This exhibit displays various case studies that have been carefully chosen to represent how different social media platforms can be utilized for youth outreach. Religious youth outreach is an important part of the ministry, as it tends to younger generations that will assumedly be the next leaders of "the church." Because digital media is as a much a part of our daily lives as everything else, a good way for churches and theological projects to maintain contact with followers is to establish an online presence to engage with their existing followers and attract young ones.
Online presence takes many forms, such as church websites, religiously themed blogs, and social media accounts. Leveraging these new platforms allows religious organizations and content creators to better conduct youth outreach and ministry. Just as young people are inclined to check their social media platforms every day, churches want to make religion a part of their daily routine as well. When religious institutions use social media to reinforce faith, it shows young people that religion can be easily accessible, and that it is not so far removed from their daily ritual.
The case studies chosen have been split into two categories, those including online platforms with solely online presences, and, those that have online platforms that are also tied to offline presences. These solely online presences, for example, can include a Tumblr page that is run by a religious leader; whereas an online presence that also has an offline presence might include a church's Facebook or Twitter page.
Exclusively virtual projects that reach out to younger people tend to have more visual content such as videos, memes, and biblical quotes with inspirational images. One interesting virtual project is yesHEis, a Christian video sharing website and blog. The content on this website is designed so that followers and viewers can spread information about Christianity by posting on personal social media pages. Younger demographics make up the largest percentage of social media users, therefore spreading messages about Christianity through these platforms can be helpful. Additionally, this type of service helps young people to rediscover or redefine their faith on their own terms and through a highly accessible medium. Exclusively virtual projects also use social media in order to keep in touch with their followers, as well as cultivating meaningful conversations. Examples of exclusively virtual projects that appeal to younger generations include Everyday I'm Pastorin', a Tumblr account run by a young, anonymous pastor, Be The Bee, a YouTube series created and run by Steven Christoforou, the young director of the Youth and Young Adult Minitries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and The Real Reverends of New York City, a YouTube series run by Jes Kast Keat and John Russel - two millennial pastors. Each of these case studies is tailored to younger generations as proven by their content as well as the chosen social media platforms. The overarching theme amongst these case studies is the importance of younger leaders curating and sharing content, and the importance of properly using social media in order to successfully develop a young following. Ultimately, these religious social media accounts are appealing to young people because when used appropriately, social media platforms can be a collective space for people of different backgrounds and places to voice their opinions about religion.
Social media pages can also be used to reinforce an offline institution such as a church. Instead of the video-centric, open forum format of virtual projects, church pages are used more for promotional purposes. For example, a church Twitter or Facebook page might promote upcoming events within the church or community. This is true for St. Lydia's, a church based in Brooklyn with a young pastoral staff and community-oriented events. St. Lydia's uses its social media accounts to keep its congregation informed and updated about the church. This can be a valuable resource for young people that attend church and want to be updated on events going on within their communities, or for young people that are looking for a local church community. Quest Church Seattle also uses its online presence for outreach to newcomers and connecting with congregation members. From its website, visitors learn about a program for older children and highschoolers in grades six through twelve called Amplify Youth, what their activities are, how to get involved and where the group meets. There is a also a program for younger children called Quest Kids which invites parents and their children to participate in activities at the church. Life.Church offers both offline and online resources for Christian youth, with a larger degree of age segmentation than other churches featured do. The groupings are birth through fourth grade, first through fourth grade, and fifth through sxith grade. The Life.Church site links to a separate domain for children, Lifekids.tv, where online resources and phone apps are available for children and their parents. The international Hillsong Church offers youth outreach for a group sometimes ignored by other ministries, college students. In fact, the Church runs a religious college in Australia. The course catalog offered specializes in ministry, art and media, all of which Hillsong tries to combine in its broader organization. Ordain Women is a particularly unique example in that it bridges the virtual world with the real world. Ordain Women has a website as well as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts for women in the Mormon community to share thoughts and ideas about their religion. Its online presence is rooted in the desire to dispel the misconceptions that exist about Mormonism. In this sense, Ordain Women uses its social media accounts in order to inform perceptions of Mormonism as a religious institution.
The goal of this exhibit is to display what successful accounts of youth outreach look like, and how they have successfully developed followings among youth both in and out of their communities. By examining the differences in social media usage between virtual projects and that of religious institutions, these nine case studies portray exactly that.