Follow Us

Principles for Smart Phones and Missions

A flat out ban of smart phones may be necessary for those who can’t self-govern and who will hurt more than help, but it is not optimal. What’s optimal is that missionaries can look at reality and ask, “Will this aid or hinder my witness?” Adventures (along with our ministries such as the&n…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

A flat out ban of smart phones may be necessary for those who can’t self-govern and who will hurt more than help, but it is not optimal. What’s optimal is that missionaries can look at reality and ask, “Will this aid or hinder my witness?”

Adventures (along with our ministries such as the World Race) is a missions organizations responsible to all those who go with us for representing Jesus well. When we create policy, we look at these principles. Other mission agencies will have their own principles.


Our witness to hosts. The quality of our witness to our hosts is more important than our access to wifi.

Staying present. Our society struggles with focus. The World Race teaches racers to not worry and to not wallow in things they can’t change. We want to live in the present.

Love the ones you’re with. We communicate preference by how we treat those we are with on our teams and with our hosts. 

Own your race. We ask Racers to be intentional. We encourage them to take ownership of their race.  

Media is neutral. It can be a source of life and a source of death. How we use it is the issue. 

Media addiction. It is normal in our society. Most of us can’t resist temptation. It must be broken if we are to get to health. Media addiction’s downside is well-documented.

Breaking addiction. Addiction is broken by abstinence and limiting temptation.

Abandon. The first stage of Abandon has been a central principle in the spiritual formation process since the start of the World Race. 

Abandon requires leaving. We leave the things that have defined us so that God can re-define us. Smart phones are the conduit for attachment to much of what we’re leaving.

Comfort zones. The process of Abandon is circumvented by a retreat to comfort zones. Self-governance implies monitoring comfort zones.

Self-governance. Self-governance is a life lived with self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. We are more interested in the process of learning self-governance than we are in a set of rules.

Communities that self-govern. We exercise self-governance first as individual racers, then by teams and then by squad. It is possible for an individual to self-govern, but to be a part of a dysfunctional team or squad.

Freedom. Choice is a gift that must be stewarded with prudence and accountability.

Communication with home. Communicating your journey to supporters is a good and necessary thing on the Race. Not communicating is a problem and communicating daily is a problem.

Boundaries. Racers are adults and need to establish boundaries in order to walk through the process of individuation (becoming an individual who thinks for themselves).

Alignment with intent. The Race is a kingdom journey – an experience that creates space for intentionality in the spiritual formation process. To be successful it requires an absence of distractions and comfort zones.

Conversation. We want to foster shared meaning and shared commitment.

Culture. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We care about our World Race culture and what potentially undermines it. 

For more see Smart Phones & Mission Trips

Comments (9)

  • My daughter is preparing to leave in 9 days for Launch. We have had numerous, prayerful conversations about taking her phone on the race. These conversations have led to the decision that yes, she is taking her phone. There are many reasons for this that I could share another time. But I thought I would add something as a participant on an AIM trip a few years ago to Thailand. We were instructed not to bring or use our phones or cameras during ministry time. Naturally, because of the type of ministry we were doing there were obvious reasons for ths. But I learned a valuable lesson about presence in the process that I have since used as my husband and I lead trips through our church. Ministry time is not a time to bring or use a phone. It is also not the time for everyone to have a camera. We now ask that 1 person on the team (and we often rotate this responsibility) be in charge of photography during ministry time. Even then, the time spent photographing the ministry work for memory and story telling purposes is limited. I believe this idea is something you could institute as a standard or rule if you will. Phones can definitely distract. Ministry sites often have wifi. But ministry hours, just as work hours back home, is not the time to be on your phone for any purpose other than emergency. Praying for you as you create these guidelines and standards.

  • Bev Phillips (parent of July 2014 racer)

    This is a great list! It’s comprehensive in its coverage of the various challenges racers (and actually all of us) face as Christ-followers in the 21st century world. It is respectful of the racers as adults who are in the process of having their habits, choices, and thought patterns confronted by the Spirit and allowing them to respond voluntarily to God’s conviction (rather than to an outside pressure or organizational regulation). The “Principles” written here are grace-filled and yet full of truths with which some may have to wrestle. I believe this is a balanced way to deal with the issue of smart phones and mission trips as it exemplifies the goals of AIM and The World Race. It is okay – and perhaps to be expected – if it’s not a quick, easy fix to the phone issue; but the Lord will be present in the process for the individual racer, team, and squad as He continues the transformation of His followers into His ambassadors.

  • Love these!! I think using these as guideposts and discussion points will really help bring positive change to the smartphone issue on the Race.

  • I read the initial post on Facebook which led to a discussion about this with my son, Jason (25). We talked at great length about whether or not a smart phone was appropriate on a such a trip. Both Jason and I have seen the misuse of phone in classrooms by students. While a wonderful invention, our culture has not yet tackled with all the implications of the tech. This coming school year I will be in a position where I will be addressing digital citizenship. I honestly believe smartphone etiquette needs to be considered and taught. Unfortunately, many people honestly haven’t considered how inappropriate a smart phone can be. If I am understanding the race – it is for a person to develop a deeper intimate relationship with God and to learn how to exhibit that relationship to peoples around the world. Jason and I said we would like to have the phone available for emergencies. Other than that a smartphone seems to detract from the very purpose of the race.

  • I personally only had wifi accessible on five months of the race and even then only two of those months were at the place we were staying. Otherwise we had to travel across town or at times walk miles and miles to find wifi. We would do this maybe once a week or two. So I’m sure other people have had wifi accessible more than I did but honestly I rarely experienced communicating “daily” with family and when I did get that luxury during the two months it still wasn’t where we did ministry. phones are flashlights which are so handy, cameras, music players….
    Trust me, I completely understand the heart of this and agree with the points of the blog… I just don’t think its that huge of a deal to make sure racers understand the heart of it, and I don’t think its a smart phone issue. I think it’s a wifi issue and where the wifi is located. Since we don’t have much say in that I think the Race should just spend more time encouraging the heart of it, thats all. 🙂

    • Yes, Africa especially can be this way. And the issue is diminished when wifi isn’t there. But then this whole conversation started when Brian, who led a squad in Africa shared his terrible experience with racers being distracted here: https://www.sethbarnes.com/?filename=a-passionate-plea-for-smart-phone-limits. And then in today’s post, you can see how a partner in Japan sees us.

      There are two main problems that need to be addressed: How do be better guests and ministers? And how do we stay present on the WR?

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap