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The Ultimate List of Free Stock Photo Resources

TheCreativePastor.com – The Ultimate List of Free Stock Photo Resources

Photos are some of the most valuable resources for creative ministry. While I’m a huge fan of using pictures that are actually taken in your church, I’ve learned that’s not always possible. That’s where stock photos come in. A great stock photo can provide professionalism, beauty, and quality that you may not have access to in your ministry.

A Google search for these valuable resources will generate an infinite number of websites with stock images ranging from a few bucks per photo to thousands of dollars per photo. (I literally think my Executive Pastor would pass out if I asked for a $1000 stock image.)

What if I told you that you could get absolutely beautiful stock photos for free? You’re not dreaming, my friend. Below are my favorite resources to download some of the best photos on the web for $0/photo. Some are even Christian-based, so they’re perfect for use inside your church.

1. Unsplash

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2. Death To The Stock Photo

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3. Lightstock’s Free Photo of the Week

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4. StockSnap.io

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5. Gratisography

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6. Freely Photos

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7. Life of Pix

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8. No More Clip Art

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9. Snapwire Snaps

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10. Picjumbo

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11. Jay Mantri

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12. New Old Stock

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Do you have any other resources for free stock photos? Let us know in the comments below!

8 Things I Learned Hosting A Church Photo Booth

TheCreativePastor.com – 8 Things I Learned Hosting A Church Photo Booth
Hosting a photo booth at one of our services had been on my creative idea list since we first launched our church in September. I had seen other churches pull it off well and I knew it would work perfectly in our fun culture. We decided that our big Christmas service would be the perfect place to try it out for the first time. It was a HUGE success, but as I look back on that day, I learned a lot of valuable information that I wish I would’ve known going in.

Christmas Photo Booth Christmas Photo Booth
Christmas Photo Booth Christmas Photo Booth

1. It’s A Great Way To Add Excitement To An Event

We placed our photo booth in a space where it was almost the first thing you saw when you entered our church’s lobby. It was amazing to see the smiles from people who immediately wanted to jump in and have their photo taken. I love that it gave people a tangible way to remember the excitement of the day.

2. A Large Banner Works Great As A Background

We ordered an 8’ by 8’ banner from esigns.com and simply hung it with chain from our 14’ pipe and drape that makes up our lobby. This was a great way to showcase the design from our event. However, in the future I will opt for a matte finish so it won’t reflect so bad. I’ll also be sure to stick to thicker font weights to avoid important banner details being lost.

3. A Tripod Is A Must For A Consistent Look

Using a tripod is the easiest way to keep all of your photos matching and create a clean look as people flip through your album. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way. Our photographer accidentally left her tripod behind and was left to take all of our photos by hand.

4. At Least Two Volunteers Are Necessary

Not only do you need a skilled photographer for your booth, but you’ll want someone who can gather people, too. We found that it’s best for the photographer to be able to focus solely on their subject. Your gatherer, on the other hand, will be able to greet guests and provide a friendly nudge that they should participate.

5. Props Aren’t Necessary, But Do Make Things More Fun

Providing props such as hats, sunglasses, and items that match your event’s theme really steps up the engagement level. Adding in this small level of creativity makes it exciting for your participants. For our next booth, I’ll at minimum include some small signs that have our hashtags on them.

6. It’s Best To Offer Photos Before AND After Service

Every church has a handful of attendees who arrive late on Sundays. By providing your photo booth both before and after service, you make a way for them to be included despite their tardiness. It also makes a way for people who skipped the line on the way in.

7. Have Your Booth Available Early For Volunteers

At Piedmont Chapel, half of our attendees are involved on one of our teams. So when our booth was only available during times when our guests were arriving, they missed the opportunity to have their photo taken in the name of service. Be sure to have your booth open early for the people who are making your Sunday morning possible. Chances are, these photos mean the most to them.

8. This Is A Huge Opportunity For Social Media Outreach

We chose to post all of our photos as an album on our Facebook page immediately following our service. This was great because we were able to tag quite a few of the participants, then pay to boost the entire album. We spent $50 to boost this album to people who like our page, their friends, and the friends of people who were tagged. The amazing part? Facebook shows us that those photos were seen by 10,904 people! Not just any people, but people who have some kind of connection with someone in our church.

 

Together with the cost of the banner, we spent $230 on everything for the booth. I would recommend it to any ministry who is looking for a way to both add some fun to an event and reach a lot of people in your community on Facebook.

 

Ten Years In Creative Ministry Taught Me This

TheCreativePastor.com – Ten Years In Creative Ministry Taught Me This

Having spent over ten years serving the Church through creativity, I’ve learned a few things. Whether through projection, audio, lighting, marketing, print, branding, web, or service planning, I’ve faced many hits and misses over the years that have shaped me into the creative pastor that I am today. But, as I stand back and assess my journey over this time, one truth stands out to me.

As you can imagine, I have my share of horror stories from over 500 Sundays.

I remember a service back in the day where I used my personal laptop to run our PowerPoint (yes, I said PowerPoint) and a screensaver full of pictures of my friends filled our church’s projector during the sermon. And you think your lead pastor has it out for you! ;)

I can remember being right in the middle of one of the most heartfelt messages I’ve ever heard and when the pastor called on a video to be played ……..cricket…cricket…….. something went wrong and despite a LOT of prayer, that video never played.

I’ve made major typos in bulletins, designed graphics that looked hideous, let cringe-worthy feedback through sound systems, and tried many ideas that simply didn’t work.

But, while it’s fun to look back and laugh at these kind of things, it’s not the mistakes that you should remember over the long haul. You must hold onto the wins.

This week, I travelled to Baltimore, MD to a church where I worked full-time for five years. My wife and I had made the trip for a funeral and it had been over a year since we’d been there. While we certainly experienced the tears of the occasion, there was a lot of joy found in the reunion we had with members of the congregation.

I was able to connect with so many people that I had served in that ministry and I was incredibly blessed by their genuine excitement to see us. After many hugs, stories, and laughs, I felt like God was using this time to remind me of a simple truth.

Ministry is about people.

This time of reunion reminded me that all of the hard work that I had given in my time serving there wasn’t about making perfect ProPresenter slides or a compelling brand. It was about ministering to them.

Our wins in creative ministry should always come back to changing peoples’ lives.

Did we successfully bring people a little bit closer to Jesus? Did you help people experience the wonder of the Gospel? Did we use the creative resources God gave us to minister to His children? Did you invest in volunteers who served with you? Did you, like a good pastor, cater your “message” to minister to the unique group of people that He’s entrusted you with?

Over these ten years, I’ve seen the things that I thought were so important fade away. Videos come and go. Logos get redesigned. Services are forgotten. While we should certainly strive to give both God and our congregations our best, we must not forget what is truly important. It’s peoples’ lives that matter for eternity.

Creative ministry, like all ministry, is about the people.

9 Easy Ideas For A Memorable Christmas Service

TheCreativePastor.com – 9 Easy Ideas For A Memorable Christmas Service

The Christmas season is such a unique time of the year for ministry. Not only do studies show that more people are likely to fill your pews in this time, but that their hearts are much more conditioned to receive a message. Because of this, it’s common to see churches everywhere working diligently in preparation for the coming crowds at their Christmas service.

As your church prepares for this big day of celebrating the birth of our Savior and sharing the hope found in Him, I’ve come up with nine easy ideas to make your Christmas service memorable. I selected each of these to share with you from personal victories. I’ve seen these ideas work wonders and I know they’ll do the same for you. Check them out and let me know which are your favorites in the comments below!

1. Create An Exciting Christmas Playlist

One of the easiest ways to improve an atmosphere is with the music playing in the background. With a Spotify account in your tool belt, you’re equipped to make an awesome playlist that really sets the tone for your Christmas services. This works great in your lobby, before service, and as people exit. For our church’s “How To Survive The Holidays” series this month, we went with a fun playlist, but I’ve used other lists similar to this in the past.

2. Add Some Holiday Tastes And Smells

Imagine taking a pan of fresh baked Christmas cookies out of the oven and taking that first bite. Or imagine decorating a fresh, live Christmas tree. I’d be willing to bet that tastes and smells immediately came to mind as you read this. Scents and tastes provide such powerful memories for us. Around Christmas time, our church strategically sprays holiday themed air freshener all around our facility 15 minutes before our guests arrive for a noticeable scent. I also love bringing in fresh baked cookies and hot cocoa for the day. Even offering peppermint syrup with your normal coffee is a plus.

3. Create A Holiday Photo Booth

Whether it’s a simple DIY backdrop made of wrapping paper or a custom printed banner, this is a fun way to encourage guests to pause and snap a photo. If you have a willing photographer on your team, you can even capture these photos and share them on your church’s social media pages. Photo booths are an easy win that create lasting memories and they equip guests to share their experience with others.

4. Use A Roll Up Banner To Mark The Occasion

Roll-up banners not only look great in your church’s lobby, they are an awesome way to celebrate special events. I’ve been ordering this affordable banner for our church and have been extremely impressed with the quality. Plus, it seems huge compared to other roll ups that I’ve ordered in the past. Use one of these banners to showcase your sermon artwork for the day or simply a “Merry Christmas from Your Church” message as people enter your facility.

5. Host A Fun Christmas Poll On Social Media

PC-Social_Quotes-Set_4-39On Sunday, I had some fun with our congregation as I welcomed everyone to our service. Using this graphic, I polled our audience on their favorite Christmas movie by asking them to vote by commenting on this same image on our church’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Using their smartphones, they casted their votes and we revealed the results later in our service. People loved it! It was an easy way to bring some interactivity to our service and we boosted this post on Facebook so that all of their friends would see their involvement.

6. Add Some Christmas Songs To Your Setlist

Not only can Christmas songs bring some excitement to your services, but they can bring some well-appreciated familiarity for guests. Every year, popular artists inside and out of the Christian music genre release updated versions of these classic favorites. There is also an extremely large number of these songs available on MultiTracks.com. Simply adding one or two to your setlist may be just the thing you need for a memorable day.

7. Use Christmas Motion Backgrounds

Motion backgrounds are a great way to make your time of singing more engaging. Because there are so many producers these days, there is no shortage of variety. I recommend choosing motions that not only look good, but complement the overall theme of your service. For example, our large Christmas service on the 21st has a warm, rustic theme centered around the nativity. A fast-paced, red motion with snow fall wouldn’t work well with this theme, but a slow, amber bokeh motion would fit right in.

8. Use A Real-Life Nativity Photo For Sermon Art

lightstock-56933-baby-jesus-in-the-manger--3I’ve been truly impressed by the nativity photos at Lightstock and chose to use one of them in my own sermon artwork for Piedmont Chapel. For a lot of people, their view of Christ’s birth is wrapped up in years of tiny, porcelain nativity scenes or glowing plastic decorations in front of peoples’ homes. Using real-life imagery has a way of reminding us that this miracle truly happened.

9. Use An Out of the Box Sermon Illustration

One of the easiest ways to make your Sunday sermons memorable is by using an illustration to make your point. The use of a simple prop, photo, or video can make a massive difference on the retention rate of your audience. Simple, spoken word sermons come and go, but people hold on to messages that use a visual aid for years.

Do you have any other ideas that you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

10 Do’s And Don’ts For Pastors On Facebook

TheCreativePastor.com – 10 Do’s & Don’ts For Pastors On Facebook
While there is an abundance of social media platforms, Facebook continues to be the single best place for churches to connect with the majority of people online. While I’m a big fan of adding Twitter and Instagram to the mix, I keep Facebook as my primary means of social evangelism at our church.

More than simply a place for your church to have a digital presence, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a pastor’s involvement in this online community. It’s one of the easiest ways to speak into your congregation during the week, build a growing trust with your church family by inviting them into your life journey, and connect with new people who may make their way into your church.

So, if you’re a lead pastor, campus pastor, creative pastor, or really any kind of minister who would like to make the most of your time on Facebook, here are ten do’s and don’ts that will help you along the way:

1. DO Friend Members of Your Congregation

People love connecting with their pastor and this is a simple way to let your congregation know that you’re available to them. More than that, that accepted friend request from them lets you know that they trust you enough to invite you into their digital life.

2. DON’T Ride The Emotions of Your Friends

When you’re connected with your church family on Facebook, you’ll see them go through the highs and lows of life. You’ll witness their faithful times and their moments of failure. The key is to love them through all of these seasons and don’t let their posts make or break your day.

3. DO Accept Friend Requests From Nearly Everyone

When you serve as a minister, you’ll see friend requests from people you’ve never personally met. This is a good thing. Whether it’s a friend of someone in your congregation or a family member from the funeral you recently led, these are people who want to get to know you better. (Pro Tip: Check their mutual friend list to get a better idea of who you’re adding.)

4. DON’T Do It Alone

Because you’re connecting with so many people, Facebook can be a tempting place. It’s led to countless cases of infidelity and ruined a lot of marriages. Always be careful to live above reproach and keep things public as often as possible. I’d also recommend inviting someone to keep you accountable in this area. Do everything you can to not let your good be evil spoken of.

5. DO Share Encouraging Posts

Facebook gives the amazing opportunity to minister to your church family outside of Sunday. A simple quote, scripture, or kind post can be just the right thing to keep someone going on a hard day. If you gain a reputation for spreading positivity online, I can guarantee that you’ll see your influence grow.

6. DON’T Give Facebook A Piece of Your Mind

We’ve all seen it. We’ve all rolled our eyes and shook our heads. No one likes when people use Facebook as a personal soap box to rant. Don’t use your digital platform to tackle any issues, get involved in debate, or give anyone a piece of your mind. Keep it uplifting and avoid the drama. Whether big or small, in a Facebook argument, no one wins.

7. DO Share Family Milestones and Memories

This is one of the most important components of your social presence. When you share photos and snippets from your personal life, it connects with people in a greater way than you could ever imagine. It instantly makes you more human and approachable to people inside and outside your congregation.

8. DON’T Share Deep Theological Thoughts

If the goal is to be human and approachable, sharing deep theological thoughts is a quick route in the opposite direction. While it can be tempting to share that “aha moment” from the latest book you’re reading, it’s not worth it. Out of context, it’s likely that most people won’t understand and it just separates you from the community you’ve worked hard to build.

9. DO Be Quick To Offer Praise

Likes and comments are the goal of every post on Facebook and they’re very connected with the self-worth of many users. While you could write a whole sermon on the problem in that, I’d recommend spending your time using it as a method for affirmation. Be quick to comment “Great picture!” on their latest family photo. Like any post that shows them heading in the right direction. Give happy birthday wishes and offer short words of praise often.

10. DON’T Publicly Correct Anyone

When you see one of your friends going through a hard time or not making the wisest choices, feel free to offer kind words of support. However, Facebook is not a place for correction. “Calling out” someone online is guaranteed to burn bridges. No matter how good your intentions, text will always take on the emotion of the reader and add to the problem.

Do you have any other do’s or don’ts that you’d add to the list?