by Ben Jones
Missional Generation is a Christian charity in the north of England that helps to equip the Church as we seek to equip children and young people to live influential lives for God in all arenas of life. We have a keen interest in developing innovative ways to explore faith, mission and evangelism including digital innovation.
I’d love to share the journey we have recently been on to customise filters on Instagram and Facebook as a form of playful evangelism and in raising the confidence of the family of God to share their faith in a fun and engaging way.
Like many others, over the course of the past year, we have continually reflected and explored how we can best serve others and share faith using digital means in this hybrid world that we are living in – where both the ‘in person’ and the ‘online’ hold value and importance. We have been so blessed to see the journey of churches and Christian charities in sharing faith and building community using social media and online methods.
It is brilliant to see people making use of the vast knowledge online to build their online presence as a Church or charity. I think many of us will have learnt new skills from watching and learning others through the many YouTube tutorials that are available. We weren’t content with using what was already available and so we were challenged to consider and create new ideas and developments to help share faith relevantly.
It was this journey that led Missional Generation to consider the impact of filters.
I’m sure many of you have spent a fun-filled hour or two changing backgrounds, looking like your favourite animal or seeing who the filter says your dream movie character would be! These are fun activities that people across the generations are engaging with, enjoying and sharing with one another on social media platforms. We began to consider earlier this year, how might filters be used as a form of playful evangelism?
What is Playful Evangelism?
The idea of playful evangelism is that we make use of something fun, that both provides entertainment and interaction, whilst sharing and communicating the life-giving and life-changing message of Jesus being a gift to each of us. It provides an opportunity within the enjoyment to reflect and consider relevant and important faith messages.
The Journey (continued…)
We decided earlier this year to explore how we might develop our own filters that can be shared on both Facebook and Instagram to portray the message of key dates in the Christian calendar. We started with a Palm Sunday filter which led to an Easter Sunday filter and then a Pentecost filter. One of our motives was to help revitalise the importance of these three days that are connected to the worldwide Church.
We had seen on social media how people of all ages and demographics loved the fun element of filters and we also knew from conversations that many do not feel confident sharing their faith with others in an accessible way. The joy of filters is that you can share a message without saying a word or for those who are more confident, you can add your words and powerful stories to the filter and capture your friends and contacts’ attention with the fun and eye-catching delivery.
We love the freshness of using filters and they are a brilliant way to engage all the Church and we have been amazed at the positive response to their usage.
The stats were a bit of a wow moment for our charity as we saw the potential reach from getting just a small group of people we knew share them, which led to their friends sharing them and so forth. To give you an idea of the impact…
From the three filters, (Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday and Pentecost) we had 19.9k impressions. In real terms, this means that an incredible 19,900 people had this filter appear on their screen through either Facebook or Instagram! This was made possible, by people seeing the fun in the evangelism and then trying it for themselves when it appeared on their screen. It saw a train reaction response that was both playful and meaningful! At a time when churches couldn’t invite people to their usual outreach events to share the message of Jesus, these filters were able to share a snippet of many testimonies of the good news of Jesus at work in peoples’ lives. We have seen and experienced first-hand that this digital customisation has led to conversation. It has been wonderful to see the positive vibe of sharing filters with a Christian message - a truly non-confrontational way to express the importance of your faith in Jesus with others.
Our team is blessed to have digital innovators, people with a skill for illustration and people who love technology within it, and so our development of filters came from within our team and was self-taught. It is something that we would love to see replicated in churches across the country. Within congregations, there will be many people who have a gifting and passion for digital – people who are excited by innovation and how technology connects the world. Why not explore if there are people within your Church family who would be excited to grow your digital presence in this way? Could there be people who develop filters with meaning and powerful messages, to grow an interest in faith and a presence within the local community of people who follow social media accounts and hashtags? This will allow the community to playfully connect with the Church, e.g. a filter could be made to communicate and share about a fun day with a filter with a silly hat and a big bow tie that is fun to watch.
This approach is a great way to have inter-generational outreach – with the young people and the older generations working together to create an evangelistic tool. Young people have a wide reach of followers on social media platforms and their input into initiatives such as this would have an exciting impact on both them and their peers as they share their filter creations with their followers.
We’d encourage you to give the digital innovators in your church space to dream and to play with ideas. Let’s see what the dynamic impact is, on both your Church community and the wider world, as we capture an excitement and playfulness in our digital evangelism through the use of filters.