The Power of Pinterest: your best platform for formation
When I talk to formation folks about digital ministry, they immediately grasp the potential for using the digital space to connect with other formation people and with families. Many are librarians at heart – what they want is to connect seekers with curated, indexed resources, to put information, ideas, and inspiration in the hands, heads, and hearts of those who want it. What they don’t know is how to build the infrastructure that will allow them to do this. I often hear, “I’m not the web person,” or “I’m not digitally savvy.”
You don’t need to be digitally savvy to share curated faith resources in the digital space!
You don’t need to know programming or even how to update your church’s website.
Someone has already built the perfect platform for you.
(Hint: it’s called Pinterest).
And someone has already figured out how to use it to support formation!
Her name is Jerusalem Greer!
Jerusalem’s books, At Home in this Life and A Homemade Year, are contemplative reflections on homecrafts, home-cooked meals, entertaining, family, and pets. Considering her themes and titles, you might not suspect that Jerusalem is also incredibly astute in the digital space! But she is and 7,400 followers on Pinterest will attest to it!
She explains that when Pinterest came out, she thought it was just one more thing to do, one more social networking platform. But now, she’s convinced that it is an essential platform to support faith formation.
Jerusalem says to think of it as a card catalogue of ideas and projects that you can sort, organize or categorize. It’s a tapestry of inspiration.
How does it work?
Imagine a series of pushpin bulletin boards. Each one represents a particular project, event, or theme you want to explore or plan. Maybe you’ve got a travel board where you pin up inspirational quotes and scenic photos. Maybe you’ve got a board to reflect a specific trip – you’ve pinned up tickets, subway maps, newspaper articles, restaurant reviews, and pictures of yourself in these locales. Maybe you’ve got a board to help plan a special event – you’ve got sample invitations, receipts for party goods, recipes you want to prepare, guest lists, all pinned on your board.
Now imagine doing the same thing digitally!
That’s Pinterest board!
- Pinterest boards can be Public or Secret. If you want to create a collection of resources to share with others, you want your board to be Public. If you want to keep a board for a personal project, you want it to be Secret. Jerusalem says she uses Secret Boards to keep track of quotes, inspiration and ideas that she wants to explore in her writing; things she isn’t ready to share with the world but wants to develop.
- Pinterest boards can be collaborative. One way Jerusalem uses boards in her role as Minister for Children, Youth, and Families for St. Peter’s Episcopal in Conway, Arkansas, is for planning church events. For example, when planning a 75th anniversary party for their congregation, she pinned links to everything from news articles about the church, to vendor websites, to recipes and craft ideas. This board provided a centralized location for her entire planning team to share their ideas (individuals can be designated “pinners”). They could make sure everything was covered for the event without sending a thousand emails. What’s great is that the planning team could access the board from anywhere – from their desktops at home or church, or from their iPhone in the craft aisle of Michael’s. Even if a board has multiple pinners, it can still be designated Public or Secret. The party planning board was just shared between planners – not the public. And when the event was over, the board could be deleted.
- Pinterest boards are visual – but not exclusively for cute pictures. You can save anything on Pinterest that has a URL. Think of all the digital articles you want to read and organize by topic. Think of articles you want to share with your church families or your formation peers. Think of thematically grouped materials – helping kids deal with grief, book lists for children’s ministry, best youth group activities, how to encourage volunteers, grandparents and children, etc. While Pinterest can save anything with a URL, Jerusalem suggests that you are intentional about providing an image to accompany the link. If you pin a URL that doesn’t have an image, you can click on the ‘+’ button to choose an accompanying image.
So how do you get started on Pinterest?
It helps to organize your thoughts – and your boards – before you start pinning. Although it’s easy jump right in, a little bit of pre-organization can help.
- Create boards with some specificity. Rather than a general board “Children’s Ministry” that becomes a dumping ground for everything, better to create a few different boards for different topics in Children’s Ministry such as “Advent Ideas,” “Bible Story Crafts,” “Youth Group Games.” Check out the boards Jerusalem has been working on for Forma such as "Kids & Grief" and "Forma Authors"
- You can always sub-divide a board later – Jerusalem started with a “Saints” board, but suspects “St. Francis” and “St. Nicholas” will spin off onto distinct boards.
- Don’t put your “brand” at the beginning of every board name because (1) people search by topic not by your church name; and (2) you only have so many characters to work with. Pinners will see that you are the owner of the board – it’s not important to work this into the board name.
- Don’t be too cute or clever with your names – title your boards descriptively. Jerusalem renamed “Fluff the Nest” to the more generic, but descriptive, “Home Décor.” Think about search terms people would use, the simpler the better.
- Start with at least 6 pins on each board – otherwise, Jerusalem explains, people will assume you don’t pin much and won’t bother to follow you.
- Don’t be afraid to “double pin” if you have a great item that could apply to multiple boards. Do you have a Lenten reflection that also makes a great liturgical resource? Put those items on both boards. Pinterest will ask you if you are sure you want to pin it twice. You do.
- Follow everyone you are targeting to prompt them to follow you in return. By checking out what your families are pinning, you’ll also have great insight into what they are interested in – and this will help you better curate resources to meet their needs.
What are some other great uses of Pinterest?
- Publishing a Wish List - Do you need craft items, snack foods, and some books for this year’s Vacation Bible School? You can pin all of these items on your VBS board with links to Amazon to purchase the books, and your favorite craft supplier to purchase the crafts. When someone buys something on the list, delete the pin. This would work well for Angel Trees, too. On your congregation’s Facebook page and website, you need only include the link to the Pinterest board with an invitation to parishioners to purchase or donate necessary items!
- Supporting Faith at Home – Not only might you serve your existing families in their home faith practices, but you could grow your digital discipleship connections by providing home faith practices to families far from your geographic location. You can encourage families to regularly seek out your Pinterest board with a post on your Facebook group saying “Check out what’s new on our Faith at Home board.”
- Sermon Sharing – Pinterest boards are a great way to leverage your sermons. If you are already posting your sermons on your website, think about also pinning them on a sermon board. Whatever naming convention you use, make sure in your description to include the scriptural reference. If it’s a sermon on a particular Bible story, make sure to include that in the name or description. If it’s on a non-scriptural topic, make sure to title it and include this information in the description.
And for those of you who are content creators – Pinterest is a great way to share your materials with the world.
Posting Your Original Content
- Put an image with everything you write, blog, or post! Even a stock photo is better than nothing. This ensures that if someone pins your article there will be an appropriate accompanying image.
- Rename your image file to connect it to the theme of the article or blog. If you write an article on children and grief accompanied by a picture of a child hugging a puppy, the image name should be “children and grief” rather than ‘boy with puppy.” Consider what someone would be searching on who might benefit from reading your article.
Every day, people turn to Pinterest for DIY (do-it-yourself) faith ideas. It’s a great platform to organize your own thoughts, support your families, collaborate with your formation peers, and reach out to those beyond your parish community!
- Lisa Brown
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 email@example.com or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.