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Pinterest-ing tips to make your church a curator of cool

By Gavin Richardson

Pinterest is the fastest-growing social media tool today, amassing more than 10.5 million users as of late February, 2012. It has the same amount of referral traffic as Twitter does (AllTwitter). Furthermore, users spend more than an hour on Pinterest versus a half hour for Twitter (AllTwitter). Pinterest has already redefined the act of “pinning” in the lexicon. Pinterest appears to be the big social media phenomenon of 2012.

What is Pinterest?

At its core, Pinterest is a free bookmarking social media site. Think of Pinterest as an Internet bulletin board. The unique quality of Pinterest is that it is very well organized and has a visual pin board type layout. As well, Pinterest requires minimal writing and time to set up and use. So, now you might ask:

How can MY church use Pinterest in ministry?

Pinterest is about promoting excellent information on the web. Therefore, most pins should not be self-promoting. Pins should be carefully chosen third-party pages geared for church leaders, congregants and community members. Though you can promote some of your own “best-of” events and happenings, these should not be the main focus.

To gain credibility from users, provide a diverse array of topics, engage other tasteful pinners and re-pin their findings.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Pretend you’re the city’s curator of "cool" and create a "Your Town Guidebook" board that includes your favorite parks, restaurants and entertainment around your community. Provide short summaries of why each place is excellent. Link to this board on your visitor page on your website while repeating the mantra “Pinterest is welcoming.” The Gathering UMC in St. Louis has done this for "Our Neck of the Woods." Also look at what Melrose UMC in Lottsburg, Va., did on their Pinterest board entitled "The Northern Neck."

2. Create a "Books for Spiritual Reading" board. This could be a “best-of” church library or bookstore. If you link to an Amazon associate account, the church could even make some money. Melrose UMC has started one of these spiritual reading book boards.

3. Collect a library of articles around the Internet that cover a local or national news issue.

4. Encourage the congregation to share your website’s wedding page on their "community board."

5. Create a “Wedding Planning” board that highlights local resources, wedding planners, florists and so forth. Include excellent photos of weddings from your church as well.

6. Use “shared” boards to collect ideas for church events such as vacation Bible school and special dinners. These can come in handy when decorating or designing a space for that event. Joanna Cummings, children’s minister at Forest Hills UMC in Brentwood, Tenn., contributes to a board for sharing VBS ideas.

7. Chronicle your church’s community missions happening around the area. This way, members can plug into and share these missions with their networks of friends. Dunwoody UMC in Georgia did something similar with their Habitat for Humanity build.

8. Create resource areas for your programs, such as a youth ministry, missions or children’s ministry. Memorial UMC in Farmington, Mo., has a few boards tending to specific ministries and groups of people within their church.

9. If you have a Wordpress-based website, you can use the Pinterest RSS widget to plug your boards into your website to share this collection of selective content. This great visual on your website gives visitors not only an idea of what is happening at the church, but also a glimpse into some of the interests and passions that drive the congregation.

Quick step-by-step guide to getting started on Pinterest

  1. Go to and request a user account. It usually takes one day to be approved.
  2. Your initial setup will include the creation of your first "boards."
  3. The Pinterest application will give you a “Pin It” button that works within your browser as a one click "pinning" function.
  4. Connect Pinterest to other growing applications that sync with the site. Facebook is a huge connecting site for those who use Pinterest.
  5. Download the mobile Pinterest application.
  6. Need a little more help? Check out HubSpot’s tutorial or look up more on Google.

Start pinning!
Once you’re set up, browse the web, read articles, scroll other Pinterest boards and “pin” your favorite pages to your various boards. Pinterest will automatically insert a prominent image from each page to highlight the pin. Edit the text under the image and give it an inviting spin.

After you have pinned several pages, watch for others with whom you have connected to "re-pin" their boards.

Optimize your website for Pinterest

  1. Always use a large, high-resolution and visually appealing image to go along with your blog postings, event pages, photo galleries and book studies that you put onto the Internet. If someone wants to pin these pages, Pinterest needs to find a large enough image to make a “pin.”
  2. Make sure to include Pinterest sharing buttons on your website to make it easier for people to “pin” your content.
  3. Encourage congregation members to share appealing church happenings on their pin boards.

Your goal as a church on Pinterest is not to become the most influential "pinner." It is to provide useful tools for ministry and inspiration for your congregation and the community.