A few months ago, some good friends of mine went on a trip to Haiti – you may have followed them on Twitter or Facebook. It was the Youth Ministry Advance Team: Haiti. What happened on that trip was pretty amazing…but what was new to so many people was the way they harnessed the power of social media to share their stories from the mission field. They all wrote many stories about the trip and Lars Rood wrote an article for Youth Worker: Engaging Missions via Social Media. I would highly recommend giving it a read to get a feel for how they were able to share their stories while still out on the mission field.
In many ways, I felt as though I was a part of the mission experience they were having as I followed along and got real-time updates on the work they were doing in Haiti. It was unlike the normal way we think about mission trips: a group goes on a trip, has life-changing experiences, and then when they get back, someone makes a PowerPoint slideshow to show in church and a handful of kids get to share. And that got me thinking.
Why do we need to wait to get home to share what God is doing on our mission trips? That’s really not the world we live in these days, anyway. Yes, I know, there is the whole “going on mission trips is a time to unplug – to get away from all of the “busy”ness of our lives…” Yes, I get that. But I think that there is something more important than that, when we can allow those who have financially and prayerfully supported those going on the mission to be able to feel even more engaged and connected with those who have the abilities and opportunities to go on these trips.
I feel like here is this perception of social media that when you’re using it, you’re connected and distracted non-stop. There is this sense that if you’re posting things online, Facebooking or Tweeting, that you’re “not really there.” And I can see how people who don’t have any experience using those forms of technology might think that – but I can say that wasn’t my experience on either of the trips I led this past summer.
Is there a temptation to get distracted? Sure – but there are ways to get distracted all around us, even if we didn’t have any of our phones or technology. So this was something that I really wanted to pull off – and I want to share how I did it.
I had two mission trips this past summer. One was with 8 middle school youth with the Center for Student Missions in San Francisco/Oakland (this was our first ever middle school mission trip – and so parents were especially thankful I was trying this out and posting updates). The other was with 17 high school youth up in Klamath, CA working with the Sierra Service Project. I had just recently picked up my new iPhone 4 (now with HD video recording capabilities) and I knew that at least on our trip in the Bay area, I’d have good reception throughout the trip.
Our church (probably like many others) has always had the “no cell phone” rule on mission trips – but in order to pull this off, even though as a leader I still got to keep mine, I was going to have to deal with the kids giving me crap for having my phone out and doing stuff on it – but it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
In the following posts, I will share with you exactly how I used social media on our two mission trips, and how we are continuing to use our Missions Blog.