Due to recent phenomenons like the meteoric rise of social media’s new darling, Pinterest, and the ever-increasing amount of video content uploaded toYouTube, the web is afire with the affirmation that we live in a visual culture. With increased bandwidth getting into homes and faster mobile speeds making their way onto our cell phones, many connected users prefer to see rather than to read. For instance, one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second. Pinterest has quietly attained 10 million members, with an estimated 97% female user base. Pinterest may even change the look of the entire Internet.
However, our “visual culture” is nothing new. Because of rampant illiteracy in the middle ages, churches began to use a new technology of their time, stained glass, to tell the old, old story. (One could argue that texting has led to a new form of illiteracy, resulting in a heightened appreciation of a visual web, but that’s another article). Unlike the severe technological limitations of the middle ages, we now have a wealth of visual resources to put at our disposal in order to reach the masses.
Let’s Get Visual
So, where do you put your time and money so that the people you want to reach actually get to see your digital stained glass?
First, ask yourself or your staff honest questions:
Put on thick skin and receive these answers graciously. If your church’s design chops are negligible, it may be time to seek outside help, whether that’s from a design student, a consultant, or creating a new staff position specifically for a graphic designer. In order to engage a visual culture, you must create attention-grabbing visuals. If your church is intent on garnering the attention of a younger generation, you must speak to a group that has been inundated with advertising for their whole lives. Once you’ve made a fair assessment of your design abilities, you then need to decide where to focus those talents.
Persons of Pinterest
Paul exhorted Christians to be all in order to win all. Does this mean that your church must be on every social media site available in order to be seen? Well, yes and no. If you have the resources, it can only help your church's SEO footprint and allow you to connect with more of your members. For instance, Mars Hill Church recently joined Pinterest, both because the church is design-savvy and, interestingly, as a way to reach their female church members online.
Keep in mind the central benefit of any social media website—it’s social. By establishing your church on a social media site that your current members are already highly engaged with, you offer an easy avenue for those members to invite their online friends to your church. If your well-designed pin on Pinterest or engaging video on YouTube suddenly goes viral, your church may receive invaluable publicity for the price of a designer and a few hours spent learning the ropes of a new social media site. More than that, the work your church creates and releases onto the Internet may well live on for decades, inspiring hundreds, if not thousands, of worshippers well into the future.
How to Engage a Visual Culture Online
Pinterest may not be right for your church, either because your members do not use the site, your time and talents are otherwise already invested, or you’d simply like to see whether or not the site continues to grow so quickly. Regardless of whether or not your church joins Pinterest, here are a few basic suggestions for engaging a connected, visual culture:
For those who do choose to pin, may your digital stained glass become the most pinteresting items on the Internet.
This article originally appeared at Technologies for Worship.