Since moving to Allendale I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about short-term mission trips. Are they useful, or a waste of resources? What should be their primary focus? How do we know if they are a success?
These questions have come to mind more recently, especially since I’ve been reading Toxic Charity (and an article I linked to in that post), and since we had multiple weeks of groups staying and serving in this community — various families, and different student groups from Grace Church and Community Bible Church (Savannah).
I’m still processing all that I’ve been learning. Here are summaries for two articles that can help me (and you) evaluate the purpose and usefulness of short-term mission trips.
A Better Way Forward
Toward Better Short-Term Missions. The final article in a three-part series, Darren Carlson gives direction for those considering (and doing) short-term trips. Some, like changing the name, are simple (if not slightly awkward). Other principles will require a change in mindset for many. From my advantage point, I especially see the importance of asking the local missionaries and focusing on long-term partnerships with local churches.
Carlson concludes by encouraging us, reminding us that we surely will make mistakes, but God’s grace is bigger than our faults. “There is a tendency in my circles to try and get everything right, to discuss every scenario, to examine every possible pitfall, and in our preparation bring every person through a process that feels like boot camp. But the beauty of gospel ministry is that God is not handcuffed by our foolishness.”
After returning from an 8-day trip to support long-term missionaries in Thailand, Ashley Chestnut writes about God’s Sovereignty and Short-Term Mission Trips. Acknowledging that a week-long trip does not give much time for deep relationships to form, she did see how unique opportunities do arise for discipleship. Just because one person sows and another waters does not mean that one role is any less important; after all, it is all God’s work (I Corinthians 3:6).
Additionally, Chestnut notes that God uses these trips to bring about life change in those who go on them. Experiencing poverty and another culture “changes how we think and how we live both here and there.”
We are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). So, if you have a chance to go on a short-term mission trip with your church body, by all means go!