Technology provides the only way John Vest can stay connected to all the youth in his ministry at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church. 

Vest, an associate pastor at the church, led a Presbyterian Communicators Network workshop on using technology at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Big Tent here Aug. 2. 

For Vest, context establishes the need for social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

At one time, teens in a church youth group would not only be in the group, but they would also attend the same high school. In the case of Fourth Presbyterian, the students in his youth group attend many different schools and only see each other when the youth group meets. 

“The only way to build a community is through social media,” Vest said. The online interaction, he said, is for “people who don’t have that regular face-to-face communication.” 

Social media can enhance a congregation’s ministry, Vest said, describing it as “a new way of being in the world.” 

And in today’s world, social media provide the opportunity to “engage in conversations in real time rather than having to wait. … Quite frankly, if you’re not [making use of social media] you’re missing out.”

When asked about the challenges that come with being a youth pastor using social media, Vest said, “You have to be aware of your context.” 

But it’s not about being a different person online, Vest said. 

“We’re always self-editing based on the context we’re in,” he said. “I’m going to be myself … I filter myself on Facebook the same I filter myself in front of my grandma.” 

The PC(USA)’s Big Tent, which ran Aug. 1-3, celebrated its mission and ministry under the theme, “Putting God’s First Things First.” The event included 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events that marked the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center.