Teenagers as Media Creators

Teenagers as Media Creators

Let’s face it, if you want to know how to solve a computer problem, learn how to use a feature on a smartphone, or how to approach using your church’s Facebook page, you’ll often get the best answers from teenagers. And why not? They were born into a world where these digital goodies already existed, while adults have had to learn and adapt to them.

I often encourage churches to use digital tools to do more storytelling. Our faith is often best shared through stories, and our websites and church events benefit from using photos, music and video to tell these stories.

Yet, many ministers and adults just don’t feel comfortable shooting or  assembling a video, or gathering photos into a meaningful presentation, or using a smartphone to capture audio or video. And too often, that’s why we stick to just “telling” people stories. And while that’s better than nothing, visual storytelling is so much more powerful. Would you rather hear a lecture about the culture of Ireland, or see a video of it? Or, when returning from a mission trip, is it more powerful to have people stand at a microphone at talk about it, or to record their stories and place them on images and videos of the trip? One is easier, one is more powerful.

You have a competent production crew sitting in your church, and most of them are under 18.

Teens today make videos for school projects, videos to place on YouTube or Facebook, videos just for fun. They know how to use the tools at their disposal, whether they are video cameras, still cameras, or the recording features on their smartphones. They have the skills, and they have the time.

At our church here in Macon, we have built a tradition of using images and videos to tell stories. For the first several years, various adults (including me) did the heavy lifting. We had videos to kick off and offer updates on building programs, videos celebrating mission trips, videos that celebrate VBS week, videos that supported retreat content, and, of course, the annaul Family Christmas Party video.

Over the last three years, the bulk of the production work has shifted to our teenagers. Adults and youth often shoot photos and video together, but in the end, the teens do the production work of putting it all together. There’s always an adult or two that help offer guidance and suggestions, but the truth is that this oversight is needed less and less. And the videos keep getting better.

Maybe our youth are unique in having these skills (they are certainly gifted!), but I don’t think so. I’ll bet that there are budding photographers and videographers in your youth group too. With a little encouragement and guidance, they can show real gifts and leadership by helping tell the stories of your congregation.

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