Rotary-phone“Does it work?” one of my children asked.

“Yes. It’s plugged into the phone jack. Of course it will work,” their grandmother responded.

“How do I use it?” They sat wide-eyed.  

“Well, you put your finger in the hole of the first number you want to dial and pull it down until it stops, do that with every number until the call goes through,” she explained.

“Can I try it?” they wanted to know.

This conversation happened last month between my three middle school children and their grandmother. She happens to keep an “old fashioned” rotary phone plugged in. It’s funny to think a generation not only has never used one of these, but they also can’t recall seeing it before, much less it existing in their home.

There was a time when getting in touch with students was as simple as seeing them in person or picking up a phone (one that was attached to a cord of some kind). Not so any more.

In person is still the best way to communicate with a student or their parent. However, there are times when we must track them down by other means. If I want to know what’s going on in their lives, I have to use different methods. I think this is true of the churched and unchurched crowd.

The following may seem like an oversimplified list; however, to be in the know about my students, I literally have to use all of the following methods:

1. The “old faithfuls." Phones and email still remain key ways to communicate. I have one student who loses his phone often but always checks email. Another student will only text me. Now, with talk-to-text options on smartphones, conversations are made easy. There are times when I just need to hear their voice. I always make sure to know if they still have a landline and who answers it. These are always are starting places in the dance for communication.

2. Facebook. My students may ask if I have an account on “The Book.” (It’s what some of my youth call it.) Sometimes this is the best way to get a message to a student or place a simple reminder on their home page. Starting a youth group page or an events page for trips is usually the easiest place to get all of your students to check and be held accountable.

3. Kik. Kik is a texting app that can be added to a smartphone, iPod or tablet. The reality is that not all of my students have a phone, or their phone service is turned off from time to time. This texting app allows you to talk to friends as long as you have Wi-fi. Recently, I had a student with no phone who never checks Facebook or email. We finally determined she had a Kik account so we could get her info she needed.

4. Instagram. More and more of my students are either taking down their Facebook pages or simply don’t use them. Where they are at right now is Instagram. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this is the place for you to “see” what’s going on in the life of your students.

This may not be true of everyone, but most of my students do not use Twitter. Vine is the up-and-coming video looping site, and Pinterest is where they go to gather information about an idea.

However, the truth is that if I really want to “talk,” I still approach it “old school.” I show up and see them face to face.

How do you stay in touch with your students?

Josh Griffin has been in youth ministry for 16-plus years in one small church and one big church. He currently serves as the high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. For the original article, visit

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