4 Reasons Everyone Should Consider Taking a Short-Term Mission Trip

As we approach the summer months, many churches begin to look at opportunities to serve the least of these through short-term mission trips either domestically to impoverished areas in our own country or internationally to third world countries.

I have read a number of articles and blogs criticizing short-term mission trips, some even calling them a waste of time and resources.

I would like to suggest four reasons why I think short-term mission trips are not a waste of time and resources, and why everyone should consider participating in one.

1. Short-term mission trips help develop a heart for service

One year I took a group from our church on a week long mission trip to Kentucky to work with the Red Bird Missionary Conference and the people who live in poverty in that region. One family participated and they told me that they were choosing to take one of the two weeks that they had for summer vacation to participate in the trip. By choosing to serve the people of Appalachia for a week instead of snorkeling in Jamaica, this family made a personal choice to value service over and above comfort and convenience. Short-term trips help create a heart for service in those who participate. Statistically, those who participate in short-term mission trips are much more likely to be involved in local mission projects and service oriented activities on a regular basis than those who have never participated in a short-term mission project. A short-term mission trip is designed specifically to help nurture a heart of service in participants. I have never returned from a short-term trip without a renewed desire to serve those in need on a more regular basis.

2. Short-term mission trips can provide opportunities for participants to bring about genuine change in impoverished communities.

When we go to serve others, we go not as those sent to rescue or save, but as those sent to empower and and equip, most often resulting in a new found sense of dignity among the residents . Utilizing effective community and economic development practices, short-term mission teams have the ability to empower local residents by coming alongside of them, listening to them, working with them, and encouraging them to become self-sufficient. By empowering the people we are sent to serve we are easily able to identify indigenous leadership and guide them towards the establishment of new businesses and organizations in their communities. In this way, short-term mission teams are not doing for others what they could be doing for themselves, but walking alongside of the residents and helping them see the potential that already exists among them. 

3. Short-term mission trips foster healthy relationships among those who participate.

We are more connected than ever before (through the wonder that is the Internet) and yet we are lonelier than ever before. Many of us long for a sense of genuine community and meaningful relationships. After all we were not created to be alone. From a purely selfish perspective, a short-term mission trip can help us find what we are looking for. Oftentimes, traveling, eating, sleeping and working alongside others for an extended period of time demands that we get to know each other. When this is done in the context of a shared mission, life long friendship are often forged. While we are trained to see ourselves as selfless servants (which we should strive to be), I also think that we should cherish the opportunity to bond with our fellow missionaries and expect to develop new friendships through the process.

4. Short-term mission trips change our perspective on poverty

We see the face of a starving child on a TV commercial or on the World Vision card that we were handed at the conference, but it has no real impact on us. We see the homeless man on the street and walk past trying not to think too hard about his situation or what God might want us to do. But then we decide to go on a short-term mission trip and we see poverty up close and personal. Poverty has a name, and a face. We walk through the neighborhood and see the kinds of homes that people live in, if they can even be called homes. We see the river that runs alongside the village that functions as a washing machine, a dish washer, a bathtub and a toilet simultaneously. Livestock roam the streets. There is no electricity, no running water, no Internet, limited refrigeration, no air conditioning. Short-term mission trips enable participants to really see, smell, feel and hear poverty. It is most often a deeply moving and life changing experience for short -term missionaries; an experience that I think everyone should have at least once in their lives.

So, check your church bulletin this week to see if there is a mission trip being offered this summer, and if there is, go ahead and sign up. If there isn't one, ask your pastor of Mission representative if one is being planned. There are also national organizations like United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) that offer short-term trips on a regular basis.

I believe there is great value in participating in a short-term mission trip, and I hope you will consider participating in one.


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