Impact of Social Media on Missions and Missionary Life

The Impact of Social Media on Overseas Life

“Jeremy, should I post this?”

We had just settled in our seats, on our way to a much needed ENGLISH speaking break in London.

I’d taken a picture of the very cool dining car on the train, but the question remained… to post or not to post?


{even for this post… I’ve edited it about 10 times, scheduled it, put it off a few weeks, scheduled again. edited again. Prayed over each word…}

I’d heard early in our overseas journey that choosing to be open and public with our lives while living overseas could harm and not help.

And sometimes… it has. A few comments about our lives, pictures, travels… from the most unexpected places.

For me, this makes me want to turn it all off and hide somewhere. A safe place with lots of books and NO internet.

But I can’t because I would miss you all. I dearly love the daily interactions, the sharing of our lives and the ability we have to connect with YOU. To shed light on work overseas, to encourage other workers, to equip support churches with real information and share life with family and friends.

I can’t turn it off because pastors, churches, people, friends, family… they really do need the updates mixed in with allowing them to get to know us and stay included in our journey as we travel around the globe.

Impact of Social Media on Missions and Missionary Life

I also can’t turn it all off because I truly believe that the impact of social media is a way for the church to rise up, share life, live the gospel and make God’s glory BIG in our world.

As I browse facebook and instagram, I realize that I am not alone. The struggle is not just mine. The impact of social media on overseas life is hitting all of us in similar ways.

Check out this post from Confessions of a Missionary Wife and this from Pastor Dave on the subject of social media and ministry

Many of my expat friends face this daily struggle of what to post, how to post, what to say, which pictures to publish. The struggle comes from the fear of being misunderstood, mistaken, or misinterpreted. They don’t post often just to avoid the myriad of comments that come our way about our lives, our calling, our lives overseas. We always feel like we need to explain ourselves… the cost, the reason, the who/what/why of our everyday life.

We feel a need to let people know that we didn’t pay to get into all the expensive places or that we had a BOGO coupon. We let it be known that we travel on a budget, that we tend to stick to the free stuff on our journeys. Anyone who knows Jeremy knows the man loves finding a good deal and getting every penny’s worth of every experience. We explain a lot.

We do all this explaining, all because our lives can be very, very misunderstood.

Read: Tips for the Tightrope of Social Media

One impact of social media on our lives is that this kind of misunderstanding can quickly rise out of control.

I know… our lives sure do look like a lot of fun sometimes. Traveling the world, trying new foods, experiencing new cultures, seeing historic places, exploring famous sights… yes. FUN. Fun all over it. And you ALL know how much we love a good day of fun. With social media, you see more of it than ever before.

Overseas workers have always lived somewhat exotic, complex, exciting, awful, fun lives that are interesting to look at.

For us, this living overseas is our lives. Not just a short trip. We have moved here. We live here. We have an address and a cell phone plan and TV service and neighbors and a grocery store and a favorite coffee shop. We know the back ways to the school that cuts through an apartment complex courtyard because we live here. This isn’t a visit. This is our home.

We clean and do homework and work out and eat and sleep and read and play and go to the park and run errands and sometimes we even go on vacation. We post pictures of it online because it is REAL life. Our lives. The ins and outs of living here, just as you live there. We just happen to be living and working overseas.

So why don’t you see more “M type” pictures?

Well, for us, it’s because we’re on a journey. We’re in it for the long term. For the past 7 years you have seen us travel untold miles from church to church to church to raise our budget. You’ve seen us in the throws of learning French in the most hardcore way of all… total immersion. In language school, you saw us out and about in our daily lives doing fun things because we needed to do those things to be able to speak French and practice our understanding of this new language. Even now, going out and doing all kinds of things is crucial to our longevity in living in a new culture.

The learning curve overseas is incredibly high. There are times when we do NOT know what to write or share.

Also, in generations past, you didn’t see the day-to-day of it. You didn’t see the actual “living” part of living overseas. Do you know that the days of a worker traveling home with 3-4 years worth of pictures of homeless, starving, unclothed children is nearly over?

Read this: Barbie Challenges Volunteerism through Social Media in Africa

Do you know that the internet covers the globe and even the most primitive of villages often have facebook? That someone I take a picture of could then find my blog? Do you know that the people we are called to reach are finding, friending and following workers on all avenues of social media? That if a picture is posted, the family just might see it and know?

Impact of Social Media on Missions and Missionary Life

Throw in what workers have to say to other workers about what to post and what not to post… it’s CRAZY complicated. These things so often get misinterpreted even between other workers on your team. It truly is a tightrope walk.

So how does this change things for the average overseas worker?

Well, for us, this means that the picture we posted of us out on a really cool adventure with friends could have been us with unsaved, unchurched people who for some reason or another decided we could be their friends and they invited us to go out with them. That we were able to pray with them and invite them to church. That we were able to speak truth into their family situations and promise to pray with them for a need in their life. But I’m friends with them online. So although I can post a picture of the event, I can’t exactly say the full extent of the situation so publicly. That would be a quick friendship breaker.

For us, it is doing lots of touring and fun things because we daily NEED new opportunities to speak french, read french, hear french and learn more french.

Which means our social media is full of those fun wanderings and adventures.

Yet just under the surface so much more is taking place.

Often what we are showing you is a valuable, sustainable, true, real-life, gut-level, discipling opportunity. A God-type door opened in a very cool way. God’s people covering the earth.

The pictures are of real opportunities to enter the world like salt, flavoring and impacting every area of life, every city on the planet as God allows.

The pictures are of real moments, walking in places and talking to people where the good news is not readily available and you might be the only believer that enters that space… ever.

It also means that when you see us learning french, meeting people, having fun… well, it all looks the same. The lines blur for those looking in. Some people might just see a crazy family traveling the world having fun and with this discussion, we are encouraging you to look a little deeper.

We can’t always word our posts in a ministry context. We don’t want to be scared to share the joys, the vacation, and the fun along with the pain, the hurt and the hard work of digging unplowed ground.

Impact of Social Media on Missions and Missionary Life


For those serving in a big city or in a closed country or a religiously hostile environment, they are incredibly limited in what they can safely post about ministry. They can’t pull out their phone to snap a picture that often.

For those in a village area, the lines are really getting fuzzy on taking pictures of random people and using that photo for a fund-raising or non-profit activity. We have had them take OUR picture… and it doesn’t feel so good knowing they are probably posting it to their facebook.

For those in a beautiful area, the risk is that people will always think you are on vacation.

Social Media and Missions

For those in a tough area, the impact of social media brings the risk is that people will feel bad for you and you will come across as a complainer. And this is big for me. Yes, things are hard. Since moving to Africa, things exploded in the “hard things” area. Just our flight here alone was insane! But we don’t want everything we post to be about that. We want you to see joy in the difficulty, fun in the stress, happiness in the rough places. We want you to know that yes, it is hard but we are okay. We’re living this life to the full and sharing that in a place where the people around us have never seen a joy quite like ours. A joy given only by Jesus, the Son of God, who lives in our hearts and walks through life with us.

Also remember, you can always, always send an email or message to ask about the pictures you see. Not with confrontational assumptions but with a genuine curiosity about the people and places we see each day.

Which begs the question… to post or not to post?

I agonize over it.

Do I share this picture?

Did I word that right?

Impact of Social Media on Missions and Missionary Life

Did I post the right mix of sad, happy, fun, work, normal, real, ministry posts this month?

Are all areas of our social media balanced?

For some overseas workers, the tightrope is too much. They’ve been hurt. They’ve given up. They never share anything fun or even remotely “vacationy” or “fun” looking. For even more workers, they don’t post at all.

There’s not much more isolating in our social media driven society than to be disconnected from something that should be such a huge blessing.

A place of encouragement, a place of connecting with family, a place of communicating a need, a place of sharing the world. A place of staying in touch with pastors and support team members.

So just as you don’t want to be questioned on your everyday coffee, workout, laundry, recipe, birthday party and museum visit, your missionaries and overseas laborers need your grace and understanding.

They simply want to share life with you. Real life.

Yet, because of the impact of social media, their hands may be tied in sharing more than just the fun moments.

We love sharing life with you… we just have to be a little more careful about it now.

We hope you’ll ask questions, dig for info and stay connected with us on this wonderful new journey of working overseas.

We are honored to walk life with you.

A few other things on Social Media:

How to Communicate with Your Missionaries

Farewell to the Worker Hero by Christianity Today is an excellent article on this same topic

Simple Tips for Beginners

Beginner’s Guide to Supporting a Family Overseas

From A Life Overseas Blog: How to Communicate So People Will Care

How do you see social media impacting your life overseas?





  1. Thank you for this well written article. I agree!!!!!!!!! So much wisdom here. I tend to not post because I don’t know how it will be taken. And then there are those great missionary stories that you wish you could tell but…you can’t. A hard part of missionary life that most don’t relate with. -Joanna

  2. Facebook, even in the most remote places! I’m not “the most remote” but I do live in villages up and down the Thai-Burma border. Places where the power goes out frequently during rainy season but when it is on, we have internet! And I work at an orphanage. Our teens are starting to use Facebook. Our national staff have FB accounts. And now both parties are starting to “like” Blessed Homes on FB. Makes me think very carefully about anything I post on our organizational account! Is it strange for them to find pictures that were uploaded to our account 4 years ago (before I worked here)? When I post a link to our newsletter, they can click to read it (if they can read English). I am thankful for the communications tone set by the director, not one of pity but empowerment, and try to continue in that light – both in words and images.

  3. Very well written and giving a side of missions that we have never thought about. I pastor a small church and will use it to let our people know some of the situations,, stress, loneliness, and joy of the Lord that a missionary experiences, may the Lord bless you in your work for Him.

    1. Thank you for sharing that! I have been praying that God would use this post to help improve communication between missionaries and their support bases. Things are changing within missions due to the window of social media and I pray that God will bring clarity with through this post. God Bless and greet your church for us!

  4. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amazing post! I’ve never met your family and followed you on Instagram because of a friend’s suggestion. Now, I find myself praying for your family, wondering how you all (beautifully) handle so much, and anticipating the next move in your ministry. Social media has opened some many doors to watch God at work! Yet…I get it. My husband is a pastor and social media is tricky. I look back at some happy, goofy family outing pictures and know behind his smile is a tough day of counseling a broken marriage or the heartbreak of a person loving their sin more than God, so we compensate with extra smiles, hugs and fun. Social media certainly opens the door for our lives to be scrutinized in a whole new way…but you’re so right, it’s an amazing tool for the Gospel as well! Thank you for this post!
    A side note: My brother lives just south of Paris in LaRochelle. His family is home for three weeks this summer. We have loved hearing his real, unedited stories of God at work in France. Amazing things are happening! 🙂

    1. Thank you for praying for us! Yes, I agree… we felt many of these same things when we were in ministry. Social media does change things a bit. But it is good and I do believe that God will use it to bless and minister in new ways around the world!

      And yes, Paris and France really are wonderful places… places that need people to share God’s love! He is at work here!

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