Thursday, June 03, 2004

IM presence

I don't know how much time you spend in actual hanging out with your students, aside from Sunday church, maybe a weekly small group, or a formal youth min activity. I find that I, unfortunately, hardly spend any time at all just being with them. I would love to more, but with the rigors of a full time job, two young children at home, and all of that, I don't really get too much time. It does happen every once in a while, but it has to be intentional and it has to be scheduled in advance. It's kind of too bad it has to be so structured, I love to just drive and pop in for visits... But it's important to realize that I'm not just making plans for myself, I've got 3 other people in the house to consider. Sometimes, I'll have kids drop by the house around the girlies bedtime, which is always fun for everyone. It's a big treat for them when someone comes over and reads a story or prays with them before bed.
In lieu of hang time, I find that IM can create a presence to connect with students. We used to use AIM quite a bit at work, now we have a corporate messaging platform. And since most of my job is leading, delegating, empowering my team, it's mostly done from a desk, either writing email, chatting over IM or talking on a conference call. IM is just so practical.
So I find that around 2-2.30, the buddy list just lights up. Of course, I don't have any milk and cookies when they get home from school, but I think some of the kids I have connected with know that I'm mostly around and can chat if they feel like it. I also don't try to overburden kids, like talking to them every time they come on. That would be a little weird. But of course, I make an effort and I think they do too. It's neat. Someone asked me once if I thought it was just a medium for gossip. I don't really think so, anymore than the phone is. They also mentioned that a kid that just moved here didn't really connect because they kept chatting with their old friends from where they moved from. I could see that. In fact, I told my graduating kids that that when they get to college, they should not log on for the first 2 weeks. The beginning of college should be about roaming from dorm to dorm, meeting people, not sitting at a computer.
Also, I use a thing called GAIM, which lets you run msn, yahoo and aim from the same window manager. It's very cool. The other thing that I love about it is that it automatically logs every conversation. Not because I am a weirdo. But I think it's fun to go back and read those significant conversations sometimes.
Anyway, I thought I would share some of the different things that I have chatted with kids about, things that I think are pretty significant:
missions (of course)
the will of God
careers, the future, etc.
planning a surprise party
starting with a new campus ministry or not
working on a resume
checking grammar on a paper
dealing with addiction
helping a friend with is suicidal
good versus bad worship
family issues

So all in all, I'm a big fam of IM. Some of the students think that all I do is chat with people all day long. In reality, I do a lot of chatting with people all day long. It's just that most of it is work, some of it isn't. After all, I AM an extrovert...

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