Instagram’s influential audience continues to grow beyond millennial selfies and #foodshots. As of June 2018, there are one billion active Instagram users who regularly upload photos and videos to the service. That’s one billion reasons why your church should use it, too.
Instagram for churches is a real thing, and it’s not hard. Visit your smartphone’s app store and install Instagram to your phone or tablet. (You can also log in to your account using a web browser.) Set up your church profile including the web address (URL) for your church website. Find and follow other churches in your community, members of your congregation, community groups and The United Methodist Church. Then, start posting photos and videos to highlight your ministry.
As with other social media, you can use Instagram to promote church events and services, special sermon series and outreach opportunities. You can also use it to introduce and feature new ministries, staff members and volunteers. With a little planning, you’re sure to come up with even more creative Instagram ideas. Here are a few to get you started:
- Impromptu interviews. Use your phone to video record members responding to a question related to a recent topic your church has addressed or will address. Post the videos with a verse or statement about the overall message.
- Dramatic doctrine. Ask creative members to shoot short reenactments or modern renditions of biblical stories. Post them with the appropriate biblical reference.
- Accentuate art. Find members who use calligraphy, cross-stitch or other artistic means to share scripture verses or biblical messages. Take pictures of their works. Photograph often-overlooked artistic elements of your church architecture, such as stained-glass windows. Ask a local artist if you can highlight his or her work. Include background information, historical context or an inspirational quote.
- Clever clergy. At the heart of the matter, Instagram, like most social media, is all about having fun. So, don’t be afraid to add levity to your posts. Ask the pastor and staff to share favorite jokes in a video.
- Church challenges. Post a photo representing a community need (for example, a picture of a local food bank), and challenge members to donate 100 cans of vegetables within the next week.
- Innovative invites. Create photo “postcards” for services, children’s activities, mission activities and more. Make sure that all relevant information is included in the photo. Then encourage your followers to share it with all their followers. (This goes for online gatherings and events too.)
- Feature a photo booth. Many churches now have a photo op area in their lobby. Encourage your congregation to take pictures with family and friends and share them on Instagram and other social media. This is especially good for holidays. (Consider offering a frame template or logo bug to allow people to include this when sharing about virtual meetings.)
- Capture cultural concerns. Sometimes a picture really is worth a 1,000 words. Try capturing images that reflect cultural concerns in your community. You may want to include a relevant Bible verse as a caption, or just let the picture speak for itself.
- Remember to reshare. Don’t neglect the option of sharing valuable and relevant material that other people post.
Unless you want to improve your Instagram ministry by upgrading to a business profile, Instagram doesn’t allow links to be included in post captions. Every post should direct followers to your profile; this is how people will find the link to your church website.
Regardless of whether you showcase the church’s role in the community or share a testimony from a member of your congregation, you can market your church through Instagram. However, like many social media platforms, there is the opportunity to use it for even more.
French-Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard once said, “Photography is truth.” While that sentiment may not be completely accurate, Instagram offers churches a way to use photography to help the world see and get-to-know THE truth. So, don’t put it off any longer. Point and click, share and make a difference.
Tricia K. Brown is a writer, editor, keynote speaker and Bible teacher. In addition to being a wife and mother of four sons, she is the sole proprietor of The Girls Get Together, where she and her team provide women's event programs for churches and other organizations.