There is a lot of hate towards short term missions. There seems to be a ton of resources spent to help make people’s facebook and instagram pics look good. I understand the complaints, as there is a ton or waste, misconceptions, and people who are a bit delusional as to how effective some things are.
I want to make one thing clear though, ‘I will not stop doing short term mission trips’. I one hundred percent believe short term mission trips should be part of every church’s discipleship process.
Just to give a bit of perspective, I have seen short term mission trips from two perspectives. I have helped to lead over fifty short term mission trips in Canada and overseas. Over the past ten years we have also hosted over sixty short term mission teams that have worked with our church starting ministry. I have personally seen the best and the worst when it comes to short term teams.
Here is one reason why you should be encouraging good short term mission trips, one that is rarely mentioned, ‘They help to build longterm faith.’
Recently, there was a Canada wide study done examining why youth who grow up in the church stay connected to faith, or leave. One surprising finding was that over 50% of all Christian young adults said that their faith grew the most, or became the most alive, as a direct result of going on a short term mission trip.
Obviously, not everyone who takes part in a short term mission trip has this experience. However, to downplay what has happened in the lives of millions of people is just wrong. Just to very clear, according to our own youth and young adults, STM’s have led to more positive change in their lives, than almost everything else we do. If those leading teams can understand this important result of short term missions they can even become more effective for those going. It starts with us being honest, and not delusional, about the real effects of short term mission trips.
Here’s a few thoughts on how to make them even more effective.
(a) Find a missionary, or mission site, that you can go and serve in ‘their mission.‘ This means you need to go somewhere that is on a mission. When you serve a place on a mission, you are then coming along side an existing ministry already engaged in reaching a community. It is not a waste, you are then pushing that ministry ahead, right where they are. As a mission team host I love teams who come to serve. When a team serves it give the host the opportunity to do ministry that they normally do, and can follow up way more effectively.
(b) Have a plan. If you know that the trip you are planning could lead to the greatest spiritual growth period of your team, what will you do? Put a plan together that starts before you leave, during the trip, and when you get home. Do not think of your short term mission trip as a one week experience, instead plan a journey for all those going.
(c) Have Fun. This is your opportunity to get to know everyone on your team on a whole new level. Your trip is your chance to build relationships that will outlast the few days you are together. Do not neglect the time laughing, eating, talking, and doing site seeing. Use this time to invite people into your life so you will have even more opportunity to speak into their lives later.
(d) It is an invitation to discipleship. Not a discipleship course, but rather an opportunity for a few days and weeks to walk / talk / and minister in a similar manner as Jesus and His disciples did. The setting and context may be different but Jesus invite young people (the disciples) into ministry. STM’s are our opportunity to do the same. By having a plan you can ensure that invitation exists when you get home.
One of the biggest reasons young people say they leave the church is because they have never been given meaningful ministry to do. Make this your chance to invite them into the mission Jesus has called them to. By having a follow up plan you can ensure that invitation exists when you get home.
Now go get planning your trip.