In Layman's Terms: Free photos for use in your churches

Todd Seifert


You’re preparing for Sunday worship. The pastor has given you his or her scripture. You have photos to represent sermon points – maybe even a video. You’re all set to build that week’s audio-visual presentation and start promoting the upcoming worship experience on social media.

But you are lacking options for backgrounds – for the hymns, for prayer requests, maybe even announcements prior to the service starting.

It’s frustrating, and I understand completely how much time is wasted trying to go to Google or some other search engine to seek out photos. Then, even if you’re lucky enough to find the perfect image, it seems like all of the best ones are unavailable for use without violating copyright law.

In most of the churches my wife has served, I’ve assisted with the visuals that help spice things up in our worship settings. Sometimes, software such as EasyWorship or Media Shout comes with images. But after a while, you want to change things up a bit. You need new images.

While there are some free websites out there, the reality is most of those sites don’t provide much for free. It’s a method of introducing their products to you so they can entice you to buy a larger library of images. That doesn’t make them bad; it just makes them, at times, too expensive for a church’s budget.

The conference staff wants to help ease your time constraints and make it a little easier for you to find images to use in worship. So, as we travel the under-appreciated landscape we find across Kansas and Nebraska, we do our best to pull out our cameras and capture some images that reflect our two states. And we’re making those images available to you for free to help with your sermon illustrations, slide backgrounds and social media posts.

Our Flickr album titled “Scenes from the Great Plains Conference” features images of croplands, photos of landmarks, pictures of waterways and creatures that call our conference boundaries “home” and even some natural phenomena.

And we’ve had some help in pulling together some of these photos. Besides our staff, special thanks go to Thomas Renich and the Rev. Bill Ritter. We know a few others are preparing to contribute in the days ahead, and we invite you to share as well. There are only a few stipulations:

  • First, by submitting photos, you are signifying that you are the photographer and own the copyright on the image.
  • Second, there will be no expectation of payment for use of the images, and no royalties will be paid to the photographer, regardless of how many times the image is used.
  • Third, while we live in a big, beautiful world, we only will accept images taken in Kansas and Nebraska.
  • Finally, stick to nature shots. This helps us avoid the issues surrounding model/talent releases for people depicted in these kinds of photographs.
If you choose to contribute, send the photos to Jayna McFarland, our social media and website specialist, at Be sure to include your name, your home church and where the photo was taken.

Again, all of the images in our album are available for download for free. Be sure to bookmark the page in your browser so you can check back for new photos. We’ll keep adding to it as people submit photos and as we take more photos while we travel around the conference.

We hope you’ll find this tool to be useful.

Best wishes as you carry on the work of the church and serve our risen Savior, Jesus Christ!

Todd Seifert is communications director for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. He can be reached via phone at 785-414-4224, or via email at Opinions expressed are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Great Plains Annual Conference or the United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter, @ToddSeifert.