Discover the Largest Social Media Platform that Few Churches Are Using

In my latest book, Meet Generation Z, I detail the importance of the visual for Generation Z. In a new survey, Adweek confirmed the pre-existing research and conclusions.

Teaming up with Defy Media, they asked a group of nearly 1,500 teens ages 13-20 what they think about everything from social media platforms to digital video to the new breed of online celebrity.

The overarching headline that reflects the deeply online nature of their lives and their almost entirely visual orientation is that nearly all of them use YouTube (95%), and half “can’t live without it.” Not surprisingly, Instagram came in second in terms of usage (69%). Snapchat has now climbed to equal Facebook usage (67%), but when it comes to keeping in touch with their friends, Snapchat rules.

All of you Millennials still using Pinterest will find only 33% of Generation Z even know what you are talking about. Even Google is used only by 37% of their peers.

The combination of growing up online and their orientation to the visual has led them to value online, “social” celebrities more than mainstream celebrities. They trust their advice/endorsement more when it comes to everything from beauty products to tech gadgets.

But make no mistake: it’s all about the visual, and they are getting that visual primarily (for now) through YouTube.

It’s the primary way they get their news, tied with Facebook (23%).

It’s the number one place, by far, to get a good laugh (51%).

It’s the top go-to for shopping recommendations (24%), followed by Instagram (17%).

So what does this mean for the church?

Let’s go for low hanging fruit here: start using YouTube!

Here’s five simple ways to begin using YouTube to reach a YouTube generation:

1. Start a YouTube Channel.

It’s increasingly common for churches of all sizes to self-produce videos that are used in weekend services, student ministry and children’s ministry. Why not start your own YouTube channel for those videos? At Meck, we are developing multiple channels, and probably putting the most energy into the one for MecKidz, our ministry to children birth-fifth grade. This not only reinforces what they learned/saw on the weekend, but is in an easy way to share it with friends.

2. Use YouTube Videos.

If the most popular form of communication and discourse is visual in nature and housed on YouTube then, for goodness sake, use what people are talking about! Viral videos can be used as sermon illustrations, talking points, even for the basis of showing a point of view you wish to disagree with. If I can “show” something instead of “tell” it, I go for “show” every time. Sometimes they can just be a fun way to get into a topic that everyone can identify with or enjoy. For example, I did a 4-week series titled “Viral Verses” on the four most popular verses popping up on Bible apps and social media. Each week, I began by showing the most viral comedic video trending that week.

3. Develop YouTube-Style Videos.

When you develop videos – and as mentioned, many churches of all sizes find this feasible – consider the kinds of videos that are popular on YouTube. Most are not polished, but they do have identifiable styles and cuts, angles and vibes. Our children’s ministry team continually studies the most popular YouTube channels oriented toward children to stay abreast of style, and then develops our videos in similar fashion as a cultural bridge. For adults, think of the enormous popularity of DIY (do-it-yourself) videos, or TED talks. Take cues from what’s clearly popular when you develop your own.

4. Study YouTube Videos Culturally.

If we are an increasingly visual culture, and YouTube is the primary medium housing those visuals, then start studying YouTube culturally. Consider it “Missiology 101.” If you were to be dropped deep into the Amazon basin to reach an unreached people’s group, you would intuitively study their language, dress, music and more. The reality is that you are a missionary. And in most Western countries of the world, that is going to mean studying YouTube. When you do, here is what I would suggest you look for: 1) topics that seem to be of interest; 2) how people communicate, both stylistically and actual verbiage; 3) what are the most popular/viewed videos, and what seem to be their themes; and 4) obvious ways of thinking being manifest that you can either take advantage of or must learn new apologetics to counter.

5. YouTube Your Website.

Generation Z won’t read an ad, but they will watch one. They may not read a book, but they’ll see the film. So when it comes to your website, they may not read much of your written copy, but they’ll watch a short video. So rethink your website and move away from extensive writing to numerous short videos that present information about the page they are visiting. Emphasis on short. If you visit Meck’s website (, you’ll find very few pages that do not have an embedded video.

This is, of course, a very narrow set of suggestions related to one visual repository. The idea of becoming more visual in light of a culture that is increasingly visual can take on any number of forms – how you present music, how you illustrate a message, how you convey a story, how you capture attention, and how you move someone emotionally.

But let’s state the obvious:

… start with YouTube.

> Read more from James Emery White here.

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James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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