Social Photo Sharing and Your Church

By DJ Chuang 

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” existed long before the Internet. Now as social media inhabits a burgeoning number of people’s everyday lives, words are not enough when it comes to sharing those lives. Photos are shared actively online and instantly on-the-go because of mobile phones—privately with close friends and families, but also with the public at large.

Photomania
Here’s a snapshot of how photo-sharing over social networks has taken off: in April 2012, Facebook (the most popular social network) spent $1 billion to acquire Instagram (a popular mobile-based photo-sharing social network) when it had 30 million users, and 2 weeks later, it exceeded 40 million users. Pinterest (social network for sharing and curating photos) had over 23 million unique visitors in February 2012 and became the third most popular social network. Tumblr (a micro-blogging community for sharing photos, quotes and more) had over 50 million blogs and 21 million unique visitors in March 2012. 

All of this clearly indicates that people are spending more time and attention engaging with photos over social networks. So if the people in your worshiping community are actively engaging on one of these social networks, that is where you’ll want to engage with them. And, these photo-sharing social networks are also where you can connect with people outside of your worshiping community, whether as an outreach to your neighboring community, a witness to the world, or as a way to fellowship with the Church at large.

Shutterbugs rule
Why is photo-sharing so popular? 5 reasons come to mind:

  •  It’s convenient and instant. With mobile phone in the hip pocket, it’s just point and shoot, and then click to upload. The immediacy of sharing in the moment makes up for the lower-quality photo, and using filters can tap into the artistic side.
  • It’s easy to engage: while browsing recent photos, you can share, like, and/or comment. And, if you like someone’s style, follow them to see their new photos in your stream.
  • It’s easy to curate. Browsing the Web and you see a photo you like? You can “pin it” on Pinterest or repost it toTumblr.
  • It’s easy to create. Unlike the content of other forms of social media, most photos on social media are composed on the spot and in the moment. 
  • It connects emotionally. While you could write more poetically and narratively to engage emotions, photos connect with the right side of the brain in a way words alone cannot.

A Visual Witness
As a worship leader, you might already be using visual arts and imagery to enhance the worship service. Now with photo sharing, you can enhance the relationships in your worshiping community through sharing real-life scenes from your everyday life and encouraging them to do likewise. These photos can literally show people what it looks like to follow Jesus and to show the beauty of God’s creation.

Below are three examples of how churches are photo-sharing. And I’d love to see your photos. Please share them with me at techsteward.net.

Newbreak church is using an Instagram hashtag (#newbreakchurch) to auto-feed photos onto a page on their church website (newbreak.org/resources/instagram/).

Cross Point Church (Nashville, Tennessee) actively uses their Flickr photostream (flickr.com/photos/crosspointchurch) to photo-journalistically show the activities of people in their church. 

Mars Hill multi-site church posted photos from their Instagram feed right there on their church website home page during Easter Sunday to “show & tell” their worship celebrations and baptisms as it happened from multiple locations (marshill.com/easter). Also take a look at their creative use of Pinterest boards (pinterest.com/marshill).

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