I remember the early days of social media, when everyone was happy and just excited to share space.
Back then, we couldn’t get enough of each other, and we spent hours catching up and reconnecting with old friends.
Today, sadly, a lot of that congeniality is gone. After years of sharing life highlights, we think we know each other better than we do. We speak without filters and struggle with envy or comparison. Rather than act like family, we act like jealous siblings. Spending too much time together, with no parents to referee, has begun to take its toll.
We are different people than we were a decade ago, and more drastic than changes on the Internet are the changes in Internet users. Generally speaking, we’ve grown testy and dismissive, quick to write off or tell off anyone who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent or who rubs us the wrong way.
The problem, of course, is that no two people see eye to eye on everything. Even best friends have opposing opinions, and that’s okay if they’re respectful. On social media, however, we get to skip the real-life challenge of trying to work through differences or bite our tongue to not be rude. Instead, we can join tribes of like-minded friends who second our opinions and make us bold in speaking our mind. While tribes can be beneficial, issues arise when tribes become echo chambers where every voice and story heard only affirms the group mindset.
In these echo chambers, pride grows, minds shrink, and tribes fall under the illusion that they are always right and the rest of the world is wrong. They forget how even a broken clock is right twice a day, and how every human being has something valuable to teach us.
“I want to send my kid on a mission trip so they can learn to be grateful…you know, appreciate everything he’s got and realize how blessed he is.”
In my line of work, I hear variations of this phrase a lot. It always makes me cringe. The point of a mission trip should never be to teach gratefulness. As a parent, that’s your job. Because gratefulness is learned at home and practiced in the world. Not the other way around.¹
I’m the CEO of a ministry called Go Be Love International. We send hundreds of people on short-term trips to mission fields around the world every year. I’m also a wife and a mom to five awesome kids, ages 9-15. So I’m sensitive to the mission trip thing. But also sensitive to the parenting thing. These two go hand-in-hand, because parents have the ability to set their kids up for success before they even hit the mission field.
Cultivate a heart of gratefulness in your child long before their mission trip, rather than expecting them to absorb this value on the field. A child who goes to the mission field with a grateful heart already in place can use their trip for what it’s intended: learning, loving, and serving. This will free up your child to be comfortably relational on the field, to simply meet and enjoy people, focusing on our similarities, rather than constantly drawing comparisons because of our differences.
A short-term mission trip isn’t about changing the world or fixing a developing nation. It’s about gaining perspective, building relationships, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. It’s a little known fact but “mission” doesn’t really happen on a one-week mission trip. Mission happens in the other 51 weeks of your year, depending on what you learn and how you apply it in your “real life.”