Top Ten Easter Videos

After sharing my top ten Christmas videos last year and the year before, I thought it was about time I put together a list of the top Easter videos. After watching many many videos, I’ve hopefully found ten films that are not only great for sharing on social media but could be played in church too.

1. Good Friday Live
This video from Christians in Sport, is a clever telling of the Easter story through BCC news style footage, making it able to relate to how we consume news nowadays

2. The Gospel
An incredibly powerful, visually stunning film, showing the reason behind Jesus’ crucifixion, dying for our sins. This video might also be useful at Pentecost.

3. Easter Sunday Opener, Luke 24:1-6
A short simple video perfect for starting your Easter Sunday service.

4. This is Easter
Using text and computer generated graphics, this is another short and simple video which breaks the story down to the important message behind it.

5. Good Friday (Easter Tilt Shift)
Tilt Shift is a video effect which makes everything look like a moving model village. In this video, Church groups from Dursley in Gloucestershire carry a large cross to the top of Cam Peak, a steep hill on the outskirts of the town, to commemorate Good Friday, all to the tune of Jerusalem.

6. Easter
This video uses lightbulbs to explain the story of the cross, and does it effectively. The high quality video, mixed with a great spoken word piece over the top is very creative and very watchable.

7. Egg: An Easter Meditation
A nice piece of simple poetry, telling the Easter story, combining it with the symbolism of the eggs we all eat on Easter Sunday.

8. Cannonball
Written by Glen Scrivener with his expected cleverness with words, and performed by rapper Guvna B. This animation stands out from the crowd and makes you want to watch it again and again.

9. Easter Address – The Gospel
Short but powerful. This film was created to begin an Easter service which means it’s the a great opener to a bigger conversation.

10. Light of Life
Another powerful film, mixing old footage with a simple spoken word piece which combined creates a unique telling of the Easter story.

Why not make your own Easter video? Have a read of my easy video ideas to be inspired.

Let me know what you think of the videos in the comments below.
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Creating your website structure

Having an easy to understand website structure is incredibly important. For people visiting your site for the first time, you want them to be able to find everything quickly. If it’s too confusing or content isn’t in logical places, they’ll probably just give up and leave. It’s like going to the supermarket for some oranges and not being able to find them because they’ve been put with the shampoo and conditioner.

There’s no one answer as to how you should structure your website content. It will depend on many things, such as where you are in the country, whether you have a high student or family population, what activities or programmes you run, how your church building is used during the week etc. Below are a few tips on how to get your site ordered logically and make everything easier to find. Remember, just because you know where the content sits, doesn’t mean it’s in a sensible or helpful place.

Plan it on post-its
If you’re starting from scratch or re-hauling the current structure, it’ll be so much easier to visualise how it will look and make changes by writing the name of each page on a post-it.  You can easily arrange them in any order you want and make changes quickly without having to start all over from the beginning.

If you’re planning on restructuring your current website, why not start by printing out all the pages and lay them out on the floor to match your web structure. Again, seeing the amount of pages and how they are ordered visually will help work things out.

Keep it simple
The less links and options on your site the better as it’ll keep people’s focus on the important things. The best church websites I’ve seen are incredibly simple and well thought out. You don’t want to confuse or distract people with useless information or more information than they actually need.. You might think you need to include every single piece of information about your church online but you need to leave a little something for people to discover when they visit you!

Ensure you only have one main menu (either across the top or down the left hand side) with further options underneath the main menu headings. It’s possible to fit all the content into ten headings or less (See my example below as proof) Keeping page numbers to a minimum will also mean people are never too many clicks away from the page they need.

Be Ruthless
Are you absolutely sure you need five pages on the history and architecture of the building? Think about how many people might be coming to your site for this information, and if it’s only a small amount, think about creating PDF information sheets which those people with particular interests can download. You can also combine pages that deal with similar topics whenever possible.

Work out your Priorities
What are the most important things people coming to your website for the first time need to know? Put yourself into the shoes of a new person to help figure out what information they will want first. Information for your congregation should be much further down the list of priorities (or kept off the site completely by sending out a regular email with the information included.)

Important topics to cover for new people:

  • Who are you and why should I come to your church?
  • What time are your services?
  • How can I be baptised/married in your church
  • How can I contact you?
  • What events or social activities are you running?


Give them easy to understand names
Whilst occasional offices might mean something to you, it’s not going to mean anything to a potential newcomer. Make sure each page has a simple, easy to understand name. At the same time, don’t make the page titles too vague!

Suggested Structure
Below is just one way you could structure your content. Use it as is, or just as inspiration:

1. Our Services

  • Timings and what people can expect from them (Style of worship)
  • Service FAQs (parking, disabled access, toilets etc)
  • Children and Youth (what activities are on offer for those under 18)
  • Sermons (Embedded audio or video of sermons)

2. About Us

  • Team/Who’s Who (Clergy, Churchwardens, administrators etc)
  • Vision (goals, beliefs etc)
  • Community and church links (scouts and guides, local school and community links)
  • Outreach and Mission (Charities you support and mission activities you are involved in)
  • Church and Hall (basic church history and hall booking information)
  • Magazine (parish magazine information)

3. Life Events

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Weddings
  • Funerals

4. News

5. Events

6. Church Life

  •     Regular activities and social groups such as Mother’s Union and coffee mornings

7. Contact Us

  •     Includes phone, email and map

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Videos to Inspire

In the past I’ve posted some great Christmas videos for churches to use and share on social media, and I’ll be sharing some for Easter very soon. But I also want to inspire you to start making your own videos. Nowadays, videoing and editing equipment doesn’t cost the earth and can be easy to learn, so it’s not out of the reach of churches at all. Videos are a fantastic way of telling stories and will engage people in ways that words can’t, so the more videos churches create the better!

The ones I’ve chosen below aren’t incredibly complicated or expensive, but they do tell stories in unique ways. Look at the many stories your church is telling (either in the bible or as a church family) and I hope some of these videos inspire you to start creating.

The Scared is Scared
The idea is simple – get a young child to create a story and turn that into a video. It’s clever, funny, cute and simply made. How about you get some of the younger church members to tell a bible story and the adults have to recreate it?

Gulp
The world’s largest stop motion animation turned a beach into a canvas. How can you make use of your church building to create a smart stop motion story?

George’s Boots
The story here is told in voiceover which means you can be creative over the visuals. In this video, the visuals aren’t flashy and don’t distract from the story, instead they help tell the story. What visuals would you put with someone telling their testimony?

Go All Day
What’s great about this is how the story unfolds in one continuous shot. The logistics of this style of filmmaking can be hard to co-ordinate as everything has to be choreographed, but it will stand out from the crowd. How could you tell a story in one take but still keep it captivating?

There and Back – Columbia
What makes this video clever is the unusual perspective throughout the film. You get to see what they see and experience, making you  feel like you could almost be there yourself. How could you experiment with unusual angles and perspectives?

Speed of Light
By using what you already have, but in a different way, you can can create something that’ll make people not only stop and watch, but want to share it too. 

I picked these videos from Vimeo as there is an absolute abundance of stunning films being uploaded onto the website, from beginners to experienced directors. Do explore the many different styles of animation and filmmaking the site has to offer and be inspired further.

Want to have a go yourself? Have a read of my easy video ideas to get started.

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Guest Post: The New Age of Mission

I rode the bus the other day for the first time in years. I noticed that most people don’t stare out of the windows anymore, they stare at their smartphones. I walked into a meeting and fifty percent of people were moving their fingers across a handheld screen. I went out for a meal ­ guess what? When millions and millions of us go home after work we reach for the tablet at some point in the evening. As a church we spend so much time thinking about how we can reach people with the message of Jesus. We think we always have to either go to people or invite them to us. This may still be true, but it is not as true as it used to be because people’s attention today has moved into the digital world.

Don’t sell. Tell
Did you see Casey Neistat snowboarding through the streets of New York being pulled by a Jeep during the January blizzard? It went crazy on the internet and major TV networks all around the world picked it up.  After one year of vlogging Casey is one of the most important people on YouTube. He is not selling anything, he is not pushing a message, and he is not asking for anything, he is simply telling his story. His vlog is about his life. Most of it is of his family, or him riding a Boosted Board, travelling, meeting people, and just thinking outloud. But Casey also runs a new App company called BEME. Because you watch his story you know his very cool office, you know the fun people in his company, and you have watched his cute baby daughter Francine become a toddler. Watching the vlog makes you feel a big part of his life and you want to use BEME because you have joined his vision of how life is meant to be. There is no hard sell with Casey, in fact there is no “sell” at all, he is only ever being himself.

Many churches today are still in “sell” mode. Many have websites, some of them are even nice to look at. The up to date ones inform you of service times, who to contact, and even about how to become a Christian. Loads of Bishops are on Twitter retweeting newspaper articles and sharing facts and their opinions. They are all pushing a message. This is fine up to a point but this is also how you sell cars and cinema tickets. Today’s successful internet users like Casey however, are going old school. Like the proverbial local butcher and grocer, sales are based on trust and relationships more than direct messages and branding. In fact storytellers like Casey are much closer to a New Testament model of mission than most churches are. The Gospels don’t push information and invitations at us. They are a story full of people, places, emotions, and stuff happening. We enter into the story, engage with it emotionally and spiritually, grow into its truth, and we begin to form our own identity around it. It is the raw authenticity of it that draws us.

Make fellow travellers
Willie Morris is a Christian entrepreneur and founder of the company FaithBox in the US. He is telling his story on SnapChat and YouTube. You enter into his day, you know when he is tired or is off to house group. When he takes advice from a seasoned Christian businessman about running a company with Christian integrity, you share in the moment and see how much the advice means to him. Willie is not selling FaithBox, he is inviting you to join him on his personal journey. His use of social media is consistent with the New Testament model of story and his company is growing because of it. Willie has a lot to teach us about mission in the digital age.

Tallie pointed out recently that a significant amount of people in the local community who are not part of your church will watch what your church is doing on Facebook. That tells us a lot. The internet is a safe place to observe what we are doing. Ten years ago a church website was like a shop window. It was a public utility that told people what the church had to offer. Today the internet is so much more, it is the story about who we are and what we are about. Using platforms like YouTube and Instagram to tell our stories builds trust and belonging with the people watching, way before they may actually meet us in the physical world.

Being where the people are
Learning to use all the social media platforms as well as all the hard skills of video production, is ridiculously cheaper and easier than ever. Nevertheless, it remains daunting. It takes time and practice. Willie recently suggested to me that we try them all and then concentrate on the ones that work best to tell our story. This is sensible advice.

The digital world is where people’s attention is, and if Missional Theology has taught us anything in the last thirty years, it is that we need to tell our stories in the most relevant places for the people we are trying to reach. The world around us is changing at a frightening pace and we need to upgrade our skills to keep up. Whether we are local clergy, or Bishops in the House of Lords, today we have powerful tools to tell our stories in meaningful and biblical ways.

The New Age of Mission moves us beyond inviting people on courses, or to hear preachers, or explore innovative spirituality. All these things remain important, but they don’t stand alone, they must be written into our stories like chapters of a book. The decline in church attendance is frightening but there is hope because the tools we have available to us for mission have increased exponentially. We just need to learn how to use them and then relax into being who we really are.

– Dan Stork Banks
Dan is a curate in Shropshire and a vlogger. You can also find him storytelling on SnapChat: danstorkbanks 

Choosing the right social network for your church

The first step to being on social media is to learn what all the social networks are.  The second step is choosing which network or networks are right for your church.

I have four main pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t be on all social networks just because they exist or because you think you should be on all of them. If only one network is right for you then only be on one.
  2. Start slowly. The more social networks you are on, the more time and work it involves. If your church is completely new to social media, start off on one social network and build on that once you know what you’re doing.
  3. If you’re on more than one social network, make sure the content on each is different and site specific, as otherwise people will only need to follow one or the other. Give people a reason to follow them all.
  4. If you think you might want to use other social media networks in the future, why not plan ahead and secure any usernames you might want to use in the future. A site like www.namechk.com will be able to help you find an available username across all the networks

So how do you choose?
The main two social media networks that churches choose to be a part of are Twitter and Facebook. Below are some pros and cons to both to help you decide where to start.

Twitter
Twitter has a faster pace than Facebook and therefore needs more regular updates. There’s no right answer for how often you should post but if you post too little, people have no reason to follow you, post too often and people will unfollow you for spamming. I suggest around 5-10 times a week as a minimum (though this can include pre-prepared scheduled tweets) though to increase the success around 3-5 times a day would be best. In the end it all depends on your church’s social media strategy – what’s right for you may not work for another church.

Because of the 140 character limit, you have to be clever about how you share information and it’s much better suited to live, ‘of the moment’ messages. This makes it especially good for sharing your church services and events live as they happen, as well as quick snappy videos, photos (especially those taken there and then). It’s also important to create and engage in conversation.  Try not to use Twitter as a one way system just to announce things.

Facebook
Facebook gives you space to say more and has a slightly slower pace to it. Facebook is not really the place for live updates from an event. Instead, it’s a great place to share stories, fantastic photos, event invitations and videos.

Because of its commenting structure, it’s also a great platform to create engagement through asking questions. You could ask people what their favourite hymn is, or post a “fill in the blank” question or even a game where they have to guess where in the parish a photo was taken.

As mentioned previously, the age demographic on Facebook (especially for a Church page) will be in the 40-60 range therefore it’s probably not the right social network if you are using it to engage with young people. One thing you may be surprised by, though, is the number of non church members who follow your church page, especially if your church or church buildings are involved in community events.   This will make it a perfect opportunity to encourage those locals to visit you in person.

Other social networks
If you have the time and resources for more than one social networking site, here are a few other things to consider:

Instagram may be a perfect option, especially if you have a full time youth leader or a large student community. Use Instagram to share images of the young people having fun, making use of all the filter options.  You can also share behind the scenes photos and market upcoming events or services.

Blogging may be something you consider as an addition to your website, either as a regular post from the vicar or as a series of blogs from different church members. If you choose to have a blog, ensure you plan the blog topics as much as possible and maybe choose a particular day of the week so people know when to look forward to it.

Pinterest is not a typical choice for churches. Because of its very specific ‘pin board style’ it may be more useful as a place to find ideas to replicate, especially with its large collection of gorgeous photos, unusual ideas and inspiring prayers and worship resources on the site.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Quick Digital Wins

While some of the things you need to do to bring your church into the 21st century might take time and planning there are some things which are a little bit easier to tick off the to-do list and will help step up your game. Not only will the short list below help improve your church’s digital presence but it could also help disprove some people’s misconceptions about what church is like and what they expect a church to do and offer:

Offer Free Wi-Fi in the Church
While this is not always easy, depending on how rural your church is, setting up free internet in the church is a great idea. Not only will it benefit the community but will mean your church can do so much more using it. Read this story from a church in Norwich Diocese to see how successful it was for them. Once it’s set up, don’t forget to put signs up to let people know how to access it (and also ensure you’ve amended the filtering settings so any children using it can’t access anything they shouldn’t).

Encourage people to tweet/keep their phones on during the service
It’s a really simple thing. Instead of asking people to turn their phones off before the service, ask them to not only keep their phones on but encourage them to tweet throughout the service. By doing this, your service will reach a few more people and could be the first steps for some people in wanting to know more.

Hold social media classes
The problem with social media is that there’s always a divide between those who know how to use and it and those who don’t. If you’re wanting your church to embrace social media, you might end up leaving those people behind. To counteract that, why not set up a few informal classes and get those who know how to use it to sit down with those who don’t, to teach them a thing or two. (Why not make it into a cafe style event) Hopefully they’ll gain a better understanding of the church’s social media strategy and you might even get a few more Twitter followers in the process.

Make it clear you’re on social media
This might seem obvious but don’t forget to tell people and remind people that your church is on social media. Places such as your website, email signatures and your church notice board are great places to display any logos for social networks your church is on. You can also include details in any e-newsletters or magazines you produce, the service sheet and front of church projection. Don’t forget to tell people in conversations and in any notices you do during the service (having free wi-fi in the church means you can encourage people to follow your social media accounts there and then!)

Offer Skype
Got a baptism or wedding couple with a family member unable to make the service? Why not offer for them to watch the event via Skype? All you need is a laptop which has a webcam set up at the front (and of course that internet again!). It’s a great extra service to offer which is often greatly appreciated.

Keep your ACNY page up to date
When was the last time you updated your www.achurchnearyou.com page? Every Church of England church has one and it can be one of the first places people encounter your church. If the information is incorrect or out of date you’re doing yourself a disservice. Even if you check it every two or three months, it will give the people who want to learn more about your church a better chance to see the real you. Not only should you keep the information up to date but makes sure you’re including as much information as possible to be as helpful as possible.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Social networking sites: The ones you should know about

There are many social networking sites available now in the online space. Some you may have heard of and some might be completely foreign to you. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have been around for years, whilst other sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram are much newer. With so much choice in social networking websites, how do you choose which one is right for you or for your church? Below is a little guide to the top few to help you decide.

Facebook
Facebook is the most popular social network in the world with 1.55 billion monthly active users, 65% of them using it daily. The social network was created by Mark Zuckerberg and was original designed as a network for university students. Since 2006 it’s been available to everyone over the age of 13. Whilst there are users of all ages on the site, it now has a reputation as a place for parents and grandparents to keep up with their younger family members’ activities. Whilst the biggest group of users are in the 18-29 age bracket, the percentage of those in the 65+ age bracket is increasing.

The social network lets you post updates in the form of text, video or photo, play games, find and message friends and join groups or pages of particular topics or interests (such a favourite TV show, a public figure or, of course, a church!)

Alongside profiles, Facebook lets you create ‘Pages’ or ‘Groups’. A page is like a public profile that anyone can follow. Companies, products and churches have their own Facebook page. Groups are smaller communities inside Facebook which can either be open for all to join or closed to a select few. A youth group or a youth leader network may create a group to communicate with each other and share content.

Twitter
Through Twitter you can post messages of up to 140 characters. This might not seem like a lot but you’ll be amazed how creative people can be with the character limit they are given. In the ‘tweets’ you can also include images, polls, videos or links. Anyone can see your tweets (unless you specifically mark them as viewable to your approved followers only) and you can view everyone else’s. It’s used in a variety of ways but because of its reputation for being ‘of the moment’, it’s mostly used to record live moments (it’s so quick that a lot of news is reported through Twitter before the major news outlets)

The site has 316 million monthly active users (many fewer than Facebook) and 500 million tweets are sent every day.

Whilst Twitter is easy to use, it does have its own language and style of messaging that’s completely unique to the site.

Pinterest
If you ever created a mood board or pinned inspirations and ideas onto a cork board, this site will be familiar to you. Instead of a real cork board, you have many ‘boards’ to which you can ‘pin’ pictures, recipes, ideas, and more. You can upload them from your computer, take them from websites or ‘re-pin’ from other people’s boards.

You can search through the many themes or just search keywords to find all the things that interest you. It may be craft activities, fashion, architecture, typography and design, flower arranging or just cute cat pictures. People then use the boards to organise the pins they like into their own themes such as ‘Wishlist’, ‘child friendly recipes’ or ‘Wedding ideas’

There are just under 50 million users of Pinterest around the world but because of its focus on craft, recipes and weddings, its user base is mostly female.

Youtube
Youtube is by far the most successful video sharing website with 300 hours of video uploaded every hour (that’s 12.5 days worth of video uploaded every minute). It’s also the second most popular search engine after Google (which owns Youtube) People can upload videos for others to watch, build playlists of favourite videos or comment on other people’s videos. The website is over ten years old and is the most popular site by far for sharing videos. Youtube can also be used for sharing live video as well as being the home of ‘Vloggers’. A vlog is a video-blog featuring a young person talking about their interests such as make up, books or gaming. These ‘Vloggers’ have massive followings, many with over a million subscribers who watch all their videos, transforming them into a new kind of celebrity. Because Youtube offers money to creators of original content if they include advertising on their videos, Vloggers can earn a living through uploading their videos to the site.

Instagram
Instagram is all about sharing photos. The mobile app lets you easily add pre-set filters to your photos (to change the lighting, contrast and colours) without the need for expensive or complicated photo editing programs. You then post the photo with a comment and hashtags for your followers to ‘like’ or comment on. The biggest user group of Instagram is aged 18-29 and it is used to document life in a very visual way. Everything from what they’re eating, to where they are in the world, to who they’re hanging out with. The site has 300 million users and has increased in popularity rapidly in the last few years.

WordPress/Tumblr (Blogging)
Blogging is like an online journal. People use it to comment on everything from current events, their own thoughts and feelings or a recipe they want to share, or even sharing social media advice! People can then share the blogs or comment on them. The most popular standard blogging website is WordPress but another popular blogging site is Tumblr. Whilst the site lets you create simple text posts to your blog, it’s a much more visually focused platform with photos, Gifs (short animated pictures) and videos. Tumblr also attracts a younger audience.

WordPress bloggers generally fit into two categories: Those wanting to share their knowledge on a subject (i.e recipes, poetry, book) or those wanting to comment on a particular subject (i.e faith, politics, film). The blogs are normally around 500-1000 words and are ‘tagged’ with key words which help people to search, which is helpful considering WordPress users produce over 52 million new posts every month.

Other sites you may have heard of:

  • Vine: Lets you share 6 seconds of video (people manage to be incredibly creative with this!)
  • Snapchat: Lets you send friends photos and videos that self-destruct after 10 seconds (Think “Mission Impossible” without the explosions!)
  • Vimeo: Another video sharing site similar to Youtube (Known for its high quality videos, also lets you password protect certain videos)
  • LinkedIn: a professional social networking site for people to find jobs, network with people in similar fields and discuss professional ideas
  • Google+: Put people you follow into differently themed ‘circle’ groups, share content and find content based on your interests (connects to your other Google accounts such as Youtube)
  • Flickr: A photo sharing site which can group photos into albums and lets people view or download the photos
  • Periscope: Share live video broadcasts over the internet to anyone in the world

Using Twitter Polls

There’s a new feature you may have spotted on your Twitter account: the ability to post mini polls on your feed for your followers. Below I’ll explain how to use them and why your church should be using this feature, along with a few suggestions to get you started.

How does it work?
It’s really simple. When you click on the new tweet box, either in the top right hand corner or at the top of the Twitter feed, you’ll now see three options: Media, Location and Poll. Clicking on Media will let you add photos or video. Location will let you pinpoint where in the world you are and finally Poll which lets you create a mini survey. Clicking on this will open an extra section to create your poll. Next thing to do is to write your tweet and choose your poll options before posting the tweet.

Why should you use it?
Followers can engage with just a click of a mouse making it really simple to get involved. Even I have found myself participating in polls on topics I’m not interested in because it’s fun to choose an option and share my opinion.
You may also find more people respond to the tweet as well as voting as they’ll tell you why they voted for that particular category or reply because they didn’t vote due to a third option you hadn’t considered. In short, it’s a really easy and fun way to create engagement as well as a quick way of collecting useful feedback.

How could churches use it?
Here are just a few ideas for you:

  • To help with decision making – Which meal option should be served at an event? What theme should a fun day be? Should the flowers in church be roses or daffodils? Should the new sign outside be blue or green? People will love to feel like they’ve been consulted.
  • Gain insight – do your followers prefer the Old Testament or the New Testament? Pews or chairs? Organ music or Drums? Knowing what your followers like could be really useful.
  • Collect feedback – What did people enjoy most at last Sunday’s service, the music or the prayers? Did people enjoy the new biscuits after the service or prefer the old ones? Find out what people liked about a particular service or an event to help plan for the next one. Plus it’s a useful gauge of how successful an event was.
  • Use it to show your sense of humour. Star Wars or Star Trek? Baked Beans or Peas? Showers or Baths? Have fun with polls and let your church’s personality shine through with a bit of silliness. Why not turn the poll into a true or false game to see how much people know about your church?

Tips

  • Don’t go overboard on polls! Too many and people might get tired of them.
  • Don’t forget to respond to the people that do reply to your poll and make it into a conversation.
  • Track the results, especially for feedback and decision making polls – there’s no point in creating a poll if you’re not interested in what people think. Also: Don’t ask if the sign outside should be green or blue if you’ve been planning all along to paint it red!

How your church can use Instagram

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks of all time, so it might be time for your church to look into setting up an account if you haven’t already.

Instagram is a photo sharing app which lets you put interesting colour/lighting filters over photos to make them look like you’ve spent more time than you actually have editing them; they are then posted for your followers to like or comment on. Most Instagram users are between 18-30 years old so it may be the perfect place to engage with the younger half of your congregation. If you have a youth leader or even a youth team, why not hand it over to them to look after?

So what photos should Churches post on Instagram?
Keep on reading for some suggestions to get you started. In the end you need to post what works for you and your church. It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of posting the same kinds of images you might post on your Facebook or Twitter account, but think carefully about the audience and what they might like to see. Click on the links in the text below to see examples of what I’m talking about.

Behind the Scenes:
• Show the things happening in the church between services and what it takes to prepare for a service (And all the strange props and items collected or created!).
• Take photos from places people don’t normally see such as the view from the sound desk or from high up in the tower.
• Share the other uses the building gets as well as the work to keep the buildings running

People
• Share photos of the different staff and volunteers who make it all happen
• Catch candids of congregation members tucking into a biscuit or greeting people at the entrance
• Introduce us those people baptised or confirmed (Get a great action shot of a baptism in progress!)
• Take photos of laughter, friendship and fellowship
• Share testimonies and stories in creative ways

Fun/Unusual
• Show the fun things your church gets up to during a service or event.
• Share the unusual side of church – what people might not expect a church to be doing or involved in.
• Shine a light on the uniqueness of your church – what makes it so special?

Other tips
• Instagram is the kind of place where you can loosen up, be a bit silly and share your church’s sense of humour
• It’s also a place for the beautiful, emotional and the thought provoking. Always have a play around with the filtering settings to create some really atmospheric shots – they can make bad photos look good!
• Use sites like Canva to create promotional graphics which work on Instagram, perfect for inviting the 18-30’s to particular events and services aimed at them (Though don’t rely too heavily on graphics)
• Ask those from your Church in that age group what they’d like to see on it to get them engaged.
• Use hashtags (similar to Twitter) to categorise your photos, making it easier for people to discover your account. (You can also create a church hashtag for the congregation to use when posting photos they’ve taken at church)


For specific tips on taking photos at church, read my photography tips blog and for more Instagram examples and inspiration, have a look at some of the church accounts mentioned above::

Got any more tips or questions? Let me know in the comments.
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9 Steps to Improve your Website

Your website is like your shop window – for most it will be the first thing people will see about your church so you need to make it count. Here are some tips which will encourage people to spend more time on your website and hopefully transform those website visitors into church visitors.

1. Focus on the people not the building.
It’s tempting to highlight your building’s historic features, but it sends the message that your building is the most important part of your church. Instead, focus on the things people may be coming to your website for. Generally this will be weddings, christenings and funerals, as well as service times and community group information.

Tip: Create a building information pack for people which they can request by email or pick up when they visit the church.

2. Re-evaluate your structure
How many pages do people have to click through to find the most important information? Is the information structure of the website logical? What may be logical to you, may not be logical to someone else, so get people to test out the structure to see how easy it is to find everything.

Tip: Write out your website structure on a piece of paper to better visualise it. Alternatively, use post-it notes which you can rearrange easily.

3. Cut down on text
Don’t make your site visitors wade through an essay to find the information they are looking for. Keep things brief and easy to understand. You can then use large photos alongside the reduced text to make it more appealing to the eye and less intimidating. Remember that some of your visitors may not be good readers or struggle with lots of text.

Tip: Each topic shouldn’t needed need more than one page. Try and keep to no more than 2-4 short paragraphs per page and 1-3 large images per page.

4. Be as helpful as possible
Remember the people visiting your website who may not have much experience of church. To help them, use as little jargon as possible, explain what happens at each of your services and describe the facilities available (including toilets, parking and disabled access) Why not include an FAQ? Here’s one from Holy Trinity Claygate which is a good example to copy.

Tip: Ask a non-church member to read through the content. They should be able to pick out any complicated jargon.

5. Be Mobile
The amount of people accessing websites from tablets and smart phones is increasing, so when building a new website, it’s important to make it mobile friendly. A mobile friendly site adjusts to the size of the screen it’s being accessed from. For an example of this, look at the website for Holy Trinity Hastings (decrease the window size and watch as the website continuously fits the screen.)

Tip: Have a look at your own website from a mobile phone to see how confusing and unhelpful it can be. Going through what the user goes through will help you understand their way of thinking.

6. Be Social
Don’t forget to include links to your social media accounts or go a step further and embed the accounts into your website. Here are some guides to embedding Facebook and Twitter. By doing this, you’re making your social media accounts easier to find and giving visitors the opportunity to go ‘follow’ or ‘like’ your accounts. This may be their first step in joining your church.

Tip: Make sure your social media channels also link back to your website for the people that find you there first.

7 Be Simple
Avoid flashing animations, music that autoplays when you access the site or anything that makes the website look busy. By including these things, you are confusing your visitor and making it hard to find the thing they are looking for. The more confused they are, the more likely they are to leave your site. Instead, keep things incredibly simple – don’t be afraid of blank space.

Tip: Read this blog on the importance of blank space and then see what content on your own website you could remove.

8. Be Consistent.
Keep the same styles, colours and fonts on every page. This not only looks professional but will be less confusing and will help visitors find what they are looking for. The less time it takes to learn how the site is laid out the easier it will be for the visitor.

Tip: Create some design guidelines, a simple guide to what fonts and colours to use, and if needed, how content should be laid out. This will be useful for anyone helping with the website and with your social media channels.

9. Know who your audience is
If your website only caters for your congregation, you’re potentially losing out on new church members as it can feel unwelcoming. Avoid content such as rotas or referring to people by their first name with no context. You know that Margaret does the flower arranging, but new people don’t. If you have to mention someone, link back to the who’s who page so people can put a face to a name.

Tip: Create a homepage specifically designed for new visitors. This is your pitch: can you explain why they should visit your church in 200 words or less?