Critical tips on how pastors can use Instagram to shepherd their churches.
March 17, 2020
I think a lot of pastors carry guilt around when it comes to using Instagram.
They wonder if they should be using it as a person or using it to leverage their church.
I think, yes, you need to be using Instagram in your ministry 100%, because this is how we're going to reach the next generation.
If generation Z is important to you at all, let me tell you, generation Z is on Instagram.
You need to be on Instagram with them as a church organization, or as a ministry. You also need to have that personal profile because you want to give people access to you that they otherwise might not have.
Instagram makes little connections that go a long way.
I am sitting in a church called Gwinnett Church right now, and they have their own Instagram account. If I go to Gwinnett Church on Instagram and I post something onto their page, it is great when I get a response back. It's even better when Jeff Henderson, who's the pastor of this church, sends a response back, because it's so much more personal. I then know that my pastor has paid attention to me; that he knows my name. That he knows what I've done, or knows what I can do. Little connections like that go a long way.
I think pastors need to be commenting on their church social media as themselves. I also think that pastors need to have their own personal Instagram accounts, not to build a platform, but to extend the role of being a pastor. I tell pastors all the time that being on Instagram will help make you more efficient and more effective because you can personally reach more people in a shorter period of time. For example, if a pastor is about to do a sermon series and he takes a photo of the four books that he's reading that have helped him write the whole series out, he is actually extending the influence that he has as a pastor by encouraging other people to read those same three or four books.
Instagram helps extend your influence the other 6 days of the week
If a key volunteer at your church posts on Instagram that they're celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, and you, as the pastor, respond with, “Hey, congratulations! We're celebrating alongside you,” that enhances the connection because you're aware of what they're celebrating. The next time they come into church on Sunday, it's like they've already had half a conversation with you. You're not starting from scratch and you’re a couple of steps in. It is also a great reminder to congratulate them in person!
Likewise, if a pastor is away on vacation and shares a post that says, “Hey, I'm in Washington DC. Here's Congress.” When they come back to church, people will come up and say, "Hey, how was your trip to DC?" One of the things I say all the time is, as pastors, we get to connect with the people in our church community for one hour every Sunday. However, through social media you can stay connected with them for the other 167 hours of the week. This, to me, reflects the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus took 12 disciples, spent 24/7 with them for three years, and guess what? They still didn't get it. How many times does Jesus say to them, "Oh, why do you not understand this?" Jesus was with his disciples all the time! Now in the modern world, pastors have the ability to do the same thing with Instagram. Your church can have a pastor in their pocket because they know they can access you and your wisdom at some capacity through following you on a tool like Instagram. For us as a church, one of the things we do with every message is we re-purpose on purpose. We want to re-purpose the content we've already created on purpose during the week so we can maintain that connection.
If someone speaking at our church says a quote that is memorable, we'll take a photo of that person preaching and overlay a graphic of the quote on top of it. We post that to Instagram because we're reminding people of what they learned on Sunday. Pastors always say Sunday is coming because we're on this seven day cycle but Monday is coming as well. Is your church going to remember what you said the day before when they are at their place of work? When they start arguing with their spouse? When they're struggling with parenting? When they're wondering what they need to do in the next phase of their life? You have to provide them with hope and you can do that by posting on Instagram about your own personal life.
Treat Instagram like you would Email
I 100% propose that pastors need to be responding to everybody who comments on their posts, and they need to be responding to DMs because that's the modern way of communication. We respond to our emails, right? When somebody sends an email to us, we respond to it because that's what being a pastor is about. Likewise, you need to respond when a person sends a DM to you through Instagram, which ironically is the way that teenagers are currently communicating. A tip to all the pastors and parents, your teenagers are not sending texts anymore. They text each other through direct message on Instagram.
Maintain both active consistency and healthy boundaries
I know that there are people thinking, “This is going to blow up my phone. I'm going to be constantly on." Yes, there need to be boundaries that you set and I'm very big on having those boundaries. For me, I turn my technology off at 8:00 PM. My computer shuts and my phone goes off––this is a rule that my whole family follows. We can't always be available.
There has to be a period of time when I'm not available, and the way that I manage that is exactly the same way that I manage my email. One of the things that I've learned from being a pastor is that I would be constantly in email if I responded to every email that came in as soon as it arrived in my inbox. I treat my inbox like I treat my mailbox. I only check my mailbox once or twice a day because I know I don't have to keep going out there. I only check my email morning and night. I respond in the morning and the last thing I do in the afternoon is I respond to emails again. I do the same thing with my direct messages. I let them sit there until I'm in the allocated space of time where I'm responding to DMs and I make sure I respond to all of them.
People continually ask me how I can keep up with the posting that I need to do in order to be efficient and more effective. Having some sort of content calendar is going to help you out. For me, I know exactly what I'm posting every day. I know I post twice a day to Instagram. In the morning I post a devotional that is literally just a short devotional piece that's going to help people take a practical step in their faith journey that day. At night I post a quote graphic that might be a quote from what somebody else said or a quote from something that was in my post that morning. I am always doing those two posts and I have a content calendar that tells me what to do.
There are multiple things that any pastor could post on any given day:
You can use hashtags to tap into what's happening in culture. #MotivationMonday is a hashtag where you can just post a motivating quote. There's your Monday post taken care of.
For Tuesday you could post something from behind the scenes of what you're creating for that Sunday's message. It might be a photo of a book, a script, an empty notebook or a sketch that you've drawn out. It is a post that communicates, "Hey, here's what I'm doing to prepare for you to come this Sunday."
Wednesday could be an Instagram live video or a Facebook live video where you just answer questions. It could be questions about anything to do with the bible, faith, Jesus or your church. People will start to realize that you do this every Wednesday and get into the routine of joining that conversation with you.
Thursdays could be a shout-out to a volunteer. “Hey, cheers to our kids' ministry leader who did this on this past weekend!” Those volunteers are sure going to look forward to your Thursday posts.
Friday could be something a little more personal where you share what you are doing over the weekend.
I have just shared a simple content calendar for you to use. You can schedule out your entire week of posts with scheduling tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or Creator Studio. Take a Monday afternoon to go to Starbucks, grab a coffee, and spend one hour working out the next week's content. You can focus and concentrate without any worry because you've got the time built into your schedule to focus on responding to the people who are now commenting on your posts. All the content creation is done and you can now just respond to everybody.
Read the full blog of this episode here: https://get.tithe.ly/blog/instagram-pastor-church
Today on Modern Church Leader, Dave Adamson, pastor of social media at North point church, explains how pastors can use Instagram to shepherd their churches.
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