Be A Better Missions Blogger

From YWAMKnowledgeBase

Be a Better Missions Blogger

by Tamara Neely

Are you preparing to go on a short-term missions trip? Maybe you're visiting another country to do missions work with a church team or as part of your early missionary training? Or maybe you're taking a year off school to focus on growing in your faith and get some missions experience.

You're going to blog about it, aren't you?

I read a lot of missionary blogs. All too frequently the reaction I have to blogs posted by short-term teams or new recruits is one of profound gratitude that when I first started in missions, blogging had not been invented.

Thankfully, my early missionary experiences, life-altering, emotional and profound, with all that I lacked in understanding and perspective, remain firmly hidden in the dusty pages of my old-fashioned journal next to the tragic poetry and sketches of future wedding dresses. But you - the new generation of missionaries--have grown up online. No private paper journals for you--instead, your lives have been thoroughly documented in social media and you have no qualms about going public with both your deepest and most shallow thoughts and experiences.

I'm not going to address the impact of your missionary blog on your future job prospects. Or the fact that you will eventually regret posting photos of yourself in those fashions. My concern is with the consequences of your missionary blog on the understanding others have about the places you go, the agency you work with and how it contributes to an overall misunderstanding of what missions is all about.

You decided to get involved in some kind of missionary activity because you believe that God truly loves the whole world and that everyone in it should have the opportunity to experience the transformation that comes through knowing Jesus Christ. Your heart is right-- you are full of enthusiasm, passion, and all the things that motivate world-changers. You will see things you have never seen before, things you don't understand, things you want to change. You may be experiencing a new world through your old worldview, and hopefully you will receive a really good briefing from your team leaders on how to deal with it all.

When you post a story about your mission trip online, your experience will be accessible to the whole world, and the way you describe what you did will reflect not only on you, but on the people and places you work with. As a follower of Jesus, fulfilling His commission, you have the responsibility to represent the people you serve and the places you go in a way that reflects His heart. How can you do that?

When training mission communicators, I emphasize a principle called "3D Communications". This concept is about communicating your message in a way that can be understood by the three main dimensions of the audience you will be facing whenever your words make it online. Generally speaking those three dimensions are:

  1. the people you are talking TO (your mom, your friends, your pastor, the generous people funding you to do your trip);
  2. the people you are talking ABOUT (the orphaned children, the people of Timbuktu, the prostitutes and druglords down the street);
  3. the rest of the world (your critics, the local paper, your neighbours, government officials from the country you may one day wish to return to).

Your aim when sharing your mission experience is to communicate it in such a way that you would be happy for it to be heard in all of these dimensions.

How is this possible? Check out the words of Jesus in Luke 6:45: "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." If you have truly developed a heart of love for the people you are ministering among, your communications will reflect that. Even so, it can be hard to recognize and get out of the habit of using your usual communication methods and jargon, which can be offensive and misleading.

So, how can you post the story of your mission trip in a way that represents Jesus and His mission clearly? Here's some food for thought:

Make Jesus the hero.

You'll want to tell the stories of the people you meet, but check your motives before posting intimate photos and personal stories of the victims of tragic situations. It can be tempting to exploit someone else's hardship for the purpose of raising attention or funds for yourself.

Instead, focus on telling the story of how the ministry you are taking part in is bringing hope, transforming lives, and restoring dignity. Remember, if your heart is in the right place, your description of your missionary journey will make Jesus the hero of the story-- not you.

Look with Love:

I once read a blog in which the writer introduced a nation he was visiting on a missions trip as, "a desperate land, infiltrated with corruption, sickness, immorality, idolatry and death!" Hmm... thanks for coming?

Be careful about openly judging a place or a people you have only known for a short time. A description like the one above could be applied to most nations, after all. Why not emphasize the beauty and positive distinctions in God's creation instead, and focus on the opportunities there are to serve and make a difference? That way, you might also encourage other people to join you!

Be Polite!

Referring to the people you have come to bless by their disabilities and deprivations can be insensitive. People are more than just"orphaned" or "crippled" or "drunk" or "prostitutes." Of course, you need to explain the purpose of the work you are doing, but talk about the people involved as Jesus sees them.

Ask yourself if you would be happy to show your blog to the subjects of it. Even if you don't refer to specific individuals, deriding the culture, food or religion of a place you are visiting demonstrates your lack of understanding, not theirs.

A final word on freedom of speech

A final word on freedom of speech--not everyone enjoys it. You must always consider the impact of your publications on the believers who live in the place you visited. Not all nations have freedom of religion and publically "outing" the faith, location and work of Christians in some nations can lead to tragic results including expulsion, torture, even death. Always be led by the advice of those who live in a location regarding what is appropriate to post online. This cannot be emphasized enough.

Now go. Go on your missions trip and have an experience that makes you more aware than ever of the unrelenting love of God for the whole world. And post a report that does the same.

Tamara Neely works with a global team in international communications for Youth With A Mission, one of the world's largest missionary movements. For more resources on communicating effectively for missions, contact: iy@ywam.org

  This page was originally retrieved from http://www.ywamlife.com/Resources/Be-A-Better-Missions-Blogger on 7/12/2011.