Friday, October 18, 2013

Are There Benefits to Short-term Missions?

Many people I have had conversations with over the last couple of years see little to no value in short-term missions. The majority of the people that I am having those conversations with are those that would be considered long-term missionaries themselves. Just for clarification sake, when I say short-term missions I am referring to a one to two week trip. Mid-term would be anything from one month to one year of service. And long-term would be anything from two years on.

The long-term career missionaries who see little to no value in short-term missions question the importance and validity of such trips. I believe that many of their reservations are valid, having done long-term overseas missions myself; but I believe that my fellow colleagues and other overseas workers are mistaken if they see no value in short-term missions. They are quickly throwing the baby out with the bathwater when they see no value in such trips.

I don't know the exact percentage, but the majority of long-term career missionaries at some point took their first short-term mission trip, which likely led them to a long-term service later. That one aspect alone if nothing else is why I believe in short-term missions. It is a great way for the church to see what God is doing in another part of the world and to mobilize a church or an individual to commit to praying and working in a particular area or with a particular people group to see them reached.

Before my first short-term mission trip I had no desire to leave the US or go on a mission trip. To be completely honest, I had a fear for years that God would call me into some form of long-term missions service in another country. Once I went on my first short-term trip, my eyes were open to a global perspective, which started the journey towards long-term service.

I don't know one long-term missionary that would turn down more offerings for mission work or in some cases their own salary. Another benefit to short-term missions is that it gives the short-termers an idea of the needs, which many times results in more giving to the global cause of missions. In addition to giving, it mobilizes more prayer warriors, which truly is the most important thing that those on the field need in the midst of being on the front line of the battle.

Yes, there are many benefits to short-term mission trips and I ask that you prayerfully consider going on one this year as short-term missionaries will always be needed in the assistance of long-term ones until the task is finished. If you or your church need help getting connected to an area or a long-term missionary to work with feel free to contact me through the speaker request form.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard some of the arguments against short-term missions. Some of these are good observations. Short-termers can sometimes do more harm than good, especially if the trip is not well led or prepared for. It is draining on the people in-country to handle logistics for a team of out-of-towners. The money used can be applied to support more long-termers.

    I'm a perpetual short-termer because the door is not open for me to be a long-termer. Especially, the IMB requirements are pretty rigorous. There are some key benefits that I would like to point out.

    One is that well-led short-term missions often generate stronger Christians who go on them. I think you alluded to that in your own testimony, Matthew. It creates a passion for missions that can lead Christians to give more sacrificially to missions. So it can actually increase funding for long-termers. The "mission bug" as I call it also leads Christians to be more active and creative at home in spreading the gospel. I've seen this personally. That's one of the explicit goals of the Venezuela trip. We continue to take people to Venezuela in part so that people are awakened to the need to spread the gospel at home.

    Second, although it can be taxing on the missionaries and locals to tend to logistics for a short-term group, it is nonetheless often an encouragement to local Christians. I've never gone to a place where the local Christians weren't overjoyed to have us there and confess that it gives them tangible hope for their witness to their communities.

    Third, some short-term missions are necessary to fulfill strategic efforts. We have a long-term couple in a closed closed country. It's difficult for them to reach their target group because the country is closed. They have partnered with another ministry to start a seasonal effort in another country that isn't closed to reach the same people group. Our church coordinates people to come from all over the world for a week or two to reach this particular people group. The people go back home with Bibles and materials. A few years and a couple hundred Bibles later and the accounts of people coming to faith in this people group because of what we are doing are astonishing. We have people on the training field right now to be long-termers and help with all the follow-up that needs to be done. The long-termers can't be up front of the seasonal activity lest they be identified and punished by the closed country they call home.

    Another example: another relatively closed country bans the distribution of Christian literature although they allow limited missionary activity. Short-termers are called in to travel through areas and accidentally leave Bibles and other materials lying around. After these things have been found and shared by the locals, the missionary comes into town and has a base of reference for sharing the gospel without distributing anything himself.

    So short-termers can fulfill strategic purposes as well.