Missions, Christian school marketing and 3 things I pledge to do differently after my trip to Africa

I am writing this post from the airplane.

Perhaps not significantly noteworthy since much of today’s content is created on the fly (on a mobile device or literally in the air).  What makes this post unique is that I am writing as I return from a 11-day mission trip to Africa (yes, the picture above is from my window seat at some point in my international flight).  You can learn a lot about yourself in 11 days.

Admittedly I do not like to be away from social media for that long. I miss posting useful school marketing tips on our website’s blog. I did not peek into Facebook for over a week (I do confess to have scheduled a number of school marketing updates via our Facebook page because I do not believe that just because I am away does not mean our followers are). And yes, I did make a conscious effort to advance schedule daily tweets so I could keep my Twitter audience fed with practical school marketing content even during my hiatus (I hope you found it helpful!) As many social junkies do, I confess that as soon as I had access to WiFi, I was “all-in”, opening multiple apps open on my iPhone in order to reconnect (email, texting, Facebook and Twitter at a minimum).  I think my flurry of social frenzy is also evidence of a bigger problem and perhaps yours, too.

We all have too many apps open, more than enough irons in our social media fire, and way too many tabs open. I am not talking about how we behave on our mobile devices or 13″ desktop computers. I am convicted that this is just a pervasive problem in our lives in general. Metaphorically, our batteries are draining.

Perhaps I will write more another time about what I did on my mission trip to Benin, West Africa (it’s not my first trip there – my family actually worked as missionaries for almost 10 years in that country). I already recorded an audio memo on my phone in my Africa hotel room that I hope to soon share via our school marketing podcast. But similar to New Year’s resolutions, as many of you do, I look for vacations, sabbaticals and mission trips to refocus, renew and restart.

As the new school year launches, I join you in looking for ways to trim off the excess in our lives, eliminate the incessant “busy” excuse, and to pour more into the lives of others. Here are 3 ways I commit to doing this in my life:

  1. DISCIPLESHIP – I often let my work overwork me where end up with little or nothing to offer others.  I recognize that I should be doing more to help others. As a Christian, my ministry responsibility includes my four kids (Tori, 14; Timothy, 10; Jonathan, 8 and Kadi who just turned the same age). I am also excited about possibly beginning a new mentor relationship group at our church. And with the pastoral leadership and many friends we have in Africa, my list of people to pray for grows and grows.
  2. CREATING YOUTILTY – a seemingly misspelled word based on Jay Baer’s latest book of the same title (check out Youtility on Amazon), I want our agency to be more of a resource of useful content for Christian schools. I did manage to start and finish Jay’s book during my travel and it has challenged my thinking, the counsel I offer our Christian school clients, and our own marketing. Jay writes, “the three ways to build Youtility (include) providing self-serve information, by answering every question, and by being relevant in real-time.” We have written a lot over the years and posted educational and informational content on Facebook, Twitter and created numerous categories of school marketing boards on Pinterest. But there are more school marketing questions to answer and enrollment and admissions problems to help with, so I commit to creating or curating the helpful content you are looking for. I am excite about this challenge – except it cannot violate the final point.
  3. REST – being busy is less about blaming it on our crazy culture and really more about my lack of self discipline.  It is evidence that I have allowed poor boundaries to invite more to do than my mind and body can rightfully handle. During the days in Africa, it is striking the difference of the pace of life I lead compared to my African friends. While our societies will never be comparable, it became apparent that I am stretched to thin, worn out and most likely overlooking many of the things I want to be doing (see #1 and #2). Perhaps I can squeeze in a nap more often, go to bed earlier and get more sleep, and carve out more mini-sabbaticals away from work and social media.  Who’s with me?

God gives us restarts throughout the calendar year.  You may be reading this in August, in January, or June and each beginning (new school year, new calendar year, or the start of summer) offers an opportunity reset our priorities, plans and even our pace of life. Back-to-School is a perfect opportunity to kick off the year by kicking bad habits from previous years and starting new ones that will bless you, your family and your school.