I want to make a case for short term mission trips as part of an overall missions strategy. This comes out of 10 years experience on staff at a medium sized church where we developed an intentional short term mission strategy for the specific purposes I’ll share below.
There have been plenty of blogs, articles and speakers who have derided the “short term mission trip” over the past few years. Some have given good reasons, some have not. Certainly, every church leader and every mission team along with the missionary on the field must examine the situation and context to determine the value and benefit of a short term mission trip on both those who go and those who receive the team.
Many churches have given little thought to their mission strategy. They give small amounts of money to any number of people who they don’t know or have little real relationship. They send teams to places that sound cool, where there is a perceived need or someone knows someone rather than really thinking through what they hope to accomplish.
First, let me share with you a few non negotiables that I believe should be present when choosing a partner for your short term mission trip.
– Look for a place where your team will get to share the Gospel. Building, digging, painting, cleaning all have their time and place, but if you want to produce the fruit I mentioned above, you must plant the right kind of seeds. Look for a place where you can talk about your faith with people who have never heard the Gospel before.
– Work with someone who can help you learn how to cross cultures. A short term mission trip should give your team an opportunity to The Bible says we are to be in the world, but not of it. Going on a mission trip gives you a chance to reset and then re-enter your home culture with a new perspective. We will help you with this process.
– Work with someone who knows how to talk about Jesus, the Bible and spiritual concepts in an easy, engaging and culturally relevant way.
You need to ask and answer this question among others:
What type of fruit are you trying to produce?
Hopefully, this brief article will help you, your pastoral team and your missions committee think clearly and Biblically about a mission strategy that your whole church can embrace and support which will result in a God exalting mission strategy with real fruit rather than a shotgun or haphazard approach to missions that is interest or people driven rather than founded in the real bedrock of God’s plan for reaching the nations.
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Once you select a missionary to work with, a place where the Gospel needs to be advanced and where you can partner to make a difference – and I’m making an assumption that work is Gospel-centered (sharing the Gospel at its core and essence), then I believe you will begin to produce this kind of fruit.
– Gospel fruit – If you go, your prayer and hope should be that God will call people to Christ in saving faith. Every mission trip hopefully will ultimately result in people coming to faith. So a mission trip ought to have some type of preparing the soil, planting the seed, watering the seed or reaping a harvest component. Hopefully all of the above. However, in some places or circumstances, it might just be one or two.
– Evangelistic fruit – Mission trips ought to ignite the evangelistic zeal of every person who goes. The team should prepare beforehand and the missionary should train and enable the attendees to share their faith in the local context and give them tools to take it back home so that zeal is uncontainable when they return back to their own place of ministry.
– Ministry fruit – A long term mission strategy will ultimately result in people living sacrificially for the Gospel, and/or giving their lives up to serve Christ either at home or abroad.
– Sacrificial fruit – As people give and see the three types of fruit above produced more and more, they and others should and will be encouraged and inspired to sacrifice their personal resources, especially financially so that the Gospel is taken to the ends of the earth.
In addition, engaging in an intentional mission trip can and will energize your home church. A great mission partner will teach you how to share your stories so that people back home can share in the excitement and rejoice with you.