"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Technology

How to Make Your Computer a Powerful Ministry Ally

Rajendra Pillai

    Just 15 years ago there were only 21 million computers in the United States. Those little gray boxes have since multiplied like nuclear cyber-rabbits–producing 160 million-plus "offspring." Today almost three-quarters of American teenagers (25 million) are online and almost half (46 percent) own their own computer.

    The obvious upshot: Computers are an essential tool in our culture and integral to our success as youth ministers. Mindy Camp, a youth worker in Freedom, Pennsylvania, sums it up: "A good portion of our youth work is done on computer."

    But are we really getting our bytes’ worth out of all those wired-up boxes?

    Making Your Computer A Workhorse

    A computer can speed up your work, increase your knowledge and connectivity, give you vast storage capacity for important ministry information, and is a generally reliable tool. You can use your computer to help drive your ministry in several ways.

    1. Use it for word processing
    . This is the backbone of computer work. Good word-processing software makes it possible for you to:

       
    • Design your own publications. Use your computer to custom-design and produce newsletters, fliers, brochures, announcements, handouts, bulletins, and other promotional or informational materials.
    • Write ministry letters. Create timesaving letter templates for your most frequent types of correspondence, including letters to first-time guests, absentee members, sick or injured kids, teenagers who’ve had noteworthy accomplishments, and so on.
    • Prepare your program or youth-talk notes. Organize your Bible studies, devotionals, learning activities, and youth talks by type and date for easy reference. Dawn Egger, a youth worker in Palo Alto, California, says, "We use the computer to type out our talks. That way we’re able to save the lessons for future reference."

    2. Create a member database. With a database, you can store names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, family information, names of pets, number of tattoos and piercings, and any other wacky information that interests you. It can help you keep attendance records, produce labels, and generate reports.

    3. Create spreadsheets
    . Use spreadsheets to create and track your ministry budgets, kids’ giving, and a calendar of activities.

    4. Insert graphics 5 into printed materials.
    Design graphics, manipulate photos, and transform your publications into attention-grabbers. Mindy Camp says, "We use Microsoft Publisher and Adobe PageMaker for catchy advertisements, newsletters, and calendars."

    5. Prepare your presentations
    . Add a spark to your youth talks by using presentation software, such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint. You can create fast-moving outlines, charts, and even low-grade music videos on your computer, and then project the whole thing onto a screen. Presentation software allows you to experiment with fonts, colors, graphics, and photos.

    Harnessing The Power Of The Internet

    It took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million listeners in the United States and 13 years for television to attract the same number of viewers. But the Internet hit the 50-million user mark in less than four years. And Internet usage is doubling every 100 days.

    All you need to turn the Web into a powerful ministry tool is a search engine.

    1. Find program ideas
    . You can find great last-minute program ideas on the Internet. Check out group Magazine’s new youth ministry portal site–youthministry.com–for a huge storehouse of ideas; sample ideas sent in by other youth workers at castyournet.com; surf the Youth Specialties site at youthspecialties.com; or simply do a search for "youth ministry" and see what pops up.

    2. Take advantage of Bible reference resources
    . Just enter the words "Bible," "Bible study," or "concordance" into a search engine and you’ll have more choices than you can use. Dawn Eggar says she was surprised when her Internet search for characteristics of brokenness yielded a mountain of material.

    3. Locate good, clean jokes or powerful stories
    . You can find hundreds of joke-resource Web sites for the humorous stories you need to capture your kids’ attention and build unity in your group. A great site: Don’t Make Me Laugh at copie.com.
    4. Sample new games
    . If you’re stuck for a creative new game idea or icebreaker, you’ll find plenty by searching the Web. A good sampler is the youth ministry games index at pastor2youth.com.

    5. Find a new job
    . Look for job openings on group’s portal site at youthministry.com or on Youth Specialties’ site at youthspecialties.com.

    6. Snag electronic clip art.
    Forget that old clip art book buried under a pile of retreat applications. Log on to the Web for thousands of free clip art illustrations specially designed for youth workers. Three sites to explore: Christian World Index’s clip art at atlanticchristian.org, youthministry.com, and youthspecialties.com.

    7. Send electronic greeting cards
    . Replace expensive greeting cards with inexpensive electronic cards. Most greeting card sites allow you to send electronic cards for free. Two sites worth visiting are E-Cards at e-cards.com and Card Central at cardcentral.net.

    Building Relationships Through Email

    Email is free, immediate, and teenager-friendly. Most kids already have their own email accounts, but for the few who don’t, direct them to one of the Web’s many free email providers–hotmail. com is a popular choice. Use email to:

    1. Disseminate youth group news, ideas, and announcements.

    2. Do online counseling, evangelism, or discipleship.

    3. Distribute a group e-zine to all your kids, saving money and time over a traditional snail-mailed group newsletter.

    Of course, your emails should supplement, not substitute for, your face-to-face interactions with young people. Connectivity is one of the biggest challenges in youth ministry, and email has made it a lot easier.

    And if you already know you need some focused training to get the most out of your little gray box, contact a local community college for information on continuing education courses on computer software programs, surfing the Internet, or even desktop publishing.

    Author

    Rajendra Pillai has worked with young people for seven years. He lives in Maryland.

    Permissions

    Used my permission, Group Magazine, Copyright September/October, 2000, Group Publishing, Inc., Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539.

    About Group Magazine

    According to David Skidmore, "Each issue is a feast for hungry youth workers." This quality magazine comes out six times per year, giving us input from others on the front lines of youth ministry. Includes lesson ideas, well-written articles, relevant news and new resources. Find them online at www.youthministry.com, where they offer lots of free online resources.