Instagram is one of Alex’s favorite social media platforms, and he is constantly looking for new ways to engage his followers. He talks about how to use Instagram to engage your church in spiritual practice.
What’s In This Session?
- Looking for creative ways to engage your church community online (0:34)
- Engaging your church in spiritual practice online (2:25)
- 800 million users as of 2017 (2:56)
- Creating wallpapers (3:43)
- Brady’s thoughts (6:20)
Show Notes & Resources Mentioned
- Pro Church Tools
- Pro Church Tools on Facebook
- Pro Church Tools on YouTube
- Brady Shearer on Instagram
- Brady Shearer on Twitter
- Alex Mills on Instagram
The Full Transcript
Brady Shearer: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you’re going to get daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, even whilst we navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years.
I’m Brady Shearer, and I’m joined as always to my right, your left, it’s Alex Mills. Today we’re talking about how to use Instagram to engage spiritual practice. Alex, take it away.
Alex Mills: You know Brad, Instagram is one of my favorite online platforms, and not only like favorite online platforms, but really one of my favorite apps and favorite things to engage with on my phone.
As a creative, and even on my personal account, I’m always looking for new ways to engage the people that I follow and that follow me. I have no interest in just posting for the sake of posting, but I love meaningful interaction, whether it be in the comment section or DMs, or what have you.
I think that’s something that churches are always, as we navigate this communication shift and as churches try and find their presence online, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or Instagram, there’s this pursuit of trying to figure out how to engage with our community outside of the Sunday service.
For so long, church has been let’s gather on Sunday, and we’ll see you again next Sunday. But what we’re learning, and as we talk about at length here at Pro Church tools, is that there’s 167 hours past this one hour that we meet on Sunday’s. And there this opportunity with this colossal communication shift we’re going through, with the use of digital and social, and all these free tools, to engage our community online in new ways.
As a Pastor myself, whenever I preach a sermon on Sunday, I’m always looking for my community and my congregation to take something that I’ve said, and turn it into a next step. Don’t just listen, don’t just come to church and listen to me on a Sunday, hear what I have to say, nod your head, and say, “Yes, Sir. Amen, Pastor,” or write down your notes, and then come see us again next week. But I really want our community to take these things that we’re talking about on a Sunday service and put them into action, translate them into next steps. I want to engage our community in next steps, and I think that’s something that we try to do online.
As somebody who runs our social media and our Facebook at church, I’m always looking for ways to create engagement with our community online during the week. I’ve been using polls on our Facebook page and in our Facebook group, and those are fun. Or sometimes you post a capture in this photo, and you can create some pretty fun interaction and engagement online.
But lately, I’ve been really looking for creative ways to engage spiritual practice throughout the week, throughout this 167. Not just conversation for the sake of conversation, that’s where those polls and those memes come into play, but how can I encourage spiritual progress in the life of my community during the week?
I looked to Instagram for this, and this kind of happened by accident for me. I was looking for some data on Instagram, how many people are using Instagram? The most recent statistics we have are from September of 2017. And in September of last year, there were 800 million people using Instagram, and they were projecting at that time, that by the time 2018 rolled around, there’d be over a billion people using Instagram. That’s just mind boggling to me.
Instagram stories is one of my favorite parts of this platform.
Brady Shearer: Yep.
Alex Mills: It’s so much fun. There’s so many creative opportunities. You can kind of pull that curtain back and invite people into your day, what you’re up to, where you’re traveling, where you’re going, and all these kinds of things. I have had more meaningful interaction in my direct messages from an Instagram story, than I ever have in the comment section.
What I’ve been doing lately, is taking some of my favorite landscape photos, cropping them 9 by 16, and posting them to my Instagram story, and saying, “Hey, if you guys want some free wallpapers for your phone,” because I have a lot of great photos that are just kind of sitting around. “If you guys want some free wallpapers for your phone, why don’t you watch this story, screen shot these photos, and use them as wallpapers?”
I’ve been doing that periodically over the past little while. I’ve saved them as highlights to my personal account, and so people … I’ve been watching the insights, people have actually been revisiting those as highlights, and downloading them. People will send me screenshots of their phones, what they look like.
Brady Shearer: Nice.
Alex Mills: I thought to myself, “Maybe I can translate this to my church.” So what I started doing, this is just a couple weeks old, this is a new idea, but I’ve seen some really meaningful interaction with this idea.
Each Monday, I’ve created a Photoshop template in Photoshop, a 9 by 16 template, and on this 9 by 16 template, I’ve created a light box. Inside the light box, I’ve been putting a text based off of what we talked about on Sunday. So whether it’s something that our Pastor said, whether it was the source verse for that day, but I’m creating one of those wallpapers every Monday, posting it to our Facebook page and our Facebook group, and saying to our church members, “Hey, save this one wallpaper to your phone. Save it to your lock screen, so that when you look at your phone …” I don’t know how many times I look at my phone during the day, it’s got to be … I might look at my phone 100 times a day.
Brady Shearer: Yeah?
Alex Mills: Every time I look at this phone and I pull up that lock screen, I’m seeing right before me, either a scripture verse, a prayer, or a thought idea from our Sunday service that’s going to be presented to me multiple times a day, that’s going to encourage me to take that next step. To put what I heard on Sunday into action, and translate this into my life to see spiritual change, spiritual discipline in my life, just by simply downloading a cool wallpaper for free and putting it on my phone.
I love this idea, and not just because I came up with it and I think it’s cool, but I think it’s just a really practical way to keep that message, this timeless message, that we do try and communicate on Sunday’s, and we’re trying to communicate during the week, and we do it through social, we do it through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, all these places. But everyone’s looking at their phone so many times a day, and this is so easy to do. You can do it yourself, it’s not hard, and I think this is a unique way, and a really opportune way to encourage that next spiritual step in our community.
Because that’s what this is all about. We’re sharing this message, but we don’t just want people to listen, we want people to put this stuff into action. That’s where we see real life change, when we see people proactively praying the prayer that we taught them on Sunday, or reading the scripture that we looked at Sunday, or putting the spiritual practice, where the rubber meets the road, in daily life during the week.
That’s what we’re doing at our church. What do you think Brady?
Brady Shearer: Well, you’re a photographer, Alex, and so if someone’s listening or watching to this, they might think, “Well, it’s easy. Alex shoots tremendous photos, and it’s easy for him to take this and put it into practice.” But you don’t need to even use your own photos in this, you can go to a tool like Unsplash.com, they’ve got a great search engine. Every single photo is free and captured by a phenomenal photographer like Alex.
Don’t go to Google Images and get an image because that might be copyright protected, but Unsplash’s image are all fair use and 100% free. Then you can use another tool like Canva if you don’t have Photoshop, and you could add text directly using that free tool as well. Take your photo, import it into Canva, and add a little text on top, crop it in that 9 by 16 aspect ratio. If you’re looking for direct dimensions, that would be 1080 by 1920 pixels, and that’s ready to go.
One more thing that’s important to know about Instagram stories is that there is user interface at the top and bottom of your phone when you’re watching an Instagram story. If I’m on Alex’s story, I’ll see Alex’s name and his handle, as well as little dashes that represent how many stories he has. And at the bottom, there’s a little call to action for me to respond using a message.
Alex Mills: Yeah.
Brady Shearer: You don’t want to take a screenshot and have those little user interface elements present on the screen, so all you need to do is take your thumb and hold down on the Instagram story.
Alex Mills: To pause it.
Brady Shearer: This will pause it, and if you hold down for about a second, those user interface elements will disappear and all you’ll see left, is that beautiful wallpaper ready to go.
This is just something that a lot of people maybe might not know about in your Instagram audience, and so it’s sometimes helpful. I see Elevation do this, they just add a little prompt, and say, “If you want to screenshot this, just hold down your thumb and then take a screenshot using your phone.”
So just two things to consider, as well as some free resources to put this together even if you’re not a photographer, even if you’re not a graphic designer.
Alex Mills: Right, and what’s also been really fun to watch, is this expectation that’s been created.
Brady Shearer: Nice.
Alex Mills: Every Monday morning, people on Facebook, people on Instagram, know that there’s going to be a new wallpaper from me, whether I was at church or not. It’s kind of creating this expectation which is going to result in more traffic, more engagement, on your social platforms, which is just going to open a whole nother door, a whole nother audience, for you to continue sharing this message of Jesus.
Brady Shearer: We don’t want passive congregations.
Alex Mills: Right.
Brady Shearer: That are just listening, hearing. You’re not doing anything. We want active congregations that are taking next steps. We firmly believe here, more next steps equals more life change. This is one easy way to see more next steps by seizing the 167, and actually taking your Sunday message and spreading it throughout the week.
Alex Mills: Yep.
Brady Shearer: That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily, we’ll see you next time.