Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Should You Cancel Your Short-Term Missions Trip?

Guest Post by Josh Montague

Our little church wants to be involved in global missions. A biblical worldview includes involvement in the world. Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."

So we could take the popular short-term missions trip route, travel to Haiti or the Philippines or Mexico, dig a ditch, pound some nails, paint a church, put on a Vacation Bible School, and feel good about obeying the Great Commission.

But have we really been helpful?

Let's ignore the fact that we Westerners need to stop using the word "Vacation" in our short-term missions project. It's pretty ridiculous (and likely offensive) to ask a Haitian family living on $2 a day to think of a vacation. It's often the "missionaries" who are on vacation. But that's for another rant.

Darren Carlson of Training Leaders International writes on the Gospel Coalition blog that "We [speaking of Western churches, not TLI] want to get things done quickly. We prefer microwave ministry to the slow cooker. Ministry that can be done quickly is not messy and does not cost much." And I would add, it's initially satisfying and scratches our global missions itch. We can check that one off the "Ministry To Do List" of our local church's objective list rather than seeing it as a biblically-sanctioned, Jesus-commissioned, central and pivotal piece of our God-given mission.

So what's the answer? Darren's answer will be posted on the Gospel Coalition blog soon [I'll link to it when it is], but church leaders, missions teams, donors, and those with a heart for the nations should spend some serious time contemplating his article. Reading his suggested books Toxic Charity, Dead Aid, and When Helping Hurts would be helpful as well.

Our church has chosen to be involved with Churches Helping Churches, a great organization that responds to the short-term emergency relief needs of churches and is rebuilding many earthquake-destroyed church facilities in Haiti, while also working toward building long-term relationships between churches. Our connection with a Haitian church in Port-au-Prince is slowly growing. It's not microwave ministry and has included frustrating moments of poor communication and misunderstood intentions, but the long-term impact is exciting as we seek to do more than repaint a building every summer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One thing short-term trips can do is help identify how people respond in a cross-cultural context, revealing who may be candidates for career missionary work.