Short-term missions is a popular way for churches around the world to get their congregations involved in overseas missions projects without requiring a long-term commitment. There are many personal benefits to serving on mission for a short period of time. Teams go overseas for a couple of weeks to serve in a variety of ways. These can include construction projects, Vacation Bible Schools, pastors conferences, and medical camps. Short-term missions might be individuals going overseas for a few months or larger group teams that serve for a shorter amount of time. Teams embark on these trips with honorable intentions, seeking to better the Church in the developing nations of the Global South. They seek partnerships, relationships with locals, and ultimately, the growth of the Church.
While at first glance, short-term missions seems full of benefits, the wrong trip with the wrong people can perhaps do more harm than good. Therefore, there has been some controversy in Church and missions circles regarding these types of trips calling for a review and some considered thought before developing a short-term missions strategy from any Global North church.
In this four-part series, we will evaluate both the benefits and the pitfalls of short-term missions. In the hopes of generating discussion and perhaps some conclusions about the value of short-term missions, we as church leaders must seek to glorify God with our efforts and expand His Kingdom.
Part I will look at the personal benefits for the individual team members who participate in short-term missions work. Short-term experiences can be a strong catalyst for holistic development, creating growth in the lives of individual participants. Here are four benefits for individuals on short-term trips.
1) Test-Driving Missions Experience
For those interested in pursuing full-time Christian work overseas, short-term missions gives individuals a chance try the experience with minimal commitment. These short-term experiences can be a crucial and effective refining process to find people who will be a good ministry and personal fit for overseas work. It can be a time of setting goals and objectives for future work, as well as good cultural and ministry preparation. This “test-drive” experience can also cull those not right without the ramifications of committing full-time.
Short-term trips can also be great for those who’ve never been on the mission field before, especially teens and young adults. It gives them the opportunity to experience mission work and discover the best place for them serve the Kingdom. Whether the trip lasts a week, a month, or a summer, short-term trips are great for helping people figure out where they fit into the Body of Christ without making long-term commitments.
2) Hands-On and Expanded Global Perspective
The opportunity to serve overseas for even a short amount of time can expand participants’ views of the world. They learn about new cultures and new ways of doing ministry. Participants return from the trip with eyes opened to the poverty and oppression present in parts of the Global South. They can move forward in their own home lives with a renewed sense of purpose. This awareness impacts their giving and their ministry in new ways.
3) Opportunity to Actively Participate in God’s Global Work
Ministry experience in their own home culture is generally considered an essential pre-requisite to overseas experiences. But sometimes people who are not as involved at their church find short-term missions trips to be where they thrive. Alternately, those who are heavily involved in ministry at home want to expand their involvement in God’s work. Many times, they find short-term trips a perfect avenue to go deeper in their work for God’s Kingdom. No matter the at-home experience, a short-term experience offers an expanded view of all that God is doing.
4) Partnership Development
Churches in the Global North seek to encourage and equip churches and ministries in other parts of the world. A short-term missions trip can be a great way to build relationships and deepen partnerships with churches and para-church organizations. Being with Global South partners in their own culture is an effective way to learn more about the ministry. This can be essential in developing goals and objectives for future short-term involvement and the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
As ministry leaders, it is our responsibility to find ways for our congregants to serve the Body of Christ. Short-term missions is an easy way to help your members experience the mission field and participate in God’s work. Get your members involved with short-term missions!