I love the SBC because thousands of churches pool our resources to do more Great Commission ministry together than we can do apart. However, I’m also thankful so many churches recognize that the Great Commission is more than writing a check, sitting on the sidelines, and watching other people do mission work. These churches engage in several short-term mission trips throughout each year.
I love short-term trips. For one thing, they changed my view of missions and gave me a heart for the nations. However, I’ve come to learn over 15 years of doing short-term trips that some trips can be very detrimental to the Great Commission.
For that reason and for the edification of churches that seek to engage in the Great Commission, I offer this four-part series on the effectiveness of short-term mission trips.
These insights are not mine, but rather have been given to me by full-time missionaries on the field who want to be a help to the churches.
10 Instances When Short-Term Trips are Unhelpful to the Great Commission: Part 1 Short-term trips are unhelpful…
- When the curse of the “Ugly American” rears its head
Many around the world view Americans as loud, arrogant, demeaning and thoughtless. Add to that the reality that in the last decade various social and political reasons have made the world a less friendly place to Americans. For this reason, great caution needs to be observed when an American goes abroad for the cause of Christ, so that the short-term workers do not become obstacles to the gospel.
- When the short-term team thinks “we’re the experts here”
Too many churches think they’re the experts in missions simply because they’ve experienced church growth at home. They come to the field with their plans for how to do ministry and are very inflexible. A missionary would never go to your office and tell you how to conduct your business. Why would you do that to a long-term missionary? Instead, be humble, supportive, flexible, and always defer to the counsel of the long-term missionary.
- When you simply do “Christian tourism”
Short-term trips are not for tourists. If you’re looking for an opportunity to take some cool selfies, or have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, then take a vacation. The effectiveness of short-term trips is greatly reduced by misplaced priorities among members of the short-term team.
- When you wear out the full-time missionary
The field worker spends an incredible amount of time preparing for the arrival and ministry of the short-term team. The missionary can become burned out on hosting short-term teams if the team is ungrateful, inflexible, unfocused, or in any other way detract from the overall mission. Be grateful, appreciative and encouraging to the host.
- When you don’t understand how to use money
Short-term workers can be indiscriminate when handing out money to those they meet in country. Though done with good intentions, often trying to help by giving money actually hurts the progress of Great Commission efforts. Instead of people becoming transformed by the gospel they become dependent upon outside sources of financial resources. If you feel God calling you to help a specific group or ministry, ask the missionary how best to help. Plus, some of the happiest people on the planet live in conditions that don’t come close to our standard of living (which teaches us something about the necessity of our standard).
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Instances When Short-Term Trips are Unhelpful.