Summer is coming, and many of the COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted. This means that many of us are making plans for short-term missions again. As we think about getting back in gear, what are some ways we can make the most of these opportunities?
POTENTIAL CONCERNS WITH SHORT-TERM MISSIONS
It is no secret that short-term missions have come under criticism by some.
While the individual cost for a mission trip doesn’t seem too high, the total cost for a group could usually fund a missionary or national pastor. This isn’t a reason not to go; however, we should keep this in mind as we evaluate the trip. Are we using God’s resources well?
We all know the temptation to view mission trips as Christian vacation. This feeds one of the more problematic elements of our American culture—being consumers rather than servants.
Our trips should strengthen and advance the work of local partners. However, if we aren’t careful, we can do significant damage if our work comprises doing for people what they could do for themselves. We can stunt the maturity of local churches by doing their work or creating expectations they are unable or unwilling to meet on their own.
Short-term vision for the work
Missionary work is a long-term investment. Jesus’ mandate was to make disciples of all nations. If we aren’t careful, we can think that our short investment in the work can accomplish this goal. We can downplay the learning of a language, cultural adaptation, and partnership. It is important that we remember our short-term trips must be done with a long-term strategy.
OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS
Below are a few ways to overcome these criticisms and make the most of a short-term mission strategy. None of us wants to be one of the poor examples described above. So, what steps can we take to make sure our trips are productive and beneficial?
1. Be choosy.
You can’t correct everyone else’s bad trip, but you don’t have to take part in them. We should not encourage poor planning and behavior. Let’s make sure that our trips include clear missiological planning and strong field partnership.
2. Minister in the short term with a long-term, global mission vision.
Before agreeing to go on a short-term trip, ask, “Does it really fit within the Great Commission?” We want to make sure that the investment of time and resources is designed to move the needle toward making disciples of all nations.
3. Refuse to do for others what they should do for themselves.
In the book When Helping Hurts, the authors differentiate between ministry in a moment of crisis and ministry during the normal seasons of life. In a crisis, people cannot help themselves, and we should step in to do all we can. In the normal seasons, however, we need to work with others. Our presence and work cannot be necessary for ongoing ministry.
4. Handle money with care.
Let local missionaries guide you on the best way to give money to national Christians. The differences in economy and perceived needs are significant and require the attention of someone with local knowledge. Far too many well-meaning Christians have harmed long-term work by handling finances recklessly.
5. Realize the experience may benefit you, but it is not “about” you.
There are few experiences in life that will awaken our hearts to the needs of the world like a mission trip. We experience the lostness of the nations and the depths of God’s grace in unique ways. We will be profoundly changed.
We should, however, never forget that our experiences are not the goal. We travel and share so that those who are far from God can be brought near. It is not about us, but others. Remember, we are working with people loved by God. We are His ambassadors and share His message.
As we look forward and expect a renewed season of short-term missions, let’s make sure we do so with clear focus and a right vision. Good travels, and my God be glorified in all you do!