Memes are the best.
We all know this.
They unlock our suppressed sensibilities with cutting clarity, packaged in undeniable depth, and wit.
What’s better than that applied to the very realities closest to our hearts—the life of our faith and the life of the Church?
I will rarely flick past a Christian meme on Instagram or Facebook with good promise.
Here, we’re going to look at ...
- what Christian memes are;
- why they have so easily become a fixture of Christian culture; and
- how the Church can leverage this new medium.
Memes are an opportunity to boost your church’s engagement—not a threat to the seriousness of your mission.
Let’s see why!
1. Their origin
The term “meme” derives from, of all places, biology.
It refers to the replicative efforts of species to reproduce their DNA in ways that differ from the source DNA. Applied to memes, it refers to the way old media is repurposed with new intent and inflection to produce new media.
Engineers figured out how to distribute replicable moving images across reading platforms in 1996, which reached adolescence in the form of YouTube videos, and finally its full young adulthood when social media companies, like Facebook, began supporting the embedding of these images—usually as gifs, sometimes as static images—on their platforms.
They emerged naturally within this pre-established digital space just as necessarily as other niche interests produced their own collection of memes.
For instance, weightlifting communities started creating memes out of pictures and video clips from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cinephiles created memes unique to the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. And, finally, Christians began creating memes that played with these other domains, but concentrated on spiritual issues and recruited spiritual leaders as the subject matter.
This produced two kinds of memes—those using images from culture to make a spiritual point (left), and those using images from the Christian world (clips of megachurch pastors, etc.) to make a common or spiritual point (right).
2. Our favorite Christian meme accounts
Because Instagram places images at the center of its social engagement model, it is naturally the place to get the best and most original content. It's also a great platform to read comments and engage with others commenting on the post.
Here are some funny Christian meme Instagram accounts:
Editor’s note: These Instagram accounts represent good examples of Christian meme accounts. Tithe.ly does not endorse the content of any of these accounts.
3. What makes them funny
They are funny because they use media that captures our hearts and minds and repurpose it to illustrate a commonality between that media and a very specific experience in real life.
This is humorous to us because the mechanics of a successful meme are the same as that of a successful joke—to take note of a common experience through an uncommon but perfect angle.
Once we see one of our experiences through the lens of a meme (if the meme is successful), it is very difficult to no longer see that experience through that same lens.
Just as it is difficult to look at air travel or male/female relationships the same way after watching Jerry Seinfeld, Christian memes add a layer of metaphorical commentary to our lives that embeds itself in our perception of the world.
What makes us laugh often makes us cry, which is why, deep in the funny Christian memes are those subjects which we often suppress because they are too uncomfortable. They take that uncomfortable experience and convert nervous energy into laughter. From this mechanism comes their power.
Over to you
Use these insights to update your current cultural engagement strategy with media assets that keep your members and users coming back for more.
By merely making your church’s social media a curated feed (more appropriate for stories), you add a level of value and marketability to your church’s presence on the web that exceeds the kind of self-referential strategies that are easy to fall into.
Follow the accounts above, even if just to gain insight into the shape that young Christian spirituality is taking in our modern age and how young Christians show appreciation for Jesus.. It may even make you a better shepherd to know what accounts are making your congregants laugh. You can also share a post over email with other Christian members that they are sure to like.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 21, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.