There are times when you find  great app and it feels great. Then there are days when you find an app that is a game changer, and you can’t stop talking about it. Now it’s my turn to tell you about it. If you’re a ministry leader who ever hosts events, trips or special programs at your church, this app could become indispensable.

Earlier this summer, we were preparing to send off over 150 kids, teenagers and adults on summer mission projects. Our problem was that last year, we didn’t get a lot of great photos from the trip. All the leaders took lots of photos on their phones, but once the trip is over, getting the photos is very challenging. A few weeks before the trip, I tasked one of my staff to write up instructions for sharing photos to a dropbox folder that could be shared with all the leaders. I wasn’t a huge fan, but it seemed like the best option. I LOVE dropbox, but getting people who don’t use it would take a bit of explaining and there were several steps involved. Then we found Cluster and it changed everything.

SpacesCluster is a picture/video sharing app for a closed network. It’s very similar to Instagram, but private among a group that you designate. Inviting people to join your Cluster “Space” is simple, so getting everyone on the app was so easy. We had about 97% of our leaders get online and contribute. The beauty is that Cluster encourages people to upload and share photos during the experience instead of waiting until after it is over. When media is uploaded, everyone in the network is notified (notifications can be edited). Quickly, other leaders like and comment on photos and the visibility of the app reminds everyone, “hey you should share your pictures too!”

In the past, I would spend a part of my time photographing the event making sure to get the right pictures to advertise for next year or communicate with parents. This year on my Austin GO! Team serving trip, 14 leaders/volunteers submitted over 600 photos. I submitted 16. I literally just downloaded my favorite photos throughout the day (it’s easy to download original quality photos directly to your phone) and  uploaded them to instagram, facebook and tumblr to communicate what was happening on the trip to those who needed to know. Super easy.

Since we had six different trips, we were able to create a space for each trip. Leaders on a trip only had access to their space, but my staff had access to all the spaces and it was so easy to jump between spaces to view media or contribute. Oh, and here’s one of my favorite parts. When the trip was over, I could log into my cluster account from my computer and archive all the media from that space and download as a zip folder. If someone uploaded a new picture after this, I could quickly update the archive and download them all again, or simply download individual photos.

I’m telling you, the possibilities are endless. Camp, mission trips, lock-ins, VBS, events or even pictures from your volunteers from the weekends can all be collected via cluster. Even if you did a photo scavenger hunt where leaders or the entire team had smart phones, someone could tally points as the teams took the pictures and winners could be announced within minutes of the hunt ending instead of a few people tallying points long after the game is over.

Best part of all. The app is free. No joke. For an app like this, I’d pay a lot of money. I may not use it every day, but when we’re running an event or camp, it’s the app that’s getting most of my attention.

Download the Cluster App here.

Gallery Photo