What I Learned from Our Church’s First Week on Snapchat

Youth Specialties
June 15th, 2016

This post originally appeared on DARREL’S BLOG and we thought it was so wonderful that we wanted to share it too!


That word means a lot of different things to a lot of people. To some, it’s seen as the social network you use when you want to do things you don’t want your parents to know about. For others, it’s a quick way to create content you really don’t want to put a lot of time into. For me? It’s been a complete mystery and not high on my list of things I wanted our church to do.

That changed, of course, when I saw this tweet from Cross Point Church. This led me to question what I heard and understood about Snapchat, so I created a personal account and began to play around. After spending some time watching how ESPN’s the X-Games was using it, I was convinced our church need to dive in and give it shot. So how did it go? Well, here’s my take on our first week on Snapchat.

The Good

It relies on in-the-moment usage.

It took me a moment to wrap my mind around this aspect of the network. There’s aren’t slick fonts or filters; it’s a tool that’s designed to be used in the moment. You snap it and you send it. You can’t load pre-produced content; what you snap is what you’re sending.

This, of course, allows for a lot of mistakes and requires you to be on your toes to make sure you’re thinking about the moments you want to capture. However, I liked the fact that it was raw and in the moment.

It’s been a hit amongst our students.

The first night we starting using Snapchat, I saw we immediately had new followers. Most of the usernames I didn’t recognize. However, the incredible Katie Allred (the social media guru at our church) did a little research and realized a majority of our followers were from our student ministry.

We have a lot of students who follow us on Instagram, but we’ve never had that big of a rush to follow us from students on any of our other networks. I’m going to take this as a sign we’ve struck oil and found a possible channel to reach our students.

The Bad

It’s a really bad user interface.

I’d like to think I’m fairly adept at learning most social networks pretty quickly; however, Snapchat’s user interface is a complete mess. When I first launched the app, I didn’t know where anything was. There aren’t visual cues to swipe left or right. The icon choice is rather vague, and the settings are buried too deep.

After spending more time with it, I’m pretty comfortable with the interface; however, I’m not looking forward to giving any tutorials to my church staff.

You can’t have multiple people logged in at the same time.

Let’s say you have multiple people covering an event. With Twitter, Facebook or Instagram you can all be posting on the account at the same time. That’s not the case with Snapchat. We found this out when we were Snapchatting an event on Tuesday. I logged into the account, accidently kicking out Katie as she was Snapchatting the event as well.

If you’re going to use Snapchat to cover a worship service or event, you’ll need to plan ahead as to who’s going to use the account, or determine when you want to hand off control; otherwise, you’ll kick each other out of the account.

The What?

Where’s the analytics?

I love metrics, and metrics are a chief component on what we use to define success. However, with Snapchat, there aren’t any hard metrics I can get a hold of. Yes, I can see how many people have added us, but that’s the only number I can see. How do I know if what we’re doing is having any impact?

How do we define success? If there’s metrics and no like or sharing capabilities, I’m not sure what we can do to determine the value of this network. For us, we’re going to have to take a hard look and come up with some call-to-actions in our content that will help us measure success.

Do we add everyone to our contacts?

A while back, I wrote a post about how, for our church Twitter account, we only follow staff and/or organizations we partner with. The thinking was that if we follow everyone, it could get messy for us down the road. The safer route was to limit whom we followed.

However, with Snapchat, what’s the norm? Are people going to expect us to add them back? If we do, are we putting ourselves at risk? For some people, Snapchat is a tool that some people use for purposes that would make your mom blush. Do we really want to deal with that?

Our thoughts on this aspect of Snapchat are evolving. Yes, on one hand, we need to protect the church. On the other hand, we want to be light wherever we can, and who knows, maybe somebody will think twice before posting on Snapchat if they have the church as contact.

What’s our strategy?

It’s hard to prepare a strategy with an app that is really designed to be in–the-moment. If Snapchat is to be a part of our church’s communication plan, then we need to put down hard times in which we use the app to promote events.

At the same time, we need to be comfortable with letting the strategy evolve. For us, right now, there isn’t a hard strategy. However, as major brands get on board and we start to see more use cases, I believe we’ll develop a strategy on how we can best use Snapchat.

What’s next?

For now, we’re just experimenting with Snapchat. We’re making mistakes, having fun and figuring how we might use this tool in the future. We’ll carefully pick our spots and determine what’s the best use for our church.

We’re not putting any pressure on ourselves to figure this out. I’m reminded of what I first thought when I joined Twitter in 2007. Who’s going to use this? What can you actually say in 140 characters? Well, apparently, a lot people use it and you can say quite a bit.

Is your church using Snapchat or are you considering it?

Is so, share your thoughts below.

darrellg_headshotDARREL GIRARDIER is the Digital Strategy Director for Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN. He’s married to the wonderful Amy-Jo Giardier and blogs about digital strategy, resources, and more at DARRELGIRARDIER.COM.

Youth Specialties

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