My friend Michael keeps posting Instagram stories about bugs.

He’s a youth pastor guy, so this is kinda par for the course, but lately, it’s been a lot. Apparently, he lives in an area that Terminix doesn’t serve yet. (North Carolina = No Pest Control)

Today I asked him through DM’s if he was starting a nature show, to which he replied “Yes!” I can’t wait to see it. He’ll probably eat one. Pishhh….youth pastors. He was on the podcast talking about volunteers not long ago if you’re interested.

I asked what everyone was up to the other day in an Instagram story and my friend Brandon said he was on his way to a wedding (I’ve never met Brandon. He lives in New York). So I hopped over (eh, I thumbed over) to his account and saw some photos of the road trip and eventually, I saw some of the wedding too.

A few days ago I was sitting outside of the Library while my family went in (because, you know, I’m anti-books, math, and cats) and jumped on Instagram Live while sitting in my car. A few friends joined in and we talked about Foo Fighters, church communications, and life in general. I was in a pretty bad mood until I got to hang out with some of my friends from New York, Florida, and south Texas, so I’m glad I did it.

So, why would anyone care about that stuff from a church? It all seems so….ordinary.

Read: Harnessing the Smoldering Power of Instagram

The easy answer is: because it’s real and raw. Younger generations are so tech-savvy that they smell marketing a mile away. They have no patience for it and really want raw, authentic, and real interactions.

Think of it as a way to rebel against technological isolation while using technology. If anyone could figure out a way to do that, it’s this generation. But you might have to change the way you think to get stories to work for your church.

Think Documentation, not Production for Instagram Stories

Your churchgoers want to see what the pastor is like in real life. They want to know when the youth pastor plays a great prank on the worship leader. They want to see a preview of this Sunday’s sermon and what your study area looks like when you’re preparing.

They want to see your process. It humanizes you. They don’t want to interact with a big organization like a church and stories is a great way to make it personal. So just document what you’re doing, even if it seems insignificant, and suddenly, you’re cool with the kids.

Think Now, not Later

You can’t schedule stories. You have to capture them in the moment. Sure, you can upload recent photos and videos to your stories and that’s cool and all, but the stories feature is all about what’s going on NOW.

It’s a daily diary that goes away in 24 hours because after that, who cares? They’ve already moved on.

That post was sooooo yesterday.

Ideas for Instagram Stories at Your Church

Here are a few ideas with brief explanations where needed for using this really great feature. If you need a refresher course on how to use Stories, Live Video, and DM’s, check out the previous blog.

  • As event overflow. Take one or two photos for your IG wall, but don’t spam your followers with 20 videos of you talking to the screen or even with good photos of the event. Take the rest to stories.
  • To make announcements. Those are usually temporary anyway, right?
  • To tell stories of people whose lives have been changed by Jesus. Get these raw and in the moment. When you’re at an event, ask someone if they will talk to the camera for a second. Ask a question, then film their response.
  • To reveal behind-the-scenes of the church
  • To highlight a volunteer…or several! Look how these parking attendants are hustlin!
  • To capture quick messages from the pastor/leadership. Backstage before church, it’d be cool for your pastor to say how he’s feeling or what he’s expecting today or even to just say “see you there!”
  • To entertain. Do something funny. Come on. Churches remember what funny is, right?
  • To host a live interview. On the live feature, you could easily interview your pastor on a tough subject or recap the sermon from that Sunday. Advertise ahead of time though, these babies disappear when you’re done recording. If you miss it, you miss it on IG.
  • To read Scripture/lead worship live at lunchtime. Again, advertise this ahead of time.
  • To allow non-attenders to watch an event live. Are we thinking outside of our congregation yet?
  • To respond directly to your people. It’s like tweeting an email, but without the dying platform! Ouch, too soon?
  • To watch your congregation stories who are active on IG, showing you’re paying attention. Listening is a virtue. They might tell you what your next series should be about!
  • To highlight a business in your community, especially if the owner goes to your church.
  • To ask questions for DM response or direct followers to other places. “Hey, let us know what you loved about the sermon today.” You could also say “check out our new video/blog! Link in bio.” (because you still can’t put a stupid link anywhere in IG…ugh…)

What ideas do you have? I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface. Follow me on Instagram at The Seminary of Hard Knocks for more content every day!

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