The Ultimate Guide To Snapchat For Churches

Snapchat is the future. But it's also difficult to use when you're new. This ultimate guide to snapchat for churches will teach you everything you need to know.

August 1st, 2016

Snapchat is ushering in the future of social media. It’s also not just for Millennials and hormonal teenagers. With 310 million monthly active users (Source), it’s unlike any other major social platform. And it’s fundamentally changing the way that we interact online.

But…Snapchat is also very difficult to use (at least at first). Because it’s different from every other major social network, most people find it confusing on first use. Snapchat’s user interface doesn’t play by the traditional rules of social media and that’s part of the reason everyone loves it so much. It’s also part of the reason why Mark Zuckerberg tried to buy Snapchat just a single year after it launched for $3 billion (Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat, turned him down).

You’re reading The Ultimate Guide To Snapchat For Churches. This guide is going to teach you how to use Snapchat and navigate its tricky interface. However, this guide is not here to persuade you to use Snapchat. A handful of my friends have written great posts on this already, so if you’re unsure if Snapchat is right for you and your church and you need some advice, click here – or here – or here.

Snapchat consistently ranks as the #1 app in the app store
Snapchat consistently ranks as the #1 app in the app store

3 Reasons Snapchat Is Unlike Any Other Social Platform You’ve Used

First things first, what makes Snapchat different from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? Essentially there are three distinguishing factors.

1. Snapchat Does Not Have A News Feed

Before Snapchat, the prime way of interacting with our social media apps had been via scrolling through the news feed. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have conditioned us to open up our apps, place our thumb on the screen, and just flick, flick, flick to our heart’s content.

Snapchat doesn’t even have a news feed. When you open your Snapchat app, instead of seeing a news feed you simply see a camera. That’s because Snapchat is an app that is predicated on producing content rather than consuming content.

2. Snapchat Content Has An Expiration Date

Traditional social media apps encourage you to build an ever-growing catalogue of archived content. On Snapchat, though, your public content (Stories) disappears in 24 hours. And your private, person-to-person content (Chat) disappears in 10 seconds or less once it has been viewed.

Snapchat is encouraging a new generation of social media users to live in the moment. Forget about curating a flawless feed of your life like on Instagram. On Snapchat, the clock is ticking. So forget about what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow – just focus on right now.

3. You Can’t Schedule Or Upload* Content To Snapchat

On Snapchat, what you see is what you get. Users aren’t able to use external cameras to craft the perfect shot. Users also aren’t able to schedule content ahead of time. And by doing this, Snapchat has created a culture that promotes spontaneity.

Also – and this is perhaps the most refreshing part of using the app – Snapchat mirrors reality and human relationships more realistically than any other social platform. Snapchat is a more human way of using social media.

* Snapchat does have a feature called Memories that allows you to upload content from your Camera Roll. However, these photos and videos are always surrounded by a white border. Thus, even with Memories, you can’t natively upload content to Snapchat.

A Beginner’s Guide To The Tricky Snapchat Interface

The first screen you'll see when you open Snapchat
The first screen you’ll see when you open Snapchat. Snapchat wants to encourage you to create content rather than just consume content. And that’s why the first screen you’ll see in Snapchat is your camera – not a news feed.
Swipe right to access the private, person-to-person Chat screen
Swipe right to access the private, person-to-person Chat screen. Chats expire in 10 seconds or less.
Swipe left to browse the Stories screen. Stories are public snaps shared in sequence to your followers and will expire 24 hours after they are posted.
Swipe left to browse the Stories screen. Stories are public snaps shared in sequence to your followers and will expire 24 hours after they are posted.
Swipe down to access Snapchat's settings along with your snapcode and other account features.
Swipe down to access Snapchat’s settings along with your snapcode and other account features.
Create your first snap by pressing the big circular button in the center of the screen. Tap for a photo. Hold for a video.
Create your first snap by pressing the big circular button in the center of the screen. Tap for a photo. Hold for a video.
Add geofilters, overlay filters, and data filters to your snaps to show the time, weather, geographical location, etc.
Add geofilters, overlay filters, and data filters to your snaps to show the time, weather, geographical location, etc.
Click the 'T' button in the top right corner to add text to your snaps. Tap the 'T' button again to change the way your text is displayed. Tap the Pencil icon to change the color of your text. Press and hold text to reposition and rotate it.
Click the ‘T’ button in the top right corner to add text to your snaps. Tap the ‘T’ button again to change the way your text is displayed. Tap the Pencil icon to change the color of your text. Press and hold text to reposition and rotate it.
Select the Pencil icon to activate the Draw feature. Slide along the color bar to adjust the color of your newly drawn masterpiece.
Select the Pencil icon to activate the Draw feature. Slide along the color bar to adjust the color of your newly drawn masterpiece.
Add emojis by selecting the Folded Square icon at the top of the screen. Adjust the size and orientation of your emojis using your fingers.
Add emojis by selecting the Folded Square icon at the top of the screen. Adjust the size and orientation of your emojis using your fingers.
Activate Snapchat's daily selection of Lenses by facing the camera towards your face (or someone else that isn't paying attention). Press and hold. Browse through the available Lenses and have some fun.
Activate Snapchat’s daily selection of Lenses by facing the camera towards your face (or someone else that isn’t paying attention). Press and hold. Browse through the available Lenses and have some fun.
Use the functions at the bottom of the screen to adjust the timing of your snap, save to your mobile device, and/or send to your Story.
Use the functions at the bottom of the screen to adjust the timing of your snap, save to your mobile device, and/or send to your Story.

5 Snapchat For Churches Strategies

Okay, now that you have an understanding of how the Snapchat interface functions (and trust me, once you’ve used it for a week or so it becomes very easy), it’s time to develop a strategy for using Snapchat to engage and grow your church.

Firstly, let’s be clear, Snapchat is still an evolving platform. It’s a baby. And we’re all still figuring out how to use it. Snapchat is still in the phase of experimentation and discovery. We’re all figuring this thing out as we go along – so you’re not alone. With that being said, here are five specific strategies for Snapchat that have worked exceptionally well for me over the past six months and I think can help your church also.

Every Wednesday I review a church’s website on Snapchat and I’d love to review yours for free. Add me on Snapchat (bradyshearer1) by clicking my snapcode and send me a snap with your church’s URL so I can review your website for free on a future edition of #WebsiteWednesday.

1. Recurring Segments

Posting on Snapchat frequently is very important. Not just once a week. Not even just once a day. But multiple times per day. The way the Snapchat Stories section works is the most recent Stories rise to the top and get viewed first. So if you’re only posting once a day or once every couple of days, your Story will find itself at the bottom of the list more often than not. This means fewer views and less interaction.

Posting consistently, multiple times per day on Snapchat is essential. Of course, this is a big burden. How does one come up with this much content over and over again? Enter: recurring segments.

If you follow me on Snapchat (click here to follow me on Snapchat — I’d love to say hi: bradyshearer1), you may recognize recurring segments showing up on my Story again and again. For instance, every Wednesday I post a segment called #WebsiteWednesday. I review a church’s website that was sent to me through Snapchat and give my thoughts on what they’re doing well and what they could improve (by the way, if you want me to review your church’s website on Snapchat, follow me here and send me a snap with your church’s URL: bradyshearer1).

Recurring segments give you a framework for creating content on Snapchat so that you don’t have to come up with something from scratch every single time.

2. Failures, Difficulties, & Embarrassments

My pastor Justin Driedger is a great person to follow on Snapchat (justin.driedger). My pastor knows that he only gets about 30 minutes from stage each week to communicate to our church, but on Snapchat, he can speak into the lives of our church every single day – even multiple times a day.

And Justin is great at sharing his failures, difficulties, and embarrassments on Snapchat. Every time you experience a failure, difficulty, or embarrassment in your life, you’re being handed golden Snapchat content on a silver platter.

Recently, Justin received an angry email from someone in our church because Justin used the word “sexy” from stage during one of his messages. Instead of just keeping that private, Justin shared his disappointment after receiving that email and then explained why he chose to use that word and why he would do it again if the situation called for it.

Failures, difficulties, & embarassments make for brilliant Snapchat content.

3. Have Your Pastor(s) Join Snapchat – Not Your Church

Snapchat is a platform that thrives off person-to-person interactions, rather than person-to-organization interactions. Meaning, it makes significantly more sense for your pastor(s) to join Snapchat and begin exploring the platform, rather than simply setting up a church account.

Snapchat is ushering in the future of social media, it’s the most human social platform currently in existence, it has 310 million monthly active users, it’s consistently the #1 most downloaded app in the app store, and it gives you unprecedented access to the people in your church in an intimate & authentic way – if your pastor is unwilling to at least give Snapchat a shot, I would suggest he or she may not care about reaching people very much.

4. Contests

Growing your Snapchat following is difficult. Mostly because Snapchat’s features aren’t exactly conducive to amassing a following. For instance:

  • Snapchat does not have a suggest-user list like Instagram
  • Snapchat does not have a way to search and discover users like every other social platform
  • Snapchat does not have a way to piggyback on hashtags and retweets like Twitter and Instagram

So how does one get more friends and views on Snapchat? Run a contest. Your church has an advantage over almost every person and organization in existence. Your church has a group of like-minded people that meet in person every single week – so use that to your advantage!

Run a contest where the only way to be eligible to win is to follow your pastor/church on Snapchat. Pick out a prize that is actually worth winning (read: not a t-shirt). Run the contest for a couple of weeks and then announce the winner on Snapchat.

5. Cross-Promotion

Another way to grow your following on Snapchat is to cross-promote to your other channels. Leverage your church’s existing channels to beef up your following on Snapchat. Here are some ideas:

  • Cross-promote on your other social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter
  • Cross-promote at church by including a Snapchat promo slide in your pre-roll and post-roll on the screen
  • Cross-promote on your website by including a link in the sidebar or scrolling widget on mobile devices
  • Cross-promote on your email signature by including a link to your public Snapchat URL

Frequently Asked Questions About Snapchat

Isn’t Snapchat just an app for sleazy teenagers?

I’ve had several conversations with churches and pastors that point to the origins of Snapchat as a prime reason not to use it. Pastors and leaders fear that because Snapchat has been used by hormonal teenagers in the past, it’s a platform unbefitting for churches. Of course, Facebook began as a platform meant to rate the hotness of college girls. Moreover, aside from social media, the most popular activity on the internet is the viewing of pornography. And yet, churches aren’t writing off Facebook and the internet.

Snapchat has 310 million monthly active users (Source). No longer is it an app used primarily by teenagers. Instead, it’s a platform that is ushering in the future of social media. And regardless of any preconceived notions that you or your church may have, Snapchat’s alleged past have nothing to do with its opportune present.

I think Snapchat is dumb because content expires. Why work hard to create quality snaps if they’re just going to vanish?

To quote the Samoan scholar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “It doesn’t matter what you think.” Seriously though, taxi drivers are furious with the rise of ridesharing, but Uber doesn’t care. Record labels are furious with the rise of streaming, but Spotify doesn’t care. The rise of expiration times on social content will only continue as Snapchat becomes more and more popular. And frankly, it doesn’t really matter if you like it or not, because it’s just the way it is.

Also, Snapchat recently introduced a new feature called Memories that allows you to save your favorite snaps. So while your content will still expire, you can now save it for future viewing in your Memories.

Isn’t Snapchat just another fad? How can I be expected to keep up with every new social platform?

Snapchat may or may not become the most dominant social platform in the next five years – that remains to be seen. But what is undeniable about Snapchat is that it’s changing the way we understand social media. With Snapchat, news feeds are a thing of the past. Content vanishes forever. You cannot schedule content.

So whether or not Snapchat rises to overtake Facebook, that actually isn’t very important. What is important is that an entire generation is learning how to use social media based on the customs and cultures of Snapchat. And if your church and pastor(s) don’t dive head first into this new platform, you’ll be at risk of missing out on the next wave of social media. Snapchat is difficult to use at first. That’s because it’s different from every other social platform. Snapchat represents a changing of the guard. Things are changing online. And if your church doesn’t pay attention now, you’ll likely be playing catch-up for the next 18-36 months.

Brady’s Recommended List Of Who To Follow On Snapchat

Perhaps the best way to learn the customs and cultures of Snapchat is simply to observe what others are doing. Before jumping in, take a step back and just watch others for a week or so. And if you’re unsure of who to follow, here is my ultimate list of who to follow on Snapchat.

I would be truly honored if you joined me on Snapchat (bradyshearer1). I do my best to respond to every personal Chat. And I work extremely hard to create valuable and entertaining Stories every single day. Join the rest of Pro Church Nation on Snapchat and see what’s good.

Pastors

Churches

Public Figures

Conclusion

Here’s my final thought that I want to share with you: Snapchat will require more work from you than any other social platform. 

Most churches and pastors won’t be willing to put in the effort needed to win on Snapchat. But for those who are willing to go all in (and I’m hoping that is you), the amount of opportunity on Snapchat currently far exceeds every other social platform combined – yes, I really believe that. So use this ultimate guide to your advantage. If you have questions leave them in the comments below. And of course, Connect with me on Snapchat.

Question: Who do you enjoy following the most on Snapchat? Leave your answer in the comments below.

  • Jay Tickle

    Embrace Church (iamembrace) is another great follow on Snapchat. I’ve followed a lot of churches and they’re the only one I still follow.

  • Bethany Peerbolte

    I’m a youth pastor and have lots of youth using snapchat. I use it personally but have not let any of the kids friend me, gotta have a little privacy. However, I have a few young adults who are rock star volunteers and they have streaks and connections with the youth on snapchat. I’m wondering what best practices are for safety policies pertaining to adults interacting with teens on snapchat. I hate to destroy the inter-generational relationships they are developing daily. Thanks for any advice you can give.