Using Snapchat in Young Life

March 4, 2016

According to Forbes,
teenagers in the US spend an average of 9 hours/day in front of a screen.
According to my high school friends, the one app that most captivates their
attention is Snapchat. 

While there are plenty of dangerous aspects of using Snapchat, there are also
some helpful ways to use it in your Young Life club. I asked Steven Ball,
a YL leader in Missouri (and the genius who invented the famous ‘Just DoIt’ Shia Lebeouf camp promo videos) if he would share how they use Snapchat in
his club. 

Using Snapchat in Young Life by Steven Ball

What We Post

  • Club:
    pictures and videos from Club each week—winners of games, short videos
    from the skits, a fun crowd shot of everyone with their arms around each
    other singing their hearts out. This allows kids to go home afterwards,
    watch your Snapchat story, and remember the fun times they had at club.
    Or, if some kids didn’t show up, they can see how fun club was and thus
    make them wish they were there.
  • Contact
    : When we go to school or a sporting event, we post
    pictures/videos of the opening kickoff, great shots, the crowd cheering,
    the band playing the school fight song, the cheerleaders cheering, dance
    team dancing, or anything else that might be going on. This allows kids to
    know that we are there even if they don’t see us. It also lets the players
    know we were cheering for them, even if we don’t get to talk to them after
    the game.
  • Announcements: For club and events (time, location, due dates for fundraisers, etc.) and
    various behind the scenes moments. For us, a lot of this happens in the
    time right before club when we are preparing; us joking around, practicing
    the music, or (most recently) taking a pizza box and sledding down a

Be Mindful

A warning to anyone who plans on using
Snapchat for Young Life is that it is very easy to be absorbed in what you are
trying to get on camera rather than what is actually going on around you. Use
it in moderation. I have fallen victim to this, missing opportunities to talk
to kids while I’m trying to get the perfect shot of something. This should
never be a distraction from your primary role as a Young Life leader, only a
fun way to post a few quick things for all to see. One way that I have used it
to my advantage is by giving my phone to one of my kids and asking him to go
run through a crowd and get a video of everyone cheering. This was a great way
to put a little trust in him and start a conversation.

Also, don’t be a Snap-hog. Let other leaders (a balance of guys and gals) use
it. They may be able to get other things that might be awkward for you to get.
Or if you can’t make it to something, someone else should be able to use it.

Be Careful

Snapchat allows you to post publicly to everyone that has
added you. However, it also allows you to have one on one conversations with
any of those friends. It is best to avoid sending any snaps to kids personally.
However, I have had a lot of kids that will message me or snap me on Snapchat
asking questions about club or camp, which I will reply to. This has been a
great tool of ours this past year, but you must be careful how you use it. You
should obviously never post something that a kid would not want everyone to
see, so it is best to ask permission from the kids before posting pictures or
videos of them.

Setting up your YL Snapchat account

Setting up the account is pretty self-explanatory once you
download the app. You’ll need an email address, a password, and a username
(ours is the name of the high school we leader at—BlairOaksYL). You can
change all of these at any time in the settings. You may need to do this if the
previous owner of the account is no longer a leader and the account has fallen
to a new leader.

Whatever you do, DO NOT attach your phone number to this account. I learned
this the hard way. When you do this, it will import your contacts so that you
can add friends by your phone number. This sounds great, but what you don’t
realize is that when you start adding kids, it will appear as your name, not
the name of your Young Life team. It is best to leave no phone number attached
to the account. If you do end up attaching the number, you can always go back
and take it off in the settings. If your number is attached to your personal
account and you add it to the Young Life account, it will remove the number
from your personal account. All you have to do is re-attach it to your personal

Switching between your personal account and the Young Life account can be a
pain. There is no way to log on to both right now like Instagram and Twitter.
If you allow access to multiple leaders, just know that you will be signed out
of the account when another leader signs on.

First friends

Getting your first Snapchat friends can be a great
conversation starter in and of itself. “Hey, we just created a Young Life
Snapchat! Can I add you?” 

Snapchat makes it very easy to add friends, providing many options. One of the
best ways is the snap code, shown below. Basically, each account has its own
personalized QR code. All your kids have to do to add you is to point their
Snapchat camera at your Snap code (accessed by pulling down on your Snapchat
camera) and then tap on the image of the code on their screen. 

One of my little tricks was to take a screenshot of our code and insert the
picture onto our PowerPoint slides for our announcements during club. All the
kids had to do was pull out their phones and take a picture of the code on the
wall on their Snapchat accounts. There are other ways to add friends, such as
typing in the username of the account. You can just tweet your new name and
people can search you to add you.

Hope this helps you connect with your high school friends!

I know Snapchat is controversial, and often used in ways that are harmful. While I don’t personally use it, I do think it can be used for good in the way Steven has outlined above. If you have additional thoughts on using social media in your club, email us here

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