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We’ve had the recent joy in our church of seeing several key members go off on long/short-term mission trips. The heartbeat of our Christian faith is this ‘going’ and ‘sending’ and so if you’re in a church engaged with the cross-cultural mission field, you’re in a good place!

Each mission trip is going to be different. Some trips are for a few weeks or even days whereas others are for months and even years. Some are to countries and cultures similar to our own, others are not. If you’re going on a mission trip this summer think about how wisdom would function in your use of social media before you go, during the trip itself and after you return.

1) Don’t Make Assumptions

Hopefully, the organisation you’re working with for your summer mission trip will have a clear policy for their own use of social media including for volunteers like you. One of the biggest considerations to this will be which country/nation/ethne you’re going to. For example, I almost went on a Bible-smuggling trip to a country in Asia a few years back but the whole trip was completely ‘off line’ and, therefore, social media wouldn’t be allowed at all in any way. It was absolutely a matter of safety for both those on the trip and those within the country.

2) Do Use Common Sense

Even when there are clear policies and guidelines in place, it’s vital that you think carefully about how you use social media before, during and after your trip. You will want to safeguard children and young people who you may be working with so always check with parents that they are happy for you photograph, video and publicise moments that may involve their kids. This will protect you as well. Again, ask your sending organisation if they have policy and forms for this. Or you may be in sensitive cultural situations where there are issues to consider that simply don’t exist for you at home. Be a student of the culture you’re going to and find out where boundary lines may be that you may not have expected. For example, when in Africa one year as a young person, I didn’t realise that wearing shorts wasn’t OK within the culture there.

3) Do Put Social Media to Good Use

When social media is completely cool to use, why not consider running a little social media campaign to raise awareness of your summer mission trip. You may need to raise funds or a prayer support network. Using a mix of social media and email marketing can very much help with this! Get creative so you have content to share with people. Blogging and Vlogging are great ways to document your time away as well as in the run up to going. Vlogging, especially while you’re away, will give people a real insight into what you’re doing! Take photographs of key moments so that you have great memories documented and, you never know, you may then have something amazing to share with a testimony when you’re back.

4) Do Use Social Media to Connect

It’s highly likely that you’re going to make significant friendships during your trip. Social media is a powerful way of connecting socially – remember we’re talking about social media. How can your use of Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook be about connecting with people socially rather than use broadcasting yourself. Perhaps you could start impromptu prayer groups on Facebook? Perhaps you could start a hashtag trend within your new friendship group so that all of your digital content is pooled together? How could you use social media to connect your friends with other people you think will get on well? Use shout-outs to encourage someone. It’s such a simple, easy and inexpensive thing to do but can literally change someone’s day or even the course of their entire life. Be generous in your use of social media that encourages community!

5) Don’t Miss the Moment

What is going on in your heart and your life generally, how it is that God’s on the move and how He’s connecting you to others, is the most important aspect of your summer mission trip. Please, please, please don’t miss out on what’s going on because you’re head is stuck in social media. Use social media to serve you before, during and after, but have a clear social media detox plan in mind as well. For example, you’re on a short trip to Africa to reach people who need help with a building project there. One evening you’re out with new friends and old as the great African sun is going down. You’re surrounded by immense beauty in a rare moment in life….what’s more important: capturing the moment on social media or being fully present as it happens live?

Nick Franks is a freelance digital leader living in resplendent Edinburgh, Scotland. Learning to love as he should, Nick is engrossed in living a contagious lifestyle of worship and prayer. He sweats under his eyes when he eats too much cheese, adores Liverpool FC and has a strong preference for Earl Grey leaf tea. Nick is married to the beautiful Mairi. Consider contacting Nick at www.nicholasfranks.com for any of your media-related projects in photography, writing and film. 

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