Best Social Media Practices for Your Mission Trip

by James Davenport, Discipleship Coordinator

We are all guilty – at one time or another – of the label, “#instagrammingyourmissiontrip”…carefully planning out a “self-directed Samaritan” photo that perfectly and beautifully captures our own sense of incredible sacrifice and profound impact we are making upon a poor, needy community:

  • “See all the less fortunate people I am helping”
  • “Notice the all the good things I have done for this poor village”
  • “Look what amazing place I have bravely and adventurously traveled to”

This summer as thousands of youth head out on mission trips, the base line question we – as youth leaders – need to repeatedly ask our own hearts this mission trip is, “Why are we sharing?” And then we need to teach and instruct and model to our students how to best leverage social media on our mission trips as a tool for positive and meaningful impact.

Here are four ideas to help as you frame up best social media practices for your mission trip this summer:

 

1) DISMISS SELF-PROMOTION

Social media is obviously a powerful tool yet sadly we often use its power as a means to make us look good, which rarely makes anyones feed completely honest. And yet it is impossible to fully love God and fully love others when are primary focus is to gain followers or likes for our own self-promotion.

Too often we use experiences that are meant to help other people, such as a mission trip, as a tool to build a grand narrative of our life that promotes an idea to others that we an amazing person with a great life. The challenge for us is to refrain from turning our mission trip into a photo opp and to keep the mission of the mission trip the main thing. Every time we fall into the ditch of self-promotion, we will likely fail in achieving God’s goals for our mission trip.

Before you post this mission trip, consider what reward you are seeking. Dismiss your desire of self-promotion and uphold the purpose of the mission.

 

2) TELL THE RIGHT STORY

Our default impulse is to always share what we are doing, making you and I the main character, the hero of the story. Yet the truth is that God has been doing something in this community long before you ever arrived and He will continue to do incredibly things in this community long after you leave. Yes, you are a character, but God is the main character and HE is the hero.

Build connections with those whom you are serving with and for. Listen to their stories, ask questions that seek to understand what God is already doing and what challenges for prayer remain. Take your time to learn about the ministries you are partnering with and place an emphasis on building a partnership that extends beyond just one week.

Do not make yourself the center story, the hero. Make God the hero of every post. Tell the right story by asking questions and understanding the bigger picture.

 

3) CHAMPION DIGNITY

The Bible says that each person was created in the image of God and regardless of race or economic status – every person – fully deserves the upmost dignity and respect. Yet how often, do you and I come into a community and into a community members home, assuming it is completely permissible to take photos of this community, of their homes, and of their kids? We need to remember that we are guests and unless permission has been granted the consequences of unwanted photos/story-telling can bring about far more long-term damage than good.

Post about others the way in which you would want others to post about you. Just because someone is poor, does not mean they themselves do not use social media. Your posts and photos could likely be discovered by the very community members you are posting about. A better practice is to focus your photos – not on people – but on the projects you are completing or the teammates you are serving with. If you do take a photo of a community member; first ask for their permission.

As you take photos, keep in mind how you would want others to post about you. Champion the dignity of every community member.

 

4) PRIORITIZE PRESENCE

Jesus’ final words to His disciples was a promise of His presence to be with them until the end of the age! All too often, we fail to truly live and experience the moments God gives us in life because we are under a crushing burden of feeling that we need to capture the moment, but some moments may not be created to be captured.

Instead of hiding behind your screen, free yourself from the pressure of having to capture every moment. Engage with those you meet in the community and be fully present with them. Often the most meaningful thing we can do on a mission trip is simply to sit by another person and listen to their story. And when you prioritize presence, you will begin to experience an even greater depth and meaning to your experience as you engage with those God brings into your path.

Set limits to how many photos you will take or how much time you will spend posting. Prioritize your presence in the community you are serving.

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