Social Media

Instagram is a very handy and productive social media tool.
Instagram is a very handy and productive social media tool. (iStock photo)

In previous posts, I've covered how pastors, church leaders and churches can most effectively use Facebook and Twitter. Today, I turn my attention to Instagram.

This picture-based social network can help build affinity, promote events and provide inspiring insight into the inner-workings of your church. And now that the apps offer multi-account functionality, using Instagram has never been easier for pastors and church leaders.

But when it comes to using Instagram strategically for ministry, you have to post more than pics of food and lattes. So here are five ways you can use Instagram in a ministry context:

1. Keep it informal. Pastors, give your members an inside glimpse into your day. Don't just post your sermon quotes or pictures of you preaching. Give them a look into your family life. Show them how you are ministering outside the walls of the church.

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2. Take followers behind the scenes of the church. Provide glimpses into your sermon prep time. Point out special items in your office. Showcase the people who clean the toilets or serve in any weekday ministries. Don't let your account (Instagram or any other network) be all about you. Use it to help shepherd your people well.

3. Post pictures of your community and how you are enjoying your city. This reminds people of their mission. They will see you out and about and naturally follow your lead. Much of discipleship is caught, not taught.

4. Don't post links in a post. Yes, this is a technical tip. But if you post links that you want people to click, it could indicate you really don't know what you're doing. Why? Because the links in Instagram aren't clickable.

5. Use relevant hashtags. Searching hashtags is one of the main ways Instagram accounts are found by new followers. So feel free to use a couple hashtags as long as they are related to the content.

Instagram can become an effective ministry tool if used appropriately and strategically.

What other tips would you add to these five?

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week, and the managing editor of Jonathan writes weekly at on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at@Jonathan_Howe.

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