Mathew Backholer,  Missions

Are Short Term Mission Trips Effective?

A minority of Christians claim that short-term missions (STMs) are a waste of finances. There are many and varied reasons why some hold to this point of view, but can we quantify a price for a soul? We should be wise and good stewards of our resources and if we are only focussing on development aid then it is understandable why the argument, “waste of finances” is heard from some quarters. 

For the redemption of their souls is costly…

– Psalm 49:8

Some would say that money spent on STMs takes essential resources away from traditional mission organisations or diverts funds away from a missionary who was sent out by their local church. This is not true as new money is released and not diverted from other causes. In reality, new funds are created to finance those who go on a STM which otherwise would have been spent on other things: a car, a holiday/vacation, new TV or smartphone etc. and without the STM, would never have filtered into the mission field. 

Nobody is concerned when a family from church flies off to another continent on a two-week holiday, but believers can seem resistant to release money to help an individual church member or a church team go on a STM. The holiday of mum, dad and two children over eight years of age would have cost thousands. Is it reasonable to say STMs are a waste of finances when they are of Kingdom value? Do you say the same about a family holiday? 

My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. …Look at the fields, for they are already white unto harvest. And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that he who reaps may rejoice together. For this saying is true, ‘One sows another reaps

– John 4:34-37

There are some Christians who say that the finances used for a STM could be better stewarded to produce a greater harvest in other areas. That may be so, but has your church used that same amount of money and produced a harvest or is it just an untested theory? Perhaps we should look at how much is expended on flowers per week to adorn the sanctuary of God. An Indian pastor informed me that X amount could finance three indigenous workers in India for a year. It was the same sum a small church spent on flowers for the year, or for many British citizens, around two hour’s wage each week! How many souls are saved within your church building per annum and stay true to the faith within a year? How much did the evangelistic campaign cost (how many months of preparation were involved) and what fruit was born – if any? 

A STM is not about statistics, but it is a life-changing experience and an investment into the Kingdom of God. STMs can lead to long-term fruit in the person who has gone – praying for missions, financially supporting and mission mobilizing – encouraging others and raising awareness. Go ye (Mark 16:15), give ye (Luke 9:13), pray ye (Matthew 9:38) and ideally do all three, in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8), for the glory of God and the exultation of Jesus Christ. Serve Him, obey Him and abide in Him (John 15:1-11). Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

There is enough disposable income within Christian wallets, bank accounts, investments and property to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth; it just needs to be distributed correctly, instead of being spent on pleasures and self. We ‘must support the weak’ remembering Jesus’ words, “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need

– Ephesians 4:28

Where can you go and be effective – where is the harvest? Jesus said we should pray for more labourers to be sent out into the harvest and that the fields are white unto harvest (Matthew 9:37-38 and John 4:35-38). What time commitment are you able to give for your mission? Two weeks, a month, three months, six months or a year or two?  

It is unreasonable to consider a lengthy STM if you expect your small church to finance the trip entirely, especially when the pastor or evangelist does not receive a wage. You should use your savings. Those who spend more of their own money will generally give more of themselves and not quit if the going gets tough. However, the call of God, His timing and faith should determine your venture and not your bank balance, He pays His own invoices – when He calls you to go and the timing is correct. Where He guides He provides!

Used with permission from How to Plan, Prepare and Successfully Complete Your Short-Term Mission by Mathew Backholer. Find out more about Mathew’s books here.