Thousands of people embark on short-term mission trips around the world every year. And, along with mission trips, come the inevitable social media posts about the trips. You know the ones I’m talking about—dramatic before and after photos of construction projects, selfies with children in tattered clothes, and intimate glimpses into broken situations around the world. Unfortunately, these posts often send the wrong message about the heart behind the trip. Surely there was more depth to the experience than what these posts seem to convey!
As we seek to follow Jesus into a life of service to others, the life we’re called to is contrary to the self-promotional “default mode” of social media. To serve and dignify the people we engage with means humbling ourselves and going beyond the “hero” mindset. The first step is to be intentional in the stories we tell.
1. Tell The Whole Story
When posting on social media during a mission trip, it can be tempting to only share what we ourselves are doing. But, it’s important to be intentional about how we position ourselves in the story. Instead of just sharing about the food we distributed or the building we painted, let’s talk about the big picture, like the ongoing work our ministry partners accomplish day in and day out. This way, we remove the spotlight from ourselves and celebrate those who have dedicated their lives to serving in their community.
2. Connect With Local People
We often have a false picture that people in developing communities don’t have access to technology. In reality, most of the people we encounter have a Facebook page as well as other social media platforms. Let’s leverage this opportunity to build deeper connections with local people or stay in touch after the trip. Talk about local people in the way you would talk about a friend. Don’t exaggerate or diminish the work they are doing in life, but seek to frame them in the best possible light.
3. Be Fully Present
It’s tempting to hide behind a screen. We want to remember the connections we made and share our experiences with friends and family, especially those who supported our trip. But this mentality often holds us back from being fully present and could unintentionally send the wrong message to local people. It’s important to remember we are guests in someone else’s home. Let’s get to know local people, see what their community actually has to offer, and take photos only sparingly. We might miss out on a few photo opportunities, but we’ll experience a whole new depth to our encounters and might actually forge lasting, meaningful relationships.
4. Remember the Mission
With everything we do, we want to keep the mission of our trip at the center. We go to humbly serve, to learn from others, to dignify them, and to empower local ministries. It would be incredibly sad if we let social media hinder these goals. It can be tempting to exaggerate the work we do through photos, videos, and stories aimed at pleasing donors or seeming impressive to friends and church members, but ultimately we have the opportunity to engage in a really important conversation about the way we are called to serve others. Which involves caring first and foremost about the people right in front of us, their dignity, and the hope and love we’re striving to share.
Excited to serve in 2019? Join Experience Mission in one of 25 communities on a short-term mission trip! Fill out an interest form today to find the right fit for you and your youth group.