Helping TCKS use social media wisely



A discussion at Global Connections’ TCK Forum last week considered helping TCKs to use social media wisely – a challenge for all of us involved with raising healthy children.  We often remember that Jesus told us to be as innocent as doves in this world where we are like sheep among wolves, but we can so easily forget that he told us to be as wise as serpents too (Matthew 10:16).

In an age when children and teens are spending ever more time on the internet, at a time when we hear daily reports about online gaming, cyberbullying and sexting, how can we take steps to help our young people be safe?  And what is the role of sending agencies and churches in helping parents?

What can churches and agencies do?

  • Include in our orientation programmes information about social media so that parents are equipped to help their children understand internet security, particularly when skyping with grandparents and facetiming with schoolfriends.
  • Encourage the involvement of a few trusted adults so children can have positive relations with a small number of adults who aren’t their parents with whom they can talk honestly about challenges, e.g. godparents, uncles and aunties.
  • Encourage awareness of risk within the missions team – often the mission community consists of a team of up to 100 in-country partners who are automatically deemed ‘safe’ because they’re in the family. But how well do we know them?  Let’s not make inappropriate assumptions about people we don’t really know.
  • Include a social media policy within our safeguarding policies. This helps to put social media on the map and create an opportunity for us to talk about the challenges.
  • Help our adults to avoid denial. Many parents will say “My Jimmy wouldn’t do that, he’s a good boy” but the evidence is that Jimmy might actually be doing something online that would horrify his parents.  Let’s help parents realise there is a real danger online that can affect their children.
  • Include social media challenges in our re-entry training – we need to help parents understand that their children may have been shielded from harm by being in a Christian school, and that a secular school in their passport country may have a very different set of values among its pupils.

What can parents do?

Helping young people be safe focuses far more on our relationship with them than on the rules.  It is now widely recognised that rules limiting online time or having computers in a family room aren’t effective, as young people can simply get online on their phone in their bedroom, go round to a friend’s, or change the settings on their internet security.

  • Develop an open and frank relationship so that you can discuss sensitive issues with your children
  • Model forgiveness rather than condemnation when a child makes a mistake online
  • Learn to be aware of social media so that you can talk knowledgeably with your child about issues. Get on Facebook and find out about Minecraft!
  • Don’t spy on your kids’ internet activities – it communicates distrust
  • Focus on knowing your child, not what your child has been doing
  • Communicate that precautions you want them to take are not because you don’t trust them but may not trust people they interact with online
  • Most schools have a policy on cyberbullying – know it and use it
  • Don’t ban or limit gaming time but find out what they might be getting out of it and develop other ways of meeting that need
  • Don’t’ get too upset about the amount of time your kids spend watching online vids – it’s how they relax!

We have remarked before in these blogs that pornography is not the problem.  Likewise misuse of social media is a symptom of something deeper.  Many young people are sucked into bad things because of their need for acceptance and belonging in a community.  It is incredible hard for a godly teen to stand out from the crowd in a sexualised culture.  Helping them to feel valued, trusted and accepted will go a long way towards maintaining a healthy self-esteem which will help protect them against bad influences.

What resources are available?

  • CCPAS has an online course on internet safety
  • Childline has child-friendly resources on dealing with cyberbullying, sexting, and gaming
  • Safer Surfing is an Austrian website (your browser will offer to translate it) with good resources
  • Saltmine Trust has a drama presentation and interactive workshop for use in UK schools.

Praying creatively for your mission workers

Here’s a simple yet creative idea for a mission prayer meeting.  Don’t just do the same old boring thing of praying through each paragraph of a newsletter.  Do something a bit more original.  Take a selection of common items you’d find about the house.  Ask yourself what they represent, and if it might look different from your mission worker’s perspective.  Pray into it.  Here are some simple examples you could use.



Mobile phone – this represents their ability to communicate.  Whether writing or phoning home, communicating with locals in their language or dealing with colleagues in a third language, mission workers often have difficulty in understanding and making themselves understood.

Toilet roll – we don’t need to go into details but life in a country your immune system didn’t grow up in can be full of nasty diseases.

Car keys – in many parts of the world roads are even worse than Devon’s!  Vehicles may not be up to safety standards and there are no working time directives limiting the hours professional drivers spend behind the wheel.  Travelling, whether by car, bus, motorbike or cycle can be hazardous.

Bottle of water – we take utilities for granted but many mission workers live in parts of the world where the power can go off for days at a time, or there is no running water.

Family photograph – many mission workers are separated from loved ones.  Children may be at boarding school, or elderly parents may be left behind at home.

Chillies – the food is often very different from back home, and can take a lot of getting used to.  Some people may have allergies to particular types of local food, or may be unable to get food they need such as gluten-free.

Fan – many mission workers live where the weather is extreme, and for some seasons of the year almost unbearable.

Bible – the reality of life on the mission field is that mission workers can become spiritually dry.  They may be engaged in spiritual battles and face great opposition, or the spiritual dynamic of the dominant religion may have an impact on them.

Wedding ring – marriages come under great strain on the mission field, as one partner may have a vision for being there, and the other is tagging along, or perhaps one does better with the language with the other lagging behind.  Conversely, there are also pressures of a different kind on singles in the mission field.

Bowl – in many countries beggars are everywhere, and foreigners can stand out as targets.  It can be easy to get compassion fatigues, or to be worn down by the constant high profile.

Dictionary – mission workers usually need to learn a second language, and sometimes a third.  This can be time-consuming and daunting for those who are not naturally gifted at it.

Passport – paperwork is a continual problem.  Visas, work permits, driving licences, residence permits all have to be obtained (without resorting to corrupt expedients) and periodically renewed.  This can be emotionally demanding, with many repeat visits to crowded government offices where you can queue for hours to find that the person you need to talk to is not there.

Credit card – money is frequently a source of stress for mission workers.  Most of us rely on the divinely-inspired generosity of a small group of supporters to provide for the often quite substantial ministry costs we have.  Sometimes we have to leave the mission field for financial reasons alone.

Book – many mission workers use their professional skills as theologians, medics or educationalists, and need to keep their knowledge and qualifications up to date.  Yet finding time to read academic journals, let alone take CPD courses in the midst of a demanding role can be very difficult.

Toy – children can suffer in the mission field, and that has a huge impact on the parents.  Without support, children can easily become the mission worker’s Achilles heel.

DVD – mission workers need to relax too!  Yet often they find they have too much work, or feel guilty if they stop to enjoy themselves.

Office ID card – for many mission workers, the single biggest source of stress is their colleagues.  Often coming from a variety of cultures, with a common language that they aren’t all gifted in, and with a variety of church backgrounds and missiological viewpoints, it can be extremely hard to form a team in which everyone gets on well.  Arguments and even personal disputes can become commonplace.

Please use this information to pray into the situations of the mission workers you support.  The advantage of this method is that you can use it to pray anywhere, anytime, for your mission workers.  For example, if you’re waiting for a bus, look around you and seek inspiration.  What do you see?  Cars – pray for your mission worker’s safe travel in a world where roads and transportation may not be as good as ours.  A dog – pray for safety from being bitten by rapid dogs, or mosquitos, or lions.  A pillar box – pray for their good communication with family, church and friends back home.

Try this way of praying for mission workers and your prayer life may never quite be the same again!

Tech notes: podcasts

One of the ongoing challenges for mission workers is the need to ensure spiritual input.  One of the major reasons for burnout is that we continually give out at a faster rate than we take in.  So we need to make sure we have ample access to good quality teaching.

There is an extent to which, due to isolation or security needs, some mission workers can’t meet together easily for Bible study, and the local churches in which we minister are not always geared to meeting our needs.  But the internet makes good resources much more accessible than the days when our churches used to post us cassettes of the sermons.   One such benefit is the podcast, which can vary in length from five minutes to over an hour, and is an easily accessible resource that can be used in a variety of contexts: while setting aside time for study, or travelling, jogging – even on a flight.

Many churches now put their sermons out as podcasts, and even if the quality is not always consistent, it does have the benefit of keeping you in touch with what’s going on in your sending church.  But you can get them from other churches as well.  You might like to try, for example, Holy Trinity Brompton, Mars Hill, Gold Hill Baptist Church, Saddleback Church, St Helen’s Bishopsgate, or Willow Creek.

Some famous speakers podcast regularly, sometimes even daily, though the quality of these can be variable.  Try out Mark Driscoll, Joyce Meyer, N T Wright, Max Lucado, David Pawson or (from beyond the grave!) Derek Prince.  Even classics such as My Utmost for his Highest and The Practice of the Presence of God are available as a podcast.

Other organisations such as the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable  programme and Christianity magazine also have regular and thought-provoking podcasts, and Member Care Media, which we have highlighted before, issues daily podcasts aimed specifically at the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of overseas mission workers.

Individual podcasts can be downloaded from the website appropriate to your preferred church or speaker (as linked above), but it’s a lot easier to subscribe to them through iTunes, or go to One Place, a Christian resource for bringing lots of Christian teaching resources together online.  You can download podcasts to your computer or phone, and though for some people download speeds at home are often a challenge, you can get round this by going to an internet café or office where they may have a better service.  If you’re in a country where you need to think about security, make sure you regularly alternate between different cafés.

There are of course many more online resources such as Bibles, commentaries and guides, sermon resources, audio books and devotionals, and Oscar has a full list of these.


Continuing our series introducing you to technological solutions, this month I’d like to show you Dropbox.  This is a method of storing files online so that they can be easily shared and accessed from more than one computer (and your mobile phone) as long as you have an internet connection.  If you don’t have a reliable internet connection where you live, don’t stop reading, as it may be useful to you for sharing files.  If you’re a Mac user, you’ll already have access to iCloud, but you might find Dropbox helpful as well.

What is it? Dropbox is a very simple online storage facility which adds a new folder to your documents folders.  Into this you can drag any existing document, which is stored by dropbox independently of your computer.

How does it work? Whenever you update a file in your dropbox, the online master will automatically be updated.  When you log on with another computer, the copy on that one will be updated automatically by the one held on dropbox.  If you’re sharing files with someone else, the copy on their computer will automatically be updated almost instantaneously.

Why do you need it? Dropbox means that all your files are kept in one place, not on your computer.  So if your computer breaks down or is stolen, your documents are still safe.  You also never need to back them up again, as Dropbox takes care of this for you.  If you use more than one computer (for example, one at home and one at work) you no longer have the hassle of transferring files between them.  It also makes it easy to share files with colleagues.  You do this by inviting another person to share a folder with you.  They can then see, and amend, anything in your computer.  So in future there are no more problems copying files to one another, and being uncertain who has the latest version.

What are the drawbacks? If you don’t have reliable internet access, you may not have access to the cloud copies of your files.  You can still work on the copies stored on your computer, but if you have previously made changes to the dropbox copies, you will have to reconcile the two files.  This could become a significant problem if people sharing files are frequently offline, but if two modified files clash, dropbox informs you so that you can sort it out between you.

How do I share files? Create a folder and drag the files you want to share into it.  Then using my computer, right click on dropbox, and select ‘share this folder’.  Enter the email address of whoever you want to share this with, and hit send.  When they respond to an email they’re sent, they will be able to see (WARNING: and amend!) all the files in this folder.  They will, however, have no access to your other folders on dropbox.

Is it safe? My tech advisor tells me that the data encryption is of good standard and the risk of your documents being hacked is a low as it can be.

What do I do now? Go to and join up!  It’s simple and they’ll talk you through it.  WARNING: if you drag and drop all the files on your computer into dropbox, it can take a very long time to upload them, particularly if they’re photos.

If you have any problems, email for support!

Why every mission worker needs to use social media


Many mission workers (particularly ones of a certain age!) are completely unable to understand the fascination with things like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (other social media tools are also available) yet these applications are considered almost indispensible to a younger generation.  Together they are referred to as social media, and they have become a key feature of how people relate to one another, keep in touch, form community and express themselves to the world.

For a lot of mission workers there is not the perceived need to be involved in this seemingly self-obsessed activity in which many people can spend a significant amount of their time.  Why would you want to, when there’s already so much work to do?  Here’s why: one of a mission worker’s greatest needs is to be able to communicate effectively.  We all need to ensure that our supporters buy into the work God has called us to, know what to pray for, and how they can support us, particularly in an emergency.  Many of us spend up to 10% of our time communicating with our supporters, which may feel like a distraction from the work we’re here to do, but if we communicate effectively, we maintain the support that keeps us doing that work.  Using social media enables us to communicate quickly and effectively to a large number of people, and the added bonus is that it’s free!

Facebook now connects over 400 million people.  You have a ‘status’  which tells people what you’re doing, or more frequently how you’re feeling.  If you’re having a difficult time, just type ‘FRUSTRATED!!!’ into your status and see the rapid and empathetic response you get!  Facebook also gives you an opportunity to post photos of what you’re doing, and if you have family on different continents, grandparents can see how their grandchildren are growing up.

Skype is an internet application which allows you to use your computer or mobile to make free phone calls to another.  The quality is highly dependent on your connection but it’s a great way to talk to people on the other side of the planet!  You can also use a webcam to see the people you’re talking to, although this can damage the audio quality.  If you have a good enough connection, you can also try conference calls, which cuts down the need for international travel.

WordPress is a simple way of building a website using templates already created for you.  You can keep it simple, and just have a blog page, or build something more complicated if you feel adventurous.  You’re reading a WordPress screen right now.  You can use it to tell people what you’re thinking, doing or feeling.  It’s important to many people as a way to express themselves and it’s a great way of communicating with supporters.

YouTube is an easy way of posting videos onto the internet where anyone can watch them.  You can use it to show people where you live, where you work, and what you do.  Using it helps maintain the link with your supporters.  Record a simple greeting to your church once in a while, upload it to YouTube, and the church can show it during a meeting.  If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video’s worth a million.

Twitter only allows you 140 characters to communicate with ‘followers’, but its brevity is its strength.  It forces you to distill your thoughts when you might be tempted to ramble on.  In urgent need of prayer?  Send a text to Twitter and hundreds of followers can be praying within minutes.  Use it to post links to your blog, other websites, or just tell people what you’re thinking.  Be careful not to overdo it as your followers may get bored with constant tweeting.

Of course, your ability to use all these tools will be highly dependent on the quality of your connection, but even if you’re using 56k dialup it’s still worth having a go.  See Adam’s post from last March for help on making the most of this, or try using your mobile either to surf or to connect your computer to the internet.

Please remember that if you’re in a creative access nation some of these tools can be risky to use, but BlackBerrys are pretty secure devices and so is the IronKey which we reviewed last year.  You can also use a false name known only to your friends, and password protect your video postings so that only your closest confidantes can watch.  But still be careful what you put out on public media.

Missions 2.0 – spreading the gospel using social media


I’ve been pondering the ways in which ministry could use internet technology and social media in the missions context – particularly as it relates to micro-enterprise and missions-based social entrepreneurship.  There is a cornucopia of social media communication tools to help you get your message across, and if you’re not using them, you’re not getting technology to work for you in the postmodern, hyper-connected world.

Pick up a crayon and get creative. Blogging, podcasting, and video blogging offer unique opportunities for spreading the gospel.  If you can use a microphone, a camera, or email you can pretty much do all the above. Cameras are super cheap these days.  You can buy a Kodax Zx1 for around £80 to £100 which is a (super) small hand held camera you can use to record key church events.  And you should be able to grab a tripod on ebay for around £15-25.  Also, most new Macs come equipped with technology and software to be multimedia studios (you can purchase a new mac for £1,200 – £1,600 or a used one for half that price).  You could post lessons and sermons, as well as short 1-3 minute updates about what God is doing in the lives of people in your church.

Get that in writing. If you go the video or audio direction, you may want to pay for transcription.  You can find cheap transcription via one of many outsourcing websites like Get a Freelancer or e-Lance.  Search engines can’t ‘see’ your video or podcasting content, so it helps people find your content.  Also, it can help people spread your content by simple cut and paste.  You may also choose to use Safari’s summarize function to create an executive summary of your lessons.

It’s all about show and tell. The use of Slideshare to post existing powerpoint presentations slideshows online.  It’s a very easy to use tool and you can create groups around issues like ‘missions, ‘theology’, ‘sermons’, ‘evangelism’, or ‘Christian social justice’.  This would allow mission workers to stay in visual contact with churches without having to visit each and every church.

Adapt to your audience(s). Think about the bi-lingual nature of your ventures.  Add a Google translator and even consider having a church member translate your content if you can’t do it yourself.

Start a digital water cooler to connect for free or almost free. You may want to consider a Ning social network, a message board to share information and ideas internally, a wiki, a website based on your particular issue of concern.  There are tons of options for using social media platforms for Christian communication and kingdom ends.

Create an inviting digital living room. Look into simple, user friendly navigation which can be provided by WordPress (like the one your reading now).  With WordPress you can get inexpensive webdesign for under £300 by purchasing a professional looking premium theme. Ask in your prayer letter if anyone is willing to create you a website for free as part of their support.

Plan for the future. Down the road you may think of creating a group blog that key members of your staff or volunteers can blog.  Or you may want to target one blog for the surrounding community and one blog to churches overseas that have funded your ventures.  This will allow you to target your message to a very specific audience.

Ignore these Droids. They aren’t the ones you’re looking for. Don’t fall for “shiny new object syndrome.”  You don’t need to stay up to date on the technology.  You only need to learn how to use it.  The technology is only an enabling platform.  Creating relationships is clearly the goal and focus.

It’s a Balancing Act: Creating an information diet, time management and workflow are all issues you will want to consider.  The key is to find time you weren’t using before, such as surfing online, playing video games, or watching television.  All in all stay focused on God and relationships and you should be fine.

Principles to Consider:

• Focus on God’s word and God working through you.  In other words, ask how your story and your community’s story tell His story.

• Once you’ve listened a while, it’s important to dive in to explore to get your feet wet.  Its actually a lot of fun.

• It’s easy to be come a stats-o-holic.  Be forewarned.  Connections beat stats everyday.

Next time: why mission workers need to be using Facebook and Twitter!

Adam Brown, Technical Director

The Great BlackBerry Showdown – what does it all mean?

You may have seen in the news over the last few weeks a lot of chatter from Saudi Arabia (and lately India) regarding the use of BlackBerry mobile phone handsets in their respective countries.  The question has to be asked, why does the Saudi government feel it necessary to consider tighter controls on the use of BlackBerrys?  It all boils down to privacy.

Research in Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerrys, much like any modern smartphone, can send and receive emails.  Unlike other devices (the iPhone for example) when a a BlackBerry retrieves email, it is not retrieving them directly from the email provider, instead the BlackBerry is obtaining its new email from the BlackBerry server.  This has the advantage of taking less time, as the emails can be compressed, taking up less space, and therefore taking less time to send. It all so allows RIM to offer other services direct to the handset, like calendar and instant messaging. Anyone who has used a BlackBerry will attest to the fact that this is a great idea, offering speed and rich functionality.

In order to provide an enterprise-level service for its corporate customers, RIM has to ensure that all the emails and other data stored on its BlackBerry servers is secure.  To do this, they encrypt it, and this is what the Saudi and other governments have an issue with.  With the data encrypted, they can’t look at it.

What does this mean for you?

The short answer is, not a lot. Although from September 1st RIM are allowing the Saudi and other governments a limited amount of access to its secure data, this does not mean that you are being ‘snooped’ on.  The government cannot see the full text of your emails or audio recordings of your phone calls.  Although it is not known exactly what level of access governments have, it is reasonable to assume that at most they are able to audit the send/receive trail of emails, nothing more.  In a recent press release RIM commented that “RIM cannot accommodate any request for a copy of a customer’s encryption key, since at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator or any third party, ever possess a copy of the key.  This means that customers of the BlackBerry enterprise solution can maintain confidence in the integrity of the security architecture without fear of compromise.”  In essence, even if RIM wanted to give governments full access to your email and IM logs, they cant.  You’re safe.

What can I do to protect myself?

First, you will want to back up your phone’s data, and wipe the handset of all your personal information, if you lose your phone.  I recommend Lookout Mobile Security by Lookout :

It’s available for BlackBerry, and Android and can be obtained from the App Store on the device.   Lookout securely creates a backup of your data (stored on Lookout’s US servers).  This allows you to restore your email, contacts, and other information if you get a new handset.   Lookout also allows you to locate your phone, and remotely wipe it of all your data if you so chose.  This renders it useless to any would be thief.

iPhone users opt for the $99 per year .Mac service, that offers similar functions.

Next month, tips on how you can secure yourself online, while using your laptop/desktop.

Adam Brown, Technical Advisor