By Gena McCown, Women’s Ministry Council Co-Founder
Instagram is a pretty popular form of Social Media, you would be hard pressed to find someone who has never heard of it. They may not use it, but they know about it. However, you may not have realized the beauty of Instagram as a resource for your Women’s Ministry.
Just like Twitter, when you set up your Instagram account you can choose to set it as Public or Private. Public is a great way to get the word out about your ministry, but Private is going to protect your content from unwelcomed eyes. When you set up your account, make sure to include in the profile description important information such as the name of the church, website, and city you are located in. As well, there are options in the account settings that will allow you to link your Instagram account with your Facebook Group, Twitter Account, and other social media platforms. This means you can post to Instagram and automatically it will show up in your other social media platforms. That my friend is a time saving win.
One of the aspects I love about Instagram is the photo heavy sharing, which is a benefit to Women’s Ministry events where everyone is taking pictures. The women can post their pictures on their own Instagram account and then tag (or hashtag, we’ll get to that next) the ministry or event. This allows us to share our experiences, photos, opinions, and even live quotes from events. Unlike Twitter, Instagram doesn’t have a character limit… you can post as much as you want. Or, you can even post video clips you take at the event.
What is a “hashtag” it is the combination of the pound symbol ( # ) and a word/phrase/title. They are used to categorize your Instagram photos, and can be used to search for related content. For example, if you were looking for ideas for a women’s beach retreat you could search ” #beachretreat ” and Instagram would provide you with a slew of photos taken by people related to that term. People are now beginning to use hashtags in very intentional ways, like hashtags for their children… businesses… and events.
A very common Instagram hashtag use is for weddings, where all the guests are given a “hashtag” to use for their wedding photos. If you want to see photos, just click the hashtag and you’ll see all the photos associated with it… whether you took the photos or not. This is also a common practice for Women’s Conferences too. You’ll notice if you have attended Living Proof Live with Beth Moore, she has a hashtag for that event. It’s a quick way to find information associated with her events.
Some hashtag concepts for Women’s Ministries ….
#YourWomensMinistryName — if you have a unique name for your ministry, simply hashtagging the name might be enough. IE: HolyRollersForHim
#ChurchWomensMinistry — if your name isn’t super unique, couple it with the church name and/or city to help distinguish it from ministries of similar names. IE:FBCPSLWomesMinistry or #ChristCommunityStuartWM
#TC3WMRetreat2016 — if you are having a special retreat, you can use a common hashtag combining the church name, women’s ministry reference, what the event is, and the year. If this is something you do from year to year, then in future years you only need to change out the year to update it.
#SheIsHis2016 — If you have a theme to your event, you can couple that theme with the year. However, this is only going to work well if you are the only ones who have used such an event name and theme. If it’s not a unique name, tuck in the name of your church or city to help differentiate.
So, all that out of the way… what are some ways you can use an Instagram to benefit the Women’s Ministry at your church?
An important thing to note about Instagram is that it is primarily designed for use with smartphones and tablets, not table top PCs and laptops. You can VIEW and even COMMENT on Instagram posts via your PC and laptop. However any new photos or content you want to post to your Instagram account must be done via your phone or tablet. If you are like me, and HATE typing out lengthy messages on my tiny phone screen or even tablet screen… there is a work around. Use your phone/table to make the initial post. Then from your PC or laptop, you can comment on your own post and type away.
* Scripture Sharing – you can post a scripture of the day (or week) for memorization.
* Devotions – type out a devotion coupled with a picture, or make a short video devotion.
* Service Recaps – share video from the last Sermon or a clip of a worship song to help the women in reflecting on the message throughout the week.
* Live Event Posting – if you are at an event like a conference or your own women’s retreat, just like you can live tweet… you can live Instagram. Share photos with quotes from speakers, or of the women fellowshipping. It’s a fantastic way to include the women who couldn’t come, and as I suggested in the Twitter post… it also may help you get the women in your church who have a hard time committing to see what they missed out on. This could improve your attendence at future events.
* Dedicated Days – Utilize specific days of the week for specific tasks. Meditative Mondays, might be the day you post scriptures to memorize or meditate on. Worship Wedensdays, that could be the day you share your clips from the worship during past services. Word-Filled Wednesdays, would make a great day were you walk the women through a weekly bible reading plan. Fellowship Fridays, can be how you keep track of your weekly Friday Fellowship (small group, bible study, women’s minsitry meetings). Not evey dedicated day needs a catchy name. Mondays could be dedicated for scriptures, Tuesdays for prayer requests, Wednesdays for community needs, etc.
* Announcements & Information – Instagram is a great resource for making quick announcements about the happenings in the church and upcoming Women’s Ministry events. You can even include direct links to places to register/pay for larger events.
* Last Minute Updates – Just like Twitter, most people access Instagram from their phones. This makes it a great place to announce last minute changes or details.
* Bible Study and Small Groups – Not only can you use Instagram to share about the bible studies and small groups you are offering, you can post video clips promoting the material. Additionally, if your participants need to purchase their study book online… you can put a direct link in the post. Easy, peasy. You can even tag the group leader with their Instagram account so that interested women can contact her directly through the Direct Message feature.
Finally, as another quick suggestion… for your WM Leader Team…
You can now have more than 1 instagram account. Consider setting one up for just the leader team. Make it private, and use this a quick communication source. As the leader you can post quick pictures of things you are considering buying, locations for potential retreats, possible study materials for the next season of Bible Studies, etc. Then your team has a place they can respond quickly. (Granted, I would recommend giving them a heads up if you are going to be out and want immediate replies – so they know to be watching). I think it could be a great way to share information with your team members, in real time, with the ability for everyone to contribute the conversation. Such uses might include if you are out scouting retreat locations, at a conference and looking through small group study options, etc.
And… a private leader Instagram account might be a great avenue for team building and bonding amongst the leaders.