In the age of the internet, portable technology, and demand for news in “real time”, unless there are security concerns or you are way out in the sticks, there is really no reason NOT to blog your mission trips. Most areas of the world have an internet cafe (varying in speeds of course) and the people who are praying and supporting your trip want to know what’s going on. In addition, well told blogs and stories can energize your church in the Great Commission by involving more people in giving, praying and going.
This post covers the basics of mission trip blogging. For a full in-depth discussion, I recommend you get a copy of Jim Killam and Lincoln Brunner’s book GO TELL IT: How and Why to Report God’s Stories in Words, Photos, and Videos. This one-of-a-kind handbook gives practical tips on how to “report” on what God is doing around the world.
7 Benefits of Blogging your Mission Trip
- Assure your families and supporters you are SAFE (this is especially true if you have students and families on the trip.)
- Encourages prayer for your mission.
- Capture stories “in the moment” while the experience is still fresh in your mind.
- Helps team member process what they are seeing and feeling.
- Plants seeds for future trips and support.
- Get a jump start on your team report when you get back home.
- Increases your church’s web traffic.
Before You Leave, Determine…
- Who is going to do the posting? Will you post directly or email your content stateside* and have someone post here? Is the person responsible trained with the required software, passwords and websites?
- What computer/tablet will you bring? You would be surprised at what you can do with just an iPhone or iPad. Do you have all the plugs, charging devices, batteries and adapters? Is all the software you need installed?
- Who is responsible for taking the photos? This team/person needs permission to be the photographer. It doesn’t mean they can’t participate in the mission. It does mean they will be taking frequent “photo breaks” to document your team’s activity. P.S. Just because someone has a nice camera doesn’t mean they know how to take good pictures.
- Who will do the edit and select the photos that are to be sent? This is especially important if you have more than one photographer and you are combining pictures.
- Who is responsible for writing the blog? Is this going to be a shared responsibility or will it be the same person? When will they write?
- How often will you post? Ideally it would be daily (after the day’s events are over) but every team and trip is different. Whatever you do, try to be as consistent as possible.
- If you are posting video, where will the files live? Video files are large…so emailing them is out of the question. Are you uploading straight to YouTube (who’s channel?…do they have the passwords?) Who is responsible for getting the video embedded in the blog?
- What is your “Plan B”? People get sick, technology fails. Who do you have trained as backup?
* What is your plan to post on the weekends? If it’s a paid church staff person that is doing the posting, often with country time changes, posts arrive AFTER the office has closed. That means Friday, Saturday and Sunday even though posts are being sent, there is nobody there to post. This can frustrate both readers and senders.
As a dry run, it’s a good idea to have your blogging team practice stateside by documenting the last few team meetings using the actual equipment (cameras, computer, etc.) you are going to use on your trip. You would be surprised how much someone who “knows all about computers” learns when they actually have to post something.
Writing A Good Blog Post
The key to a good blog is giving a person a glimpse into your world and what you are doing and feeling. Often on a mission trip you will be exhausted…running on fumes and it will be difficult to gather your thoughts. (This is where sharing the writing responsibility comes in handy). I like to give our bloggers a simple four part outline they can use.
- What did you DO today?
- How did you FEEL about what you did today?
- Share a special moment from someone you met or that someone on your team experienced. (from the perspective of the “representative one”)
- How can people back home be praying for you and the team.
You may have writers on your team that can do a much better job than this, but by sticking to this outline, you answer the questions that most mission trip blog readers want to read: What did you do, how are you doing and how can we pray for you?
In its simplest form , it would look something like this:
“Today our team painted at the orphanage. At the end of the day we were exhausted. Our new friend Micah told us about some of the hard times she had living in the streets before she was rescued. Please be praying for our team as we go to the South side of the Island to serve in the VBS at the Wiki Island Community Church.”
Your writers would embellish each sentence into a few sentences or paragraph.
Downplay any illness or injuries…or be very specific. People back home have amazing imaginations and will think the worse. If you say “some people on the team got sick”, parents will think everyone got Ebola and are at deaths door. Much better to say “3 of our teammates are resting from dehydration and are being cared for by the team nurse.”
Title your blogs posts. “Day 9”, “Day 10″ etc.” isn’t so exciting. I find a catchy headline, plus the date the bog was written is the most helpful. ie Wet, Wild and a Ton of Fun! 7.14.15
Sign Your Blogs. Either way, many or one, readers want to know who is writing, so make sure your blogs are signed. ie. For the team, Jane Smith
The Kinds of Photos You Want
Mission trips offer your photographers a unique opportunity to capture some incredible moments that can bring life to the plain text. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. A good missions blog benefits from both showing AND telling. The goals is to try and match the photos to what you are writing about, ie. if you are talking about the team painting, make sure you have some shots of the team painting. Here is a list of the kinds of picture you are looking for:
- Your team WORKING with the people you are ministering to.
- Your team HAVING FUN with the people you are ministering to.
- Your team and the missionaries (or mission agency) you are working with.
- A meaningful friendship with a local that you made.
- Your team praying or worshiping.
- Sights, scenery, architecture and foods that are different from home.
- The “real” conditions you find yourself in (sometimes it’s not pretty).
- Every couple of days make sure you get a picture of the team leaders “leading.”
- Make sure everyone on your team eventually is featured (including the photographer)…don’t leave anyone out!
Photos You DON’T Want
- Anything that is obliviously making fun of a person – Never post something that is potentially embarrassing. Remember, somebody’s mother is reading your blog.
- Public displays of affection between non-married couples – This can be awkward, especially for newly formed relationships. It’s best to leave it alone.
- Sexually suggestive, immodest etc. – Especially at the beach or pool. Keep your photos rated “G”.
- People’s back sides (I call these BUTT shots) – Yes, the people painting are facing the wall. Have them turnaround, THEN take their picture.
- Photos that look like you are on vacation – Unless you have a specific “fun day” don’t post photos of you having ice cream with your team at the beach.
- Pictures of “one” girl or guy – Often the person is charge of taking or picking the photos has a crush on somebody and they seem to make every blog post. Make sure you mix it up.
Blog Photography Best Practices
- Unless you have a super-fast internet connection, you’ll want to shrink your photos before uploading. (Approximately 1,000 pixels wide is a good place to start). I recommend Image Resizer for the PC.
- Don’t post bad photos. Do a basic amount of color correcting, red-eye removal, etc. before posting.
- Select 6-12 photos per blog…one if that’s all you have. As a rule of thumb, no more than a dozen photos per post.
- Group Photo Holding A Local Newspaper – This is FREE and great PR for the church and your cause. Have someone responsible for bring a local paper and get group shot of the team. When you get back home, make sure someone is tasked to write a short description of the trip, include that names of everyone in the photo…AND email this to your local newspaper editor.
- Video Postcards – Very short video clips strung together give a variety of people on your team a chance to be seen and heard. This is intended to be short…it takes most people less then a minute to share. An easy script to give someone is:
- My name is _______
- I’m on the _______ team (the construction team, the VBS team, etc)
- My favorite part of the trip so far has been _______ (or the most impressive thing I’ve seen or the thing that has touched me the most was when…etc.)