Instagram Won't Kill Your Ministry, But Something Much Worse Will.

Daniel Beckworth‘s  post “Instagram Will Kill Your Ministry” over at Youthministry.com. If you haven’t,  please make sure to read his post before you read mine. First and foremost, I agree with the points Daniel makes, except for the part about kicking puppies, maybe kicking cats would of been much more appropriate. All joking aside, I appreciate what Daniel has brought to the table and how we should be more aware of the pictures we are posting up on Instagram. I, like many of you, have an Instagram and post pictures of my students.  I not only post  group pictures, but also pictures of an individual student, male or female, with only myself. I have no issue with this and think using Instagram for youth ministry purposes can be a great thing. As I considered what Daniel was writing, I believe there is something much deeper than Daniel’s issues at hand. Instagram, or any other social media, won’t get you fired from youth ministry. Social media falls under those grey areas in the bible, since no such thing was even conceived as possible at the time. Yet, I treat social media in light of 1 Timothy 4:4;

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
It’s funny to think of Instagram as holy; but the truth is, how we use it to glorify God is what makes it holy. We have this amazing ability to use all of God’s creations to bring people closer to him, and we should be willing to figure out how to use all the tools God has given us in a glorifying way. So with that said, what can get you fired? Bad judgement. If you keep making poor choices with the tools God has given you, expect to experience a backlash. If all you are doing is taking pictures with one particular boy or girl, expect people to start wondering about your relationship with them, which could lead to your termination. However, if you’re taking pictures with multiple students, or individuals with guys or girls, than people will see the love you spread to others and won’t wonder about your motives. This is why it is important to have guidelines for yourself, your volunteers, your students, and your ministry so that you can protect yourself and others. We may have major guidelines, but sometimes little things, like pictures, are forgotten about. If you don’t have guidelines for the pictures you post up, I encourage you to make some. Here are some questions to ask ourselves when we are taking pictures:
  • How is this picture representing myself, my students, the student ministry, the church, and Christ?
  • How many pictures have I taken with this particular individual or group?
  • Am I favoring one student or group over the other?
  • What can I do to encourage students to take the proper pictures of themselves and each other?
In the end, make good judgment calls when you’re ministering to your students and their families. Have open discussions with your student’s parents and your volunteer team on what they believe is appropriate for all social media outlets. When everyone knows what your guidelines are when it comes to social media, texting, pictures, volunteers, etc., then you can minister without fear of someone believing your motives are impure. Have fun with Instagram, and take lots of pictures to show the world how amazing our God is! What are your guidelines for social media? Do you believe it is appropriate to use Instagram in youth ministry?
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30 Comments

  1. Great post, Josh. Totally agree, Instagram will not kill your ministry. Bottom line for me, it is completely appropriate to use instagram in ministry. Post pictures of you and your students, do the awkward side hugs, all of that. Like you say, don't be excessive, and don't just have the same student in every picture, but let's not be afraid of things because they could possibly cause harm to the ministry of someone who, in all honesty, would destroy their ministry with or without the help of instagram. Instagram's not the problem, it will always still be the heart.
    • Ben, I totally agree with your thoughts. My article may have made it seem like I hate social media, but I actually use it as a powerful tool for my ministry. You follow my personal Instagram account and you may have seen that I use it as well to post pictures of students following many of the same guidelines that you have listed.
  2. Great post, Josh. Totally agree, Instagram will not kill your ministry. Bottom line for me, it is completely appropriate to use instagram in ministry. Post pictures of you and your students, do the awkward side hugs, all of that. Like you say, don't be excessive, and don't just have the same student in every picture, but let's not be afraid of things because they could possibly cause harm to the ministry of someone who, in all honesty, would destroy their ministry with or without the help of instagram. Instagram's not the problem, it will always still be the heart.
    • Ben, I totally agree with your thoughts. My article may have made it seem like I hate social media, but I actually use it as a powerful tool for my ministry. You follow my personal Instagram account and you may have seen that I use it as well to post pictures of students following many of the same guidelines that you have listed.
  3. This is a great, balanced approach. Thanks for approaching this subject with a level head. Well done, my friend.
  4. This is a great, balanced approach. Thanks for approaching this subject with a level head. Well done, my friend.
  5. Very well put. Anytime we throw the medium under the bus we're probably missing the point...unless it's Snapchat. Anyway, I think it's also important to create guidelines for our volunteers. We who are paid to do student ministry are usually conditioned to think it terms of how what we post will impact what people think about us, our ministry, and our church. However, volunteers may not necessarily think like this. And, they often have greater influence with our students. We created a volunteering covenant that includes a section on what's appropriate activity on social media.
    • I completely agree with you. I always talk to my volunteers about social media etiquette and I let them know if I see anything that I deem inappropriate I'll let them know. They also have a three strikes and you're out rule. When everyone knows what their expectations are, the ministry runs a lot smoother!
    • Aaron, I like your section on social media in our volunteer covenant. Great idea. I'm going to steal it :)
      • Hey Daniel, Here's exactly how our social media section reads. Steal away: Social Media Students and even their parents may visit your Facebook page, blog, or follow you on Twitter, etc. While social media can be a great connection tool, it also serves as a window into your life beyond church. We ask that you leverage social media with students in mind and consider the following: · Use modest photos and avoid photos with alcohol in them, especially those that show you drinking · Avoid using inappropriate language, including in text form
  6. Very well put. Anytime we throw the medium under the bus we're probably missing the point...unless it's Snapchat. Anyway, I think it's also important to create guidelines for our volunteers. We who are paid to do student ministry are usually conditioned to think it terms of how what we post will impact what people think about us, our ministry, and our church. However, volunteers may not necessarily think like this. And, they often have greater influence with our students. We created a volunteering covenant that includes a section on what's appropriate activity on social media.
    • I completely agree with you. I always talk to my volunteers about social media etiquette and I let them know if I see anything that I deem inappropriate I'll let them know. They also have a three strikes and you're out rule. When everyone knows what their expectations are, the ministry runs a lot smoother!
    • Aaron, I like your section on social media in our volunteer covenant. Great idea. I'm going to steal it :)
      • Hey Daniel, Here's exactly how our social media section reads. Steal away: Social Media Students and even their parents may visit your Facebook page, blog, or follow you on Twitter, etc. While social media can be a great connection tool, it also serves as a window into your life beyond church. We ask that you leverage social media with students in mind and consider the following: · Use modest photos and avoid photos with alcohol in them, especially those that show you drinking · Avoid using inappropriate language, including in text form
  7. Josh, Excellent article. Seriously, fantastic piece. I know my original article comes across as harsh and that's partially on purpose. I did want to capture attention to cause youth workers to think about this issue in a new light and to create valuable discussion like this. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of dialogue this has created and for that I am thankful. I truly enjoy hearing the perspectives of other youth workers who are fighting in the trenches on a daily basis. We all have the same end goal in mind: making disciples of students and glorifying Christ. Your article is very balanced and offers a lot of practical advice. I personally use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more as powerful tools for my youth ministry. I follow many of the same guidelines that you and others have mentioned. The social networking tool is not evil, as you mentioned, but bad judgment can cause an unwanted distraction.
    • Hey Daniel! I'm glad your post was able to create dialogue between youth pastors, which in the end, is always our goal. Keep up the great work and thank you for the inspiration for the post!
  8. Josh, Excellent article. Seriously, fantastic piece. I know my original article comes across as harsh and that's partially on purpose. I did want to capture attention to cause youth workers to think about this issue in a new light and to create valuable discussion like this. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of dialogue this has created and for that I am thankful. I truly enjoy hearing the perspectives of other youth workers who are fighting in the trenches on a daily basis. We all have the same end goal in mind: making disciples of students and glorifying Christ. Your article is very balanced and offers a lot of practical advice. I personally use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more as powerful tools for my youth ministry. I follow many of the same guidelines that you and others have mentioned. The social networking tool is not evil, as you mentioned, but bad judgment can cause an unwanted distraction.
    • Hey Daniel! I'm glad your post was able to create dialogue between youth pastors, which in the end, is always our goal. Keep up the great work and thank you for the inspiration for the post!
  9. GREAT POST! As Leaders, we have to realize that we are held to a higher level of accountability and responsibility when it comes to Social Media. Just look at celebrities in media today! So many of them are caught "off guard" with scandalous accusations all because of how they were photographed with someone. And as Spiritual Leaders people are also watching our Likes, Comments, Shares, etc. Our platforms give us attention whether wanted or unwanted....and it's WISE to take every effort to protect our witness, both for ourselves and our ministries. Blessings!
    • You're so right. Whether we like it or not, we have a platform and an influence, and we need to recognize how that affects those who are around us. Thanks for the love Stephen!
  10. GREAT POST! As Leaders, we have to realize that we are held to a higher level of accountability and responsibility when it comes to Social Media. Just look at celebrities in media today! So many of them are caught "off guard" with scandalous accusations all because of how they were photographed with someone. And as Spiritual Leaders people are also watching our Likes, Comments, Shares, etc. Our platforms give us attention whether wanted or unwanted....and it's WISE to take every effort to protect our witness, both for ourselves and our ministries. Blessings!
    • You're so right. Whether we like it or not, we have a platform and an influence, and we need to recognize how that affects those who are around us. Thanks for the love Stephen!

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