Instagram Stories - a Great Way to Share Holy Week
So you’re mid-way through Holy Week. This was the year you were going to do really rich descriptive explanations of your services and post them on your website like St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in New York City. Or maybe you were going to do a great Holy Week home formation piece like Hannah Graham did at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Glenwood, Maryland.
Or maybe you were going to invite your youth to tell the narrative of Holy Week in emojis like Kristin Saylor did at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in New York City.
But then there were those unexpected funerals. Or the rector got pneumonia. And the copier was possessed by demons.
So here you are now, just praying that you’ll get the bulletins printed in time. Maybe next year you can do a better job of telling the story of Holy Week, right? Well, yes. But maybe it’s not too late to create some great content that captures the journey through Holy Week with your church!
It’s Not Too Late!
Get your phone and go to worship! Each day at each service, take pictures and video. Capture the acolytes lining up holding water basins for foot washing, the illuminated halo around a candle at Easter Vigil, the sunrise on Easter morn; take some video of foot washing, the procession from station to station during the Stations of the Cross, the lighting of the Paschal candle. Whatever images come to mind when you think of Holy Week – capture them!
Some Tips for Good Shots
Try to vary your images – close-up shots are great as are wide shots of a candlelit church. But remember, high quality shots are better achieved by being close to your subject and cropping rather than using the zoom feature.
Candid shots are powerful – but be respectful of people engaged in worship. Avoid group smile shots – they don’t tell much of a story.
Also think about patterns and repetition in your photograph. A line of candles might be more aesthetically powerful than a single flame. A tightly-cropped profusion of flowers might reflect God’s abundance better than a symmetrical picture of the altar arrangements.
Look for details that reflect a bigger story. A photo of people awaiting foot-washing that is cropped to show just a line of feet might be more powerful than showing a line of people, head to toe.
Once Worship is Over
Immediately after each service (because I would NEVER encourage anyone to play on their phone during church like I’m maybe guilty of) take a minute to clean up your photos and videos. Even the basic editing tools on your phone will enable you to rotate and crop to emphasize your focal point.
Likewise, trim, trim, trim your video. You are not telling an entire story in a video snippet, you are capturing a movement. Think about when a sudden movement catches your eye and you turn to look – that’s what you are aiming for. Water pouring from a pitcher. Making the sign of the cross in shimmering oil on the forehead of a newly baptized baby. The flare of one candle being lit from another. Rather than recording the whole liturgical procession, capture those fleeting instances that might otherwise be missed. A glance, a smile, a sigh, a touch… moments in which motion expresses emotion.
Once you’ve cleaned them up and gotten a sense of the photos and video you’ve captured, you are ready to create an Instagram story!
A few thoughts on Instagram
It’s easy to dismiss Instagram as simply the digital version of a glossy magazine with little depth or transformative power. It’s easy to equate the topical, visual nature of the platform to superficial content.
But done with intentionality, there’s the possibility to go deeper. Another way of looking at Instagram is to imagine it as a platform to engage the senses and the heart rather than the intellect and the head. In the same way that sumptuous liturgical art, glorious music, and fragrant incense offer a sensory glimpse of God, you can use image and video to capture tantalizing hints of the transcendent power of your worship.
So in selecting your images and video, remember:
- Think visually! Present compelling and beautiful images.
- Think fast! The average attention span of an Instagram view can be measured in seconds. Single digit seconds!
- Think STORY! This is where Instagram’s “Stories” feature comes in handy!
When you open your Instagram account, there is a horizontal space right under the word “Instagram” that is populated with circles showing profile pictures. This is the story “tray.” When you – or others that you follow – create a story, it is placed in the tray. Stories are ephemeral – they only stay in the tray for 24 hours. But don’t panic – further on, we’ll get to how to get some longevity out of your content. Stories you haven’t viewed are encircled in a colored ring; once you watch a story, the ring turns gray.
So! Let’s do it.
How to Create an Instagram Story
Click on the first circle to the left, the one with a little plus sign and your profile picture in it.
This opens the story editor/camera. Once you get good at creating story content, you may want to work directly from this interface rather than capturing content in advance. For now, let’s work with content you’ve already created.
To grab the pictures and video you’ve already captured, click on the little photo icon on the lower left. This will open your camera roll. Chose a photo by clicking on it. You can zoom in if you don’t like the default square aspect ratio. Clicking on the icons in the upper right corner, you can add text, stickers, or use the digital pen to draw on your photo. This all takes some practice, so you might want to keep it simple at first. Merely adding some clarifying text such as “Maundy Thursday” on the first image is sufficient.
Once it looks how you want it to look, click on the “Your Story” broke-line circle with the plus sign icon in the lower left corner of your screen. This adds the image to your story.
Here’s the tricky part – you build Stories on your account one image at a time, in contrast to creating a multi-photo gallery where you select multiple images at once. So when building a story, you chose one image, modify it, add it to your story; then repeat the process. Instagram “builds” your current story from that. So you’ll want to think about image order before you begin. Each image goes “live” on your story – you don’t build a sequence and then upload it. It takes some getting used to, but it also means that you could conceivably build a story in real time, adding to it as the service occurs.
It’s also possible to add a text slide to your story – which you might do as the last image to set the stage for your next story of tomorrow’s service. When you open the editor/camera, the selection arrow on the very bottom of the screen is set to “Normal” – slide it left to “Type.” This will give you a solid color background on which you can type whatever you want. To change the color, click on the small color circle on the lower left. It will cycle through your color choices. Tap the text that says “Type something…” to create your message. Font choice is made by tapping on the oval that says “Modern” at the top of the screen. It will cycle through your choices. Once you’ve typed your message, hit the right arrow circle in the bottom center of the screen then add it to your story as you did with all the other content. Simply tap on the Your Story circle with the plus sign.
Whew, a lot of effort for something that isn’t going to last right?
But wait! Your story actually can last longer than 24 hours if you save it as a “Highlight!”
How to Save Your Story as a Highlight
Once again, click on your Story circle icon with your profile picture in it. Your story will play. On the bottom right is a “Highlight” circle button. If you click on this, it will add the story to your profile where anyone can view it by clicking on the profile icon - the little silhouette on the bottom right. You can have multiple highlighted stories on your profile, deleting them whenever you wish.
I can imagine keeping Holy Week stories on your profile throughout the Easter season then creating one for Pentecost. Additionally, I can imagine having a “Welcome to Our Church” or “Who We Are” highlight with images and scenes of happy people doing ministry. Or for multi-da events like Vacation Bible School or mission trips (Instagram is a more youth-utilized platform).
Me too. But the only way to learn is to try, to play with the platform, and sometimes… to botch it up a bit. But the beauty of Instagram Stories is that they DO go away after 24 hours if you don’t save them as a Highlight AND you can delete them on the spot. To learn more, do a Google search on “Instagram Stories How To” and you’ll find enough instruction, tips, tricks, and examples to make your Story creating better.
For a great overview of Instagram and other social medial platforms in ministry, watch “Evangelism in the 21Evangelism in the 21st Century Public Square Century Public Square,” an Evangelism Matters conference plenary session with Jeremy Tackett, and Chris Sikkema. (Note – the video doesn’t begin until 10:35 into the recording, so fast forward for the good stuff!).
Have a Blessed Holy Week and Glorious Easter!
- Lisa Brown, Director of Digital Ministry
What can we create together? Contact Membership Vision to learn more!
Our goal at Membership Vision is to help churches and other faith communities to tell their stories in the digital space. Each church, irrespective of size, has a living and active story to tell, and technology provides an opportunity to share that story in a way that is welcoming and engaging. We ease the burden of keeping communications current, by leveraging content, and harnessing the many ways that members of our communities connect with each other, both inside and outside of the church walls. We aim to remove technological hurdles and allow churches to communicate online in an effective and sustainable way. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.