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Are Short-Term Mission Trips Effective?

Church History

In Britain, John Wesley suggested that he would often only stay in one place for a maximum of two weeks, because the people would get bored of him! After he had gone, he left the work to others and later he would re-visit, or send others to preach the Word to them again.

Long-Term Missionaries

Many long-term missionaries support short-term mission teams, as long as they are focused in their objectives and submit to the long-term missionary’s wisdom. In addition, the short-term mission teams get a greater understanding of the long-term work that is being done by missionaries after they leave.

Lessons To Be Learned

The short-term mission movement is still young and there will be many lessons to be learned. Before attempting any mission work, your church should prepare carefully. There is no doubt that many mistakes are made in short-term missions, yet also many mistakes are made in the local church and by long-term missionaries. We should never throw the baby out with the bath water.

Recommended Book: Discipleship For Everyday Living, Christian Growth: Following Jesus Christ and Making Disciples of All Nations Go

Long-Term and Short-Term Missionaries

If we realise that both short-term and long-term work has different objectives, then we understand that both are needed. The world needs more long-term missionaries to reach the unreached - to translate the Bible and to start new churches in new tribes etc. But also, the young indigenous church needs the help of the older established church.

The Greatest Missionary

The greatest missionary ever was Jesus Christ. He gave 33 year years to planet earth, but He only spent around three years in ministry. He travelled much, carrying out short-term mission outreaches. Then He trusted His message to His disciples who kept spreading His word and today, two billion people have responded to His message.

Criticism – A Two-Way Street

Though we must be free to question if our strategies on short-term mission are effective, we must also realise that criticism is a two-way street. We may ask if these ‘new converts’ will ever come back after the outreach? But we could also ask this about our own evangelist outreaches at home. A long-term missionary may ask if these missions are a good financial investment, yet an indigenous pastor may ask if the foreign missionary is a good financial investment – when he works for cheaper and already knows the language and culture. The list could go on.

The Mission

Short-term mission trips can never replace the effective and important work of long-term missionaries. However, we must understand that the challenges of mission in some places in the world in the 21st century are very different from 200 years ago.

Long-term missionaries are still greatly needed around the world, and these servants of the Lord will be coming from Africa, Asia and Latin America etc., as well as from the West.

At the same time we must understand that short-term mission work has emerged in response to the needs of the church today and though we should learn from the mistakes of these missions, we should also realise that God has brought this movement about for the common good – to build His church. See Mark 16:15.

- Paul Backholer

Short-Term Missions, A Christian Guide to STMs Go is a full and concise guide to STMs. What you need to know about planning a STM, or joining a STM team, and considering the options as part of the Great Commission, from the Good News to good works. Go

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