Are Short-Term Mission Trips Effective?
Millions of Americans go on short-term mission trips every year, but some are asking if these trips are effective; they suggest that these
missions are ‘sanctified holidays’, a ‘waste of money’ or ‘an unnecessary burden’ on full-time missionaries.
Support or Establish?
The first thing that we must understand is that the aims and objectives of a short-term mission team today are very different from that of a
The objective of a short-term mission is to SUPPORT the indigenous church.
The objective of a long-term missionary is to ESTABLISH the indigenous church.
In the 19th century, every missionary had to stay in one place, learn the language, translate the Scriptures and build a church person by person.
With many unreached groups in the world, the need for long-term missionaries is still evident.
However, in the 21st century there already is an indigenous church in many parts of the world and they already have the Bible in their language.
What they need today is help - practical, spiritual and financial. Many churches in Africa and Asia are teaming with life, but they can’t afford
Bibles or a place to worship and they don’t have good teaching material. This is where short-term mission teams can help to meet the need.
Short-Term mission book: How to Plan, Prepare and Successfully Complete your Short-Term Mission.
In Ethiopia, I visited a church which had many new converts, but no-one could afford a Bible. Therefore working with the local church we were able
to provide Bibles for these new converts. They sowed the word, we watered it and God gave the increase. See 1 Corinthians 3:6.
New Money, New People
Much of the criticism laid at the short-term mission movement is related to the cost. Someone says, “It cost $10,000 for all of them to come here,
do you know what I could do with that?” It is true that lots of money is spent of short-term missions and (if it were possible) it probably would
be better invested in long-term work.
However, people forget that this is NEW MONEY arriving with NEW PEOPLE. Very few people would criticise a Christian family for spending their
hard-earned money on a holiday abroad, so why do they get criticised for diverting that money away from a holiday to God’s work? These people
have worked hard all year to earn this money and they want to spend it on missions! This is not money that was diverted from one form of
ministry to another, but rather it is new money which was diverted from savings or holiday plans into ministry. Young people also release
new money into God’s work, by finding sponsorship, working hard and by asking for financial help from their parents and grand-parents!
Another criticism laid at short-term mission trips is that it is an excuse for a vacation. Yet, what is wrong with someone wanting to serve the
Lord abroad in their free time? What is wrong with Christians wanting more from their faith-walk than just sitting in the pew listening to
someone else preach? It must be better for someone to commit two weeks to a Christian mission in Thailand, rather than to sit on a beach in
Thailand on a secular holiday?
Those who go on these missions, go because they feel called from God. They have responded to the call in their heart and the call in the Bible.
Diversity of Skills
One of the blessings of short-term mission trips is that it presents indigenous Christian leaders with a wide diversity of skills to be used for the
common good. On the spiritual side, some are evangelists, teachers and prophets; some move in spiritual gifts - discernment, healing etc.
See 1 Corinthians 12.
On the practical side (if the team is older) it would contain skilled people, who are able to provide free expertise and labour. Some could be
builders, plumbers, doctors, nurses and school teachers etc. These people provide first-class help and it may provide a break for others
serving there. See 1 Corinthians 16.
Short-Term mission book: Short-Term Missions, A Christian Guide to STMs by Mathew Backholer.
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