Health and Growth

Getting Started on Instagram for Churches: 7 Tips for Beginners

After Facebook, Instagram is arguably the next best social media platform for churches. Here's a step-by-step plan to help your church get started, and a time-efficient plan you can use to reach your community with the gospel of Jesus Christ on Instagram.

Getting Started on Instagram for Churches: 7 Tips for Beginners
by

Jesse Wisnewski

After Facebook, Instagram is arguably the next best social media platform for your church to use.

Instagram has over 800 million users, and more than 500 daily active users. From among these active users, Instagram projects that 96 million people in the United States will use Instagram by the end of 2018. To put this another way, this means—at a minimum—30% of the people in your church and community use Instagram. Let those numbers sink in for a moment.

It’s easy to let your eyes glaze over when you read statistics like this. But social media is the new water cooler in your community. Social media is where most people in your town spend time connecting with their friends, sharing their life, and keeping up with the latest trends and news.

As a church leader, it’s essential for you to engage your community on social media. Connecting with your community on social media will help you to lead them to connect with you and your church face-to-face.

We know many of you who are reading this post don’t have a communications department at your church, a dedicated social media volunteer, or even extra time to spare for social media. But that’s okay.

We’re going to walk you through a simple step-by-step process to help you set up an Instagram account for your church, and a time-efficient plan you can use to reach your community with the gospel of Jesus Christ on Instagram.

Let’s get started.

#1. Create your username

Your username on Instagram is your identity.

If possible, obtain a username similar to your church’s name or your church’s website and other social media accounts. For example, if your church’s name is Trinity Church, create an Instagram user that is similar to your church’s name (e.g., @TrinityChurch) or a variation (e.g., @TriChurch).

When creating your username, there are two things you need to know:

  1. You only have 30 characters to work with
  2. Your username can only contain letters, numbers, or underscores

To create your username, you may have to be creative since a name similar to your church may be already in use.

#2. Optimize your bio

Your bio on Instagram is prime real estate. It’s the place where you introduce yourself to your followers and provide one primary call to action.

For your bio, here are two things to keep in mind:

Description

You have 150 characters to use in your bio.

Use this limited space to let people know about your church, compel people to follow you, and lead them to take one specific step.

Website

Instagram provides you with a space to add your church’s website (or a different site), and you can also add a URL in your bio. But the URL you add in your bio will not be clickable. In other words, people will have to copy and paste the URL you add to their web browser.

To add a website to your profile, go to your account and click “Edit Profile.” Then add your church’s website or a different site in the “website” section.

To include a URL in your “Bio,” the only thing you need to do is type it into the “Bio” section.

#3. Add a photo to your profile

Don’t forget to add a photo of your church.

For the sake of consistency, upload a photo or logo of your church that you use elsewhere online or social media. Using a similar image on Instagram will create a seamless experience for your online followers.

Don’t worry about creating a custom image for Instagram. When you add your photo, Instagram will automatically crop your profile photo into a circle 110 pixels in diameter.

For more info on how to optimize your profile photo, check out these instructions from Instagram.

#4. Use hashtags

For Instagram, hashtags are a way to get involved in conversations. Instagram users use hashtags to see what’s going on in their community, with their friends, or to keep up with celebrities or the the things they like.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram users are open to including a lot of hashtags in your posts. In fact, Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags per post. But this doesn’t mean you should cram every post you publish with this many hashtags.

According to TrackMaven, they “found a steady increase in average interactions up through four to five hashtags per post.” Based on their study, they did observe a decrease in the number of people who interact with your Instagram posts if you include more than five hashtags. But, as you can see from the image below, there is a slight increase in the number of interactions when you include 10-11 hashtags.

For Church Instagram hashtags, you want to find out what works best for you, and you don’t want to add just any hashtag. 

Brady Shearer of Pro Church Tools suggests that your church includes the following types of Instagram hashtags in your posts:

  1. Custom—e.g., #centralliving or #centralcommunitychurch
  2. Community—e.g., #niagararegion or #niagarafallscanada
  3. Faith—e.g., #jesusislove or #churchfamily

To this list, we also suggest participating in relevant hashtags used throughout the week. Here are some to consider:

  • #MondayMotivation
  • #MusicMonday
  • #TransformationTuesday
  • #WisdomWednesday
  • #ThrowbackThursday
  • #ThankfulThursday
  • #FridayReads
  • #FollowFriday
  • #ShoutoutSaturday
  • #SundayRead
  • #WeekendVibes

We’ll get into ideas on what you can post next. In the meantime, don’t feel overwhelmed by everything you can do. Make a realistic assessment of how much time you can invest in posting and commenting (more on this later) on Instagram.

#5. Start sharing!

Now that your Instagram profile is optimized, it’s time to get ready to share.

At first, don’t overwhelm yourself with sharing too many times. A good goal to aim for at first is 3-4 posts per week. After you get the hang of things and you’re posting consistently, then consider increasing how often to share to 1-2 times per day.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some post ideas for you to consider sharing:

  • Share Scripture or quotes from your sermons
  • Go behind the scenes
  • Invite people to your services and events
  • Celebrate baptisms and communion
  • Highlight a volunteer or community service
  • Share images or videos of your worship service
  • Lead people to your church’s website
  • Advertise an upcoming sermon or sermon series
  • Get involved in Instagram conversations

There are plenty of ideas to help you get started, but these articles will show you some of the best Church Instagram accounts and they'll also help you to get rolling, too:

Now, before you complete you share your new Instagram post, be sure to include your location.

Adding your location to your posts will help people in your community to find your account.

#6. Get involved with your community

There’s a reason this step follows optimizing your profile and posting on Instagram. Before you can engage your community on Instagram, you don’t want to invite them to an account full of… nothing.

Connecting with people on Instagram without having anything posted is like tapping on someone’s shoulder to get their attention and then not saying anything. Awkward, right?

As you consistently post on Instagram and optimize your posts with key hashtags, you will slowly build a following. However, as you follow and engage with people in your community and local businesses and organizations, you’ll create a highly targeted local audience.

Do restaurants in your community have an Instagram account? What about local service providers, like dentists, gyms, and car maintenance? What about your city government? Do they have an account?

As you get started, try to follow 5-10 new local accounts or church members every day. You’ll be able to think of a few locations off of the top of your head, but you can also search for people and places in your community by typing in your area in Instagram’s search bar.

#7. Collaborate with your church

Throughout the history of marketing, businesses and organizations have partnered with a variety of influencers to promote their products or services. From athletes and models to actresses and community leaders, companies have leveraged the support of influencers.

As a church, you can adapt influencer marketing for your use by partnering together with members of your church on Instagram. Don’t click off of this page in a furry. Give me a moment to explain.

Depending on the location and demographics of your church, there’s a substantial likelihood that your congregation has many people on Instagram.

To help you reach your community and make connections with people, consider partnering together with the Instagram users in your church to “regram,” provide them with content ideas and images they can share, or to brainstorm ideas together.

Working with a group of people in your church will accelerate your efforts to get better connected with people in your community on Instagram.

Time to get started on Instagram

Slow down one moment, and take a deep breath.

Setting up an Instagram account for your church or optimizing your account doesn’t need to feel overwhelming. We're going to provide you with a plan you can handle or delegate to a staff member or volunteer.

Week 1: Build your Instagram profile

If you’re just getting started, don’t worry about what hashtags you’ll use or what images you’ll share. The only thing you need to focus on is getting your Instagram profile ready.

To get started, focus on the first four steps outlined above:

  1. Create your username
  2. Optimize your bio
  3. Add a photo to your profile
  4. Add your location

During this time, you’re more than welcome to share something. But I wouldn’t worry about doing that right now. Preparing your Instagram profile will keep you busy if you want to do it right.

Time: Assuming you have a photo you can use, set aside 1-2 hours to build your profile. If you do not have a profile photo you can use, connect with someone in your church or in your community to take a picture or create a logo.

Week 2: Create your social media strategy

I know you’re excited to get started and may feel pressured to share something now that you have your account ready. But don’t feel pressured to get started. It’s best to take the time to develop your plan first.

During the second week, it will be time for you to focus on these two steps:

  1. Use hashtags
  2. Start sharing!

The first thing you want to do is to assess how much time you have to devote to Instagram or delegate this responsibility to someone else. If you delegate social media responsibilities, aim to review the plan with whoever puts it together for you and to check in on all of your accounts at least once per week to see how things are going and to participate yourself.

Related: How to Create Your Church’s Social Media Strategy in Minutes

"What hashtags should I use?"

Commit to including 10-15 different hashtags in your posts throughout the week.

"What types of post will you publish during the week?"

Decide ahead of time what types of posts you will publish on specific days of the week. Knowing what you’re going to post ahead of time will keep you from second-guessing.

After you've shared on Instagram for several weeks or more, it's also a good idea to keep an eye on your Instagram analytics. This way you can see what content is resonating best with your audience.

Time: Expect to spend 2-3 hours building your Instagram posting plan.

Week 3: (Really) Start sharing!

Alright, now it’s time for you to have some fun.

For the third week, you’ll want to implement the plan you created. Publish your posts, and spend time connecting with people and organizations in your community and responding to comments on your posts.

Time: The range of time for this step may take you 1-3 hours. The amount of time you or a member of your staff or a volunteer spends will depend upon his or her skills and experience getting images ready and writing eye-catching captions.

Ongoing: Plan on engaging

Here’s the main thing you need to know about social media: It’s social.

For better or worst, people in your community are using Instagram to share life with others. They’re sharing images of their daily life, and they’re interacting with others.

To get the most out of Instagram and make meaningful connections with people in your community, you’ll need to spend time on Instagram.

Every week, you’ll need to follow these two points we highlighted above:

  1. Get involved with your community
  2. Collaborate with your church

There will be weeks when you or whoever is overseeing your social media accounts will not be able to be social on Instagram. But don’t sweat it.

The big idea we'd like for you to walk away with is that you’ll need to plan on spending time on Instagram every week to reach people in your community with the gospel.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

Blog

Getting Started on Instagram for Churches: 7 Tips for Beginners