Lessons from 15 Compassion International Bloggers

February 18, 2008 by

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.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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10 Responses to “Lessons from 15 Compassion International Bloggers”

  • Brad Ruggles
    February 18, 2008

    I thought that was a great idea. Not sure who came up with it but it’s a great way to leverage technology and mass audience loyalty to accomplish a worthwhile goal.
    I personally subscribe to several of the bloggers who went and really enjoyed reading and watching their experiences. We even sat down as a family and watched some of the videos before we sponsored a child with Compassion yesterday. It meant a lot to my kids to see what they were participating in.
    Brad Ruggles

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  • Chris S.
    February 18, 2008

    A couple months after hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast I joined a group from my church to go help some people begin cleaning up. There was no internet access available anywhere but we were still able to post pics and short blog posts via my cell phone. It can be done it almost any situation and the results were great! The people that had sacrificed money of their own to send us felt so much more connected.

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  • Shaun Groves
    February 20, 2008

    Thanks for the plug! And the thoughtful questions about the efficacy of Compassion’s work. I made a video, in part, to answer one of your questions…the one about the logic behind Compassion taking only one child in each house into their program (a rule in Uganda but not all 24 countries they work in.) See the video/your answer HERE.
    Thanks again.

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  • brad
    February 20, 2008

    The first thing that popped in my head is that for the reading and viewing audience this is not actual experience. Certainly it’s much closer than a slide-show, and a sum-up speech. And hopefully this will get others to engage on a greater level. But we need to recognise that engagement, action and participation are far more than reading, watching and hearing.
    Another thing is that poor aggregation and losing control are two sides of the same coin. It is very rare for unity of purpose to occur spontaneously and organically among several otherwise disconnected parties. In this case the cost of poor aggregation is worth the increased viral attributes.
    Finally, while there is a risk of emotionalism in all of this, I think there is a deep truth being expressed: To ‘get it’ you have to ‘feel it’. This is sorta back to my first point. You can’t experience any of this by proxy. You have to be where it’s happening emotionally, physically and spiritually. I’m only just beginning to come to grips with the truth in that.

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  • Redneck_Neighbor
    March 14, 2008

    I think Shaun hit it for me. I feel that I’m finally getting “it.” But I don’t want to loose sight of it. So I’m working to go on any and every mission trip that I can go on. I want to cement these feelings into my heart and mind. I want the sights, smells, and sounds to stay with me so I never loose focus on what we are here for.

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  • Linda Sue
    March 14, 2008

    Thank you for the posting about Compassion’s Uganda Bloggers. Great organization, transparent and accessible. My husband and I sponsor two boys in Bangladesh through Compassion and it is a blessing to us. Yes it was risky for Compassion to do this marketing – but if churches tried more connecting about that which is real instead of that which is image – we might lose some marginal folks and gain some credibility. Ya think? Thanks again

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  • Redneck Neighbor
    March 15, 2008

    Ooops…sorry I got confused by the name of the comment writer being at the bottom…anyway, I was referring to brad’s comments. I’m easily confused.

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  • David Joseph
    July 8, 2008

    -Exercising Compassion in Third World countries is good. Even better is exercising compassion locally: in your family, in your neighbourhood, and among the strangers you meet. That can be subteler and a lot harder to do.

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  • Apostle Tom Chacha
    August 9, 2008

    Please contact me I am so interested in working together with you
    I am the founder of the church called Oasis of miracles based In Nairobi Kenya
    Feel free to contact me
    Tel :+254722501110

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  • In Him
    April 14, 2009

    We would also like to thank you for this post. We started sponsoring through Compassion in December of 2004, and we believe in their ministry so deeply that we were led by the Lord to join their artist network in the Spring of last year.
    We appreciate the honesty and sincerity of each blogger/blog post we’ve read about Compassion and what God is allowing them to do around the world!
    Thanks again, and have a blessed week!
    In Christ’s Love,
    Andy and Miranda – In Him

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