Home > Christian Living, Church Issues, Missions > My Thoughts On “Short Term” Mission

My Thoughts On “Short Term” Mission

I recently read some posts from one of my favorite blogs Jamie The Very Worst Missionary regarding “short term” mission trips. These discussions and comments have been golden and worth a read if you have ever taken or plan to take a “short term” mission trip.

This particular post will be a good start and includes links to others.

My wife (@a4man) and I have had many of these similar discussions and we differ in our thoughts on “short term” mission trips. She believes that there should almost never be an allowance for these trips. She calls them “hit & runs” and I mostly agree with her thinking. However, I feel that there are some instances that make such trips beneficial to the overall cause of Jesus Christ and the spreading of His gospel to the unreached.

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Much of my influence comes from how Mission Waco has handled cross cultural ministry opportunities. These folks have given much of their life to learning how to be most effective and responsible with what God has entrusted to them both at home and in other contexts.

So I would like to weigh in on the conversation by giving 5 rules that must be applied while on “short term” mission trips:

    1. Stop calling them “short term” missions
    – my first reaction to the idea of “short term” mission is to look for its biblical origin. The truth is, I do not see a clear example of Jesus-followers on any such trip. In fact, any time there is movement toward mission in the Bible, it was a lifestyle as opposed to a trip.

    – it seems that we all agree on one thing; those going on such a trip receives more than those whom they intend to reach out to. Therefore, call them what they really are; exposure trips. You are being exposed to a different culture and people. The impact comes from the difference of livelihood from your context to theirs. Therefore, for all practical purposes, these trips will be referred to as exposure trips in this post.

    – to correctly understand biblical mission, it is the going and sending to a place that is unreached. Unreached as in people groups who have never received the good news about Jesus, nor is there any work to get this news to them. In other words, a mission would mean that someone is going into a place to learn a culture and language in order to communicate the gospel to them. Anything other than this is called evangelism.

    2. Go on an exposure trip with “long term” in mind
    – the point of this trip is to be exposed to the needs and struggles of the locals in order to advocate for them. This could be in the form of education, food and water, protection from slavery, skills development and much more. Your exposure may confirm the call to relocate in order to work among these needs. Use whatever power you have to empower the powerless.

    3. An immediate response is required
    – you will typically feel an urgency to react to what you have been exposed to. Don’t wait for this urgency to pass. The mission actually starts when you get home.

    4. Projects are to be outsourced to the locals
    – most trips consist of some work projects. You empower people by getting them involved instead of just doing it for them yourself. They will also see you as someone who is taking work from them. This hinders your ability to minister to them.

    5. You are only allowed 1 trip
    – the question always comes up when going on international exposure trips, “wouldn’t it be more helpful if you just sent the money to them instead of spending it all going there?” you can’t hang a price tag on exposure. The first trip is worth the money spent. However, a second trip does nothing more than make you a resource user instead of a resource provider.

There are many other viewpoints regarding the most effective ways to reach out to those both with spiritual and physical needs.

So what’s your thoughts on “short term” mission trips? Good & bad?

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  1. Jess
    December 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Hmm.. I like the idea of short mission trips. It gives people who want to the foreign thing but can’t leave home for very long a chance to go serve internationally. Though I agree with most of what you are saying I don’t agree with the last one that is only because I found the country I love.

    Also not all short terms mission trips take work away from them. On the trip I went to we were teaching foreigners more than we was doing physical labor.

  2. Rachel
    December 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    @Jess – While I understand your desire, it sounds like your response is fueled by a selfish desire to go on a trip to a foreign country you love to visit than by a desire to do what is best and right for the people in it. If the money to send you there on a STM is better spent on materials, training, payment for services to the people who live there, that is where it should go. The exposure you had gave you a love for that country. If God gave you a love the people there, but no desire to become a full time missionary, take the money it costs to send you there and funnel it into a direct benefit for those people.

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