Picture this - visual storytelling during Holy Week and Easter
Easter – a time of joy and resurrection, and a time when people are more likely to come to church. Easter is the pinnacle of our Christian story, the culmination and focus of all that we believe.
Yet sometimes in the business that comes before Holy Week, we lose sight of the power of this story in the work of making preparations. The role of the parish communications staff is critical in engaging and inviting people to worship, and it takes a lot of work to craft website updates, bulletins and other support materials, yard banners, and social media campaigns. By the time Easter arrives with its trumpeting fanfare and flowered crosses, most communications folks are exhausted. But before we as church communicators can take a well-deserved break - we should remember that those celebratory, well-attended Easter services can also offer a great opportunity to invite people into our church’s ongoing story, and invite them to play a part in the larger resurrection story that we celebrate.
- Remember to designate one or more official photographers during Holy Week services, especially on Easter. Cell phone cameras can take great pictures and almost everyone has a phone in their pocket.
- Encourage photographers to capture pictures that represent all the different demographics in your congregation, considering age, ethnicity, gender, family structure, ability – all the traits that represents the glorious diversity of the human family, each person made in Christ’s image.
- Children and teens can be fantastic photographers, often offering a unique perspective and worldview. Furthermore, by asking them to document their experiences, you invite them to be active participants rather than passive witnesses. You may end up with get 50 shots of the Palm Sunday processional donkey, but the exercise will tell you a lot about what resonates with the younger members of your congregation. And donkeys are cute.
- Ask yourself who else might provide an interesting perspective from which to document participation in Holy Week? The altar guild as they set up bowls of water for Maundy Thursday footwashing or decorate the altar with flowers before Easter? Choir members as they look out over the congregation during the service? Invite people to capture the behind-the-scenes images that most parishioners never see, the preparations that make Holy Week worship so transcendent.
- Make sure to capture great shots inside and outside the church! Natural lighting and spring flowers can be very photogenic.
- Consider adding a crowd release statement to your worship bulletins or post one somewhere in your worship space. Visitors may not have given previous permission to be photographed through registration, membership data collection, etc. Although church is typically considered a public place where expectations of privacy are limited, people do have legal rights as to how, when, and by whom their image is used.
- Remind photographers of the need to be respectful of people engaged in the sacred act of worship. In advance, suggest unobtrusive spots to stand to take pictures. Remind photographers of moments in the service or related events that you want to be sure to capture and those that they should refrain from photographing. These decisions will depend on your church culture and practice; and it always makes sense to enlist the support and direction of your clergy in advance.
- Determine in advance a strategy for gathering the photographs that are taken – establish a Dropbox or shared Google folder rather than dealing with individually sent images. If photographers do email or text you pictures, make sure they send full resolution files rather than compressed thumbnails.
In addition to empowering a corps of official church photographers, encourage personal picture taking among your parish families. Invite people to share their photos – suggest it in advance of Holy Week services in your email blasts or other parish communications and then publish a brief tip sheet in your bulletin or worship materials during each of the services.
Some suggestion for your bulletin insert social media tip sheet:
- For people who post to Facebook, remind them to “check in” with your church location AND make sure to set permission for their posts to Public (otherwise you as the location won’t be notified).
- On Instagram and Twitter where hashtags are useful, give people a unique hashtag to use on all their posts – for example, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, we used #stpaulspgh. Keep your hashtag as short as you can, and do a search beforehand to make sure it isn’t already being used by another organization. This will help you to find images that people have posted.
- Consider social media for evangelism – in addition to suggesting a church specific hashtag so YOU can find the pictures, also ask people to post use a general hashtag such as #Easter18 or the name of your town, so that more people might see what Easter is like at your church.
Photographs are the way in which we share our stories, and it is our shared stories that shape our communal identity. By encouraging folks in your congregation to “capture the moment’ during Holy Week and Easter, you not only benefit from gaining lots of new visual material for church print and digital communications, but more importantly, you amplify the voices of your parishioners, inviting them to be a part of the ongoing story of the people of God.
- Lisa Brown, Director of Digital Ministry
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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.