Connecting With The YouTube Generation

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By Steve Pennington
Steve Pennington is the director of Elementary Children’s Ministries for Trevecca Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He has spent more than 30 years creating and presenting family entertainment and programs that encourage, inspire, motivate and communicate the gospel, and his children’s television efforts have earned him four regional Emmy awards. He served for five years at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, as program director for children’s ministries. He and his wife, Danielle, live in Nashville and have two adult children.

YouTube is huge and immensely popular. That probably isn’t news to you. But do you know that kids absolutely love it? That fact alone puts YouTube as a major player squarely in our court. More about why kids love it in just a moment. For now, here are a few facts about YouTube you may not have seen that will help you grasp its popularity (and, therefore, importance to those of us in children’s and family ministry). 

  • YouTube is the second most-popular website in the world.
  • Its global market is enormous—80 percent of its content is watched outside the U.S. 
  • It’s the second-largest search engine in the world, behind Google. 
  • Some 400 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute. 

YouTube comprises a vast universe of tutorials, reviews, videos, music videos, and skits, and its content base is so massive that it’s enough to satiate the entertainment needs of anyone. How massive? Think of it like this: The video content uploaded to YouTube every two months, or every 60 days, is more content than the three U.S. major television networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—created in 60 years!

WHO’S WATCHING? 

I was one of those kids who grew up watching all my content on traditional TV. There was no YouTube—or anything else like it. There were no streaming sites at all. We used to say, “Hey, did you see so and so on TV last night?” or we’d make a joke about something we all saw on television because everyone was watching the same handful of channels. 

That one paradigm alone is virtually gone. Today there are a billion channels to choose from, and 90 percent of all content kids view is streamed. Very few of them watch traditional TV. So we in children’s and family ministry have to work a lot harder to find common ground with kids in this area.

Enter YouTube. It’s one point of common ground we can use to make the connection because millions of kids watch it daily. 

WHY KIDS LOVE IT

The main reason kids love YouTube so much is simple: It entertains. YouTube is a source of engaging entertainment that offers tons of program choices, plenty of interesting characters, and endless opportunities to be entertained. 

It also affords kids opportunities to create and upload their own original content. Kids love doing this, and YouTube allows for plenty of it. My granddaughter has 1,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel—and she’s only a fourth-grader! 

But YouTube’s appeal goes deeper. Ultimately, it is a connection point for people of like interests. It offers a “tribe” where kids can be a part of a world that includes other kids like themselves. 

WHAT THEY ARE WATCHING

So what kind of stuff to kids like to watch on YouTube? Here’s a very unofficial Top 5 list. Yes, it’s unofficial, but these channels, without question, are super-popular with kids right now:

1. Mother Goose Club: Six colorful live-action characters sing, dance and lead children through classic nursery rhymes.

2. The Brain Scoop: Produced by the Field Museum in Chicago, it’s all about science.

3. Coma Niddy: An entertaining rapper named Mike produces educational and science videos just for kids.

4. Good Mythical Morning: This daily morning talk show with funny videos, ridiculous local commercials, and sketches is mostly for tweeners.

5. Soul Pancake: “We make stuff that matters!” they say. It features the popular character Kid President.

Some of the general video topics that kids naturally gravitate toward include gaming, personal challenges, makeup and fashion, and funny and educational stuff. 

BIG QUESTION: HOW CAN WE USE IT?

I love to use YouTube videos as transition content in my programs. I use it in my midweek meetings especially. I look for thematic content that will make for fun, funny, catchy, attention-getting, educational transitions in my messages.

Many (but not all) YouTube videos may be downloaded (see sidebar in this article). When I download a video, I then have the media file, which I can put in my Keynote or Pro Presenter application. I’ll edit it some if I need to, clip the ads, use Final Cut (editing software) or Quick Time (a playback tool with video trimming and exporting capabilities) and have a file I can use and reuse in my presentations for kids. 

Another use is for creating YouTube channels. What’s great about this is that you can have a dedicated channel for whatever content you need. You can create a channel just for the kids in your ministry, where you can load the content you’ve used in your presentations. Or you can create a channel for your leadership team, just for your leaders and just for training. Or you can create a channel just for your kidmin parents and parent devotionals. You have the option to make these channels password-protected or public. 

YouTube is an amazing tool we can leverage for ministry. Safety is, of course, of highest importance for the kids. But becoming familiar with YouTube and using it in our ministries is invaluable as a way for us to keep ourselves informed. 

The number of possibilities for applying YouTube to kidmin become exponential once you start using it. Having a sense of what kids watch and connect with are two goals I keep in front of me at all times. 

A Word of Caution: Watch What You Watch

Many (but not all) YouTube videos may be downloaded. When you need to download a video, rather than just watch it in YouTube, then I suggest using a video-download tool, such as KeepVid (keepvid.com). 

What’s good about KeepVid is that it will show you the regulations about downloading videos on YouTube. You should not download any YouTube content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that content.

And, of course, avoid using the video for sales, personal marketing or for making money so you don’t violate copyright or trademark restrictions on usage. Look especially for channels that encourage downloads. 

TechnologyRyan Frank