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Why Short-term Missions?

By Loren HorstLoren Horst

We are in the midst of another summer, the typical peak season for short-term missions (STM). With the dollars reportedly spent by Americans on STMs now exceeding those spent on longer-term missions and with some congregations and families experiencing financial strain from the repeated requests to fund a two-week service trip halfway around the world, some are wondering whether it is worth it. Should we declare a moratorium on STMs?

Through many years of experience VMMissions’ Partners program has developed guidelines that make STMs better. Among them:

    • We encourage congregations to include STMs and service opportunities for their members, preferably beginning with experiences close to home. A congregation may even be well advised to make a local STM experience a prerequisite before an overseas experience.
    • We are guests when working in other communities. All STM experiences should work by invitation from the appropriate host church or organization.
    • Particularly when planning overseas mission or service opportunities we strongly discourage groups and congregations from “going it alone.” There are a number of agencies that specialize in STMs. Partners in Mission is one such program.
    • Normally a successful STM experience requires a significant time in planning and preparation. We suggest a minimum of six months lead time before any STM experience.
    • STM experiences can provide excellent opportunities for growing in discipleship and global awareness. Intentional planning should be given to preparation before hand and then reflection upon the experience.
    • STMs can build transformative relationships between members of the sending community and the host community. Intentional time for interacting with and learning from the host community should be built into the STM experience.
    • STMs are less effective and more problematic as a way of delivering a service. This is ironic since this is usually the presenting reason for going on a mission trip. We go to do something. Leaders and participants however should keep in mind that their efforts should promote local resources and sustainable solutions, reduce dependencies, and strengthen the local church and community.
    • STMs may fundamentally alter the life of participants in powerful and positive ways. This is more true of participants than hosts. Accordingly VMMissions understands that the value of STMs accrues disproportionately to the ones who go rather than the ones who receive.

At their best STMs provide a deeply transformative experience to participants, builds positive relationships with people in another community and culture, and in the process may provide some helpful service.

If you or your congregation are thinking of a short term mission experience, get in touch with us at VMMissions so we can help you turn a good idea into an excellent experience. Along the way we might also help you avoid the kind of mistakes that have sometimes given short-term missions a bad name.