Last week the child sponsorship organization Compassion International took 15 Christian bloggers to Uganda to see what child sponsorship looks like firsthand. Among those bloggers are musician Shaun Groves, BooMama blogger Sophie, worship leader Carlos Whittaker and Church Marketing Sucks guest blogger Anne Jackson among others. It’s quite a group.
And they’ve been taking pictures, shooting video and penning words about their experience, describing how the $32 a month of child sponsorship can change a life. And not just a life, but an entire family’s life.
It’s big. You have to be made of stone to hear these stories and turn away unchanged. If I weren’t saving every penny and selling half my crap for my own adoption, I’d be sponsoring one of these kids (even though I have my own questions about sponsorship).
What’s central here is the power of a story.
That’s the primary lesson for churches. It’s easy for Compassion to talk about saving kids and give you the guilt trip about how giving up your latte can change a kid’s life. But when a bunch of bloggers start telling stories about the children and their families changed by Compassion, when those bloggers share how their hearts are broken and they’re overwhelmed, when you watch a video of a simple interaction–those stories cut to the heart. And people respond.
No wonder Jesus told stories.
What else can we learn from Compassion International’s blogger tour?
Experience – More than just telling stories, this is an experience. They’ve got video, they’ve got photos and they’ve got 15 different perspectives. It’s not just a post-trip slide show, it’s a chance to experience the trip firsthand, even if you’re just sitting at home. Imagine if your next church missions trip included a blogger or two who kept the folks at home informed about everything that was happening?
Technology – Of course the Compassion bloggers had an overabundance of technology. And technology doesn’t always work. But it did enable them to get the word out. I wish they would have aggregated all that content better (I couldn’t find any single spot to get all the latest videos, pics and posts), but it was at least out there. Notice that they utilized free resources like YouTube and Flickr–the same ones your church can use. And notice that Compassion International is now blogging, setting themselves up to tell their story long after this whirlwind tour is over. Technology is cheap and powerful. While it can’t do everything, it can do quite a lot. Is your church using it?
Lose Control – Compassion International basically showed 15 bloggers how their organization works and then set them loose. They didn’t tell those bloggers what to write. Compassion International had the guts to set them free and surrender control. What would happen if your church set people free to tell their stories? What would happen if your church lost control?
Call to Action – So now what? You read all these stories and your heart is broken and you want to do something. For Compassion International the call to action is clear and simple–sponsor a child for $32 a month. That’s it. If you’re going to do a project like this it helps to have a crystal clear call to action. I really hope the response goes farther than a simple $32 a month, but it’s a good place to start. For whatever project your church is doing the call to action needs to be simple and clear–pray for the missions trip, accept Jesus, come to church on Sunday, etc. Yes, the Christian life is more complicated than any first step (and I’d argue that sponsoring a child should be more than $32 a month), but the point is to make it clear what that first step is.
Tell Those Stories
So it’s not likely your church will be sending 15 bloggers to Africa, but you might send two bloggers on your youth group missions trip to Minnesota, or send a couple folks to blog about your Easter service, or someone to shoot video capturing the stories of people in your church. Find those stories and tell those stories.