTXT
Simply Youth Ministry offers "SimplyTXT," designed to be a simple way to manage contacts and send text messages to individuals or groups. I don't currently use this, but it definitely seems like it would be a helpful way to manage group messages if your students or parents or volunteers are big-time texters. At the risk of sounding like I'm advertising for SYM, here's a short video about how it works:

The bottom line
Again, this is about 1) building and strengthening relationships in ministry and 2) the missional principle of contextualizing the message of the Gospel. If your students are typing away on their cell phones, maybe text messages would be an effective way for you to communicate with them.

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