Below is the second installment of Instances When Short-Term Trips are Unhelpful. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.
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.
We offer this four-part series on the effectiveness of short-term mission trips for the edification of churches that seek to engage in the Great Commission
10 Instances When Short-Term Trips are Unhelpful to the Great Commission: Part 2 Short-term trips are unhelpful…
6. When you’re more at home than on the field
It is a real problem when teams spend more time tethered to the USA through social media than engaged with the people they came to serve. Some people fly halfway around the world but rarely put their iPhones down and engage with the people in need of the gospel right in front of them. Instead, set some ground rules for the use of technology so you can keep your attention on the field.
7. When you are “one and done”
It can be discouraging for a worker and detrimental to the Great Commission for teams to do “one-off” trips. It causes disillusionment and bitterness for a worker to plan a trip, share their passion with the team, hope for a great partnership, and never hear from the group again. In response, some field workers have no desire to work with volunteer groups, which hurts the Great Commission on many levels (funding, prayer, partnership, growing desire for God’s global glory, encouragement, etc.). Sure, churches can be led to focus elsewhere, but they need to prayerfully communicate that. Though one-off trips may feel helpful,they really don’t make the impact that a long-term commitment to one place can have.
8. When you say by your actions “see you next year”
A true partnership between church and missionary, and a true relationship between a believer and a national, is compromised of so much more than a two-week trip each year. Not communicating with the missionary and failing to keep promises of staying in touch with nationals can be a great detriment. A trip is only part of the responsibility of a partner church. Throughout the year, you need to pray for the unreached peoples, pray for the workers, read and respond to newsletters, find ways to engage your people group stateside, give sacrificially, ask God if He would have you go long-term, and contact nationals by email or Facebook. This is what a true partnership and relationship looks like. A trip alone won’t have an impact for the kingdom.
9. When the trip is done to “absolve my guilt”
Some people use short-term trips to “check-a-box” for the year to show that they are a hard-core Christian, or to absolve any guilt they feel for not being about God’s global glory the rest of the year. A trip is not helpful when it is used to absolve any guilt or side step the fact that God may be calling you to full-time work overseas among unreached peoples. To use a trip for these reasons is detrimental for the individual and the Great Commission.
10. When you feel like you have to “do something”
Trips are harmful when they are driven by a desire to have a good slideshow so folks back home can see how much good the team did. I’ve met workers who feel pressure to make sure teams feel like they “did” something out of fear that funding will dry up. “We built this church” (that no one uses because it is too hot to meet inside). “We did a VBS” (just like the team that was there the week before). “We gave out lots of stuff” (which meant that the worker was expected to provide those things for the community all the time). There are times these things might be helpful, but often they waste time and resources that could have been spent aiding the long-term strategy of the missionary’s gospel work. The slideshow might not be as exciting, but the kingdom impact will be.
Stay tuned for Parts 1 and 2 of Instances When Short-Term Trips are Helpful.