20 Feb Why Do Short-Term Missions?
Thinking about joining a short-term mission team this summer? The pros and cons of such trips have been debated over the years. And while short-term missions will never become a perfected model for missions, we believe that they can be done well and that they can have an eternal impact as we seek to make disciples alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
This blog was originally posted in October 2014.
Short-term teams have received a lot of criticism over the past few years. There are many who question this model of coming and going. And these concerns are well-founded. Far too often, mission trip teams from the U.S. travel to a poor, developing country, spread some good cheer (and probably some candy), and leave leave little behind when they are gone. There are no local leadership structures to support programs that the short-term team has hosted, and the team has invested little of their time into actually equipping those who have been left behind.
With all this negativity, we cannot help but ask, “Why keep sending teams?”
Fortunately, all short-term mission trips are not created equal. There is a better way. The church in the U.S. can still continue to send teams to their brothers and sisters overseas. However, there are a few things that we must consider.
Short-term teams must have long-term goals. Building a church building, hosting a VBS, and running a medical clinic are all realistic purposes for a short-term team. But let us not get so caught up in our own short-term goals that we miss the bigger picture. We must approach and leave a mission trip knowing that we are entering into someone else’s everyday reality for only one week. We must ask ourselves: What will be different when we leave? Is there local leadership in place to support this after we are gone? How can we help to equip local leadership for long-term success? You see, we must be able to look past our short-term perspective and to consider not only the week but also the years to come.
Short-term teams must have long-term goals.
To enter into the daily reality of another requires both humility and commitment. We must come willing to acknowledge our lack of knowledge. When we minister cross-culturally, there is a limit to how much we can understand. When short-term teams partner with the local church and come alongside the vision of local leadership, the work accomplished in a week has a better chance of being sustained. We cannot approach overseas partners with our own agenda. Because their perspective into their culture is more insightful than ours, we must be willing to own their cause.
As we come alongside local leadership and lend strength to their programs and goals, we come as partners in the Gospel. Even as we unite for this same goal- the advance of the Gospel for the glory of God- we must also recognize that the methods to do this will be different within different contexts. Therefore, we come willing to lay down our we-know-best attitudes and to become humble learners instead.
When short-term teams partner with the local church and come alongside the vision of local leadership, the work accomplished in a week has a better chance of being sustained.
Teams sent from Grace Church are one aspect of much bigger partnerships.Teams come in support of the long-term goals of local leadership. They are willing to work hard in order to support our sister churches both in Kenya and Nicaragua. When we are a part of a short-term team, we must be willing to die to ourselves and to some of our cultural preferences. The impact our teams leave, Lord willing, is a positive example of partnership and support.
Once a team is back home, local leadership continues to carry out their ministry. Pastors connect with many in their community because of the four day medical camps teams help to run. The churches that have hosted medical camps over the past few years are growing, and their communities have seen that these churches care not only about their spiritual futures but also about their physical struggles now. For the local church to be empowered and encouraged in their daily ministry means that these trips have a purpose that lasts beyond each teams’ time in-country.
“And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:15 NLT)
Megan is spending her 20’s doing as much travel as her job at Grace Church will allow. She is incapable of letting a day go by without a physical challenge, is terrified of being stuck in an airport without a good book, and holds a particular bitterness towards hikes that don’t lead to waterfalls. Megan attends our Downtown campus.