ST. LOUIS—As Thrive goes toe-to-toe with Planned Parenthood here in a boxing match for the prize of life, social media is as essential as a body punch directed at the ribs.
Thrive President Bridget VanMeans explained that the goal of any social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc …) is to engage in conversation with users and bring value to an organization. She noticed that Planned Parenthood was trying to do this through Facebook in an attempt to build its brand loyalty but was failing in that most of the chatter was merely internal.
“There are really no relevant posts,” she said. “First of all, you don’t have girls getting on Facebook going, ‘Oh, I had an awesome abortion yesterday!’ They don’t want to go on Facebook and say, ‘I had a great STD positive test result.’ We felt that was an arena where we could engage.”
They tried it in the fall and it clicked in October. Young people were chatting with each other in an exciting fashion. The Thrive vibe was coming alive!
“We basically decided that that was an area that we would stake a claim to be stronger and more effective, and we’ve nuanced it down to a place where we are able to engage the kids very effectively and have them post really helpful and meaningful conversations, interact with them, and then also bring value to content because then the educators post as well,” VanMeans said.
Facebook interaction from the contacts Thrive continues to make in public schools is building the Thrive brand. VanMeans estimated there are 150,000 middle and high school students in the metro area with Thrive servicing 9,000-10,000 through its Best Choice program. It is popular to the point where it has a waiting list, and it is clearly one of the ways the organization is intending to punch Planned Parenthood to the canvas.
A school permits Thrive to take over a health class for five days for the purpose of imparting a type of sexual integrity that celebrates the complexity of the whole person. Teachers are among its top backers as it spreads by word of mouth.
“We’re teaching uncompromised biblical truth in public schools without mentioning God but teaching His principles in a compelling way that’s relevant, that’s teen-savvy, using methods that are defendable and provable through outcomes management but uncompromising in message,” she said. “We are teaching that the plan is abstinence until marriage. We are extremely forceful and uncompromising in our content, but extremely creative and compromising in our language and style, so it’s the best choice.”
Thrive is capitalizing on a first-in-the-nation opportunity that was provided in 2007, when state legislators and Gov. Matt Blunt succeeded in an effort to legally remove Planned Parenthood from public schools. Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Missouri Baptist Convention, was instrumental in that pioneering achievement and commented on the change it is now helping to birth in the classroom.
“I’m very proud of them, considering that we did not collaborate in the beginning,” Messer said. “The bigger battle is within the context of spiritual warfare. We had the darkness of the abortion industry dominating for a number of years. Thrive is now filling a void in the public school system, and the Lord is being glorified. This is an example of how we are all part of the larger body of Christ.”
Best Choice is available free of charge throughout St. Louis County and City, St. Charles County, and Jefferson County.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor