Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Short-Term Missions

What do you think of the classic "short-term missions trip"? You know the ones: get a team together and do a VBS for a week...or build a house...or do outreach concerts. It's generally 2-weeks of chaos, excitement, and morning devotions.

I heard it said once that a short term trip should focus on the encouragement of the long-term missionaries and church staff. It should be a way to build up the believers that will still be there after the team leaves. Short-term trips should leave the body of believers feeling encouraged and built-up, not run-down, exhausted, and left with loads of mess to clean up after they say goodbye to you.

I read this article and wanted to share it. As I don't want it to be a public tar-and-feathering of Short Term Missions (because that's not its intention), I thought I would post it here and see what you all thought?

Why You Should Consider Cancelling Your Short Term Mission Trips (this is just one article in a series you can find through clicking on the link)

Don't worry, the title is meant to have shock value. To give you my summary on the article: the author shares why our idea of short-term trip is doing more harm than good. There is a place for short-term missions in the church, but it might not be what we think it is. Helping better someones life, bring about long-term relief, and a higher standard of living takes a lot longer than two weeks, a bag of new clothes, and free child-care.

The quote that stood out to me was:
We 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.

I have seen short-term ministry done very well...and very poorly. And that's just in the book of Acts! (Compare the simplicity of Acts 11:19-26 to the vastly different Acts 14:8-18). I'd like to know your thoughts, too. Remember, this is a discussion, there are no wrong answers when said out of love. =)

1 comment:

A Walk of Trust said...

Hi Erika,
I have been a part of short term teams and long term teams for more years than I have fingers and toes. Not long ago the Christian Group I work with now responded to the Haiti earth quake. There was no shortage of teams flying through there. The long term staff shortly felt warm out and truthfully began to resent the short term teams. As a result there was a corporate debate going on as to wether or not we should continue those teams.
Before working with this group the group I worked with before them was solely powered by short term teams. One after another after another...
The whole argument in my mind is establishing of purpose. And here is where I think is the most confusion.
We send out our teams to fix things. Forgetting with experience are in the fields they have been called to. So the Church back home sends the Babes in the faith. The most starry eyed, naive, inexperienced, good hearted folks you could ever want to meet.
If the propose is to impact the world for two weeks and hope to change the lives of desperate hurting people in that time frame, then we are out of touch with reality.
If the propose is to send hordes of untrained, or unmanaged people into an emergency environment, and change them out every two weeks, then here too we have lost our senses.
The first group that I worked for need those teams to get our work done. We learned that we had to manage and train each team. We had to guid their every step. Teach them the rules of behavior. And give them clear understanding and control their movements. Like children taken into the White House; there is pre instructions and training, and there is supervision during, and there is post follow up.
With out this there is Chaos. With control there is harmony, comfort for the short termer, and productivity.
But I believe that even with the goal of productivity this is not the Bottom line Purpose.
The argument I made to the group in Haiti was this, ou keep the short term teams, but we need to stop being foolish and we need to have a team that is designated to the training, leading, and guiding every step of these groups so that they learn, feel productive, and benefit the programs and the people we are working with. If not it is our fault.
Also we need to stop seeing this use of short term teams as the way to fix our needs. We should in stead look at having teams as our ministry to the Church in America (or where ever). And as an opportunity to awaken the next generation of missionaries.
The short term mission awakens the hearts of the short termer to the work of the gospel to change lives. They bring this home with them and become more active in the church.
Short term missions has awakened many to hearing the call of God to leave home and go full time to missions..
But again if the team is a greater hindrance than a help it is more the fault of those that sent the team and those that should have been leading and guiding the team to so enable them to be a help and a blessing.
God gave us the ability to think and reason, to plan, and to be able to be a blessing.
Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let's plan in humility, with hearts and minds to love and bless. And let's be wise and let's be real about what our purpose is.