I’ve been instructed I’m the man who hates short-term missions.
Seven years in the past I wrote a sequence of articles on short-term missions, however one particularly struck a chord: “Why You Ought to Take into account Canceling Your Brief-Time period Mission Journeys.” I sought to slay one of many golden calves of American evangelicalism, and fairly a number of of us weren’t completely happy about it.
Do I nonetheless imagine it, seven years later? Sure—however 10,000 instances extra strongly. I’ve seen, skilled, and hosted journeys, and I’ve watched the reporting again dwelling (and never simply from American groups) within the native church. If I had the ability, I’d wipe out the vast majority of short-term mission journeys with the wave of my hand.
What’s my rationale for this daring competition? A number of issues.
Analysis on the Mercy of Testimonies?
Our tradition primarily communicates in photographs and tales. When many Individuals see one thing unhappy, our response is, What can I do? That is honorable. We see footage of malnourished kids or orphanages that want restore or refugees that need assistance. So we go, and the tales appear to return to life.
We additionally hear tales from individuals who have gone on such journeys. They report a renewed love for Jesus, a brand new ardour for missions, even a name to long-term service. The impression appears monumental.
However it’s not.
- They don’t change members’ lives.
- They don’t trigger extra individuals to decide to long-term missions.
- They typically hurt each native economies and orphans.
However right here’s the issue: analysis hardly ever trumps the anecdotes that members recount after their cross-cultural experiences. With an outsider’s view of complicated cultural dynamics, we’re left evaluating short-term cross-cultural experiences primarily based on felt wants and private testimonies. It’s like a pastor evaluating his sermon primarily based on how he felt about it.
However Gained’t We Ship Fewer Missionaries?
One defective assumption that usually drives short-term missions is that individuals make long-term commitments as results of brief journeys. I’ve heard this anecdotally recounted in my associates’ lives. That is how we frequently recruit individuals, but it surely’s a poor strategy to mobilizing missionaries. Statistics present that whereas short-term missions have exploded, the variety of full-time missionaries has remained the identical and even decreased.
Maybe we should always not less than pump the breaks on our assumptions that short-term journeys are wanted to recruit missionaries. Let’s say 500 go on short-term journeys and, out of them, one commits to a long-term calling. Is gaining one missionary value the price of sending that many on brief journeys?
There’s a comparable argument that claims happening a short-term journey will instill in members a lifelong curiosity in missions—even when they don’t go long-term, they’ll be extra more likely to help those that do. However once more, regardless of the explosion in short-term missions, giving to missionaries has not elevated.
Our presuppositions appear to be flawed.
Think about you’re a missionary. You’ve spent years getting educated. You’ve raised cash and requested lots of of associates for help in awkward face-to-face conferences. You progress abroad after which spend two years studying the language. It’s onerous work, however you and your partner change into conversational, and your children are approach forward of you.
Then your home-church community, an outside-church community, and a parachurch ministry name in succession. They need to ship short-term journeys to your location. They’re enthusiastic about your ministry, so they begin sending groups—one monthly. Swiftly your job is to facilitate journeys and function a translator for keen school college students. The roles of discipler and evangelist are out; tour information is in. The strain to play host is big. You don’t need to be a lone ranger. You don’t need to snuff out the eagerness of earnest individuals boarding a airplane.
This state of affairs is the expertise of quite a few abroad missionaries.
Right here’s one other state of affairs I’ve typically seen. A church struggling to help a talented and educated long-term missionary for $200 a month received’t query elevating $40,000 to ship many untrained staff for per week. Church buildings are much less more likely to help a long-term missionary than to ship a gaggle of teenagers to color a home or placed on a VBS in a rustic the place they don’t communicate the language.
American church buildings typically ship untrained people from among the many financially privileged on short-term journeys as a way of discipleship. In doing do, we swamp long-term staff with individuals who have versatile schedules and keen hearts, however not plenty of talent.
Many missionaries want they might inform you a similar factor, however they’d lose help from church buildings in the event that they publicly expressed this view.
Are All Brief Journeys Dangerous?
So are all short-term journeys dangerous? Completely not. In one other article, I’ve provided some methods ahead. Having served for a decade because the chief of a missions company that takes short-term journeys, I supply eight transient methods to make them extra fruitful.
1. Take short-term journeys to satisfy disaster wants. Some wants, reminiscent of pure disasters or an inflow of displaced individuals, long-term staff can’t deal with alone. Ship educated staff who will assist, not hinder, their efforts. When you don’t ship educated of us, you could possibly create a second catastrophe.
2. Spend money on long-term staff first. When you’re a smaller church with a missions price range of $12,000 and also you ship a short-term group for $40,000, you’ve got issues backward.
3. When you’re enthusiastic about poverty alleviation, learn the whole lot by Brian Fikkert. Then make your plans.
4. When you’re constructing something with out native participation, then in virtually each state of affairs, get out. The factor you’re constructing will probably by no means be used or can be torn down. Almost certainly it’s a challenge created to present short-term groups one thing to do.
5. Take into account sending smaller teams of the church’s most skilled, godly, and expert members. Among the handiest journeys are elders and their wives going to encourage missionaries.
6. When you’re sending teenagers and school college students, ship smaller numbers to work with a veteran missionary who desires to disciple them. The important thing phrase for the younger short-termers shouldn’t be impression, however reasonably be taught.
7. When you’re visiting an orphanage to carry infants and play with children, there are in all probability higher methods to assist them. The short-term group could also be harming the youngsters’s growth. As an alternative, increase cash to rent long-term workers or spend money on community-development tasks so that oldsters can be much less more likely to place children in orphanages.
8. When you’re working exterior the sphere of people that can be there long-term, particularly nationwide leaders, your impression can be minimal. Or it could possibly be nonexistent, if not downright dangerous.
With the monetary sources to make it occur, American church buildings ship out excited believers who want to obey Christ. That’s a gorgeous impulse. Nonetheless, we have to re-evaluate if the whole enterprise is extra about our felt progress, and want to be seen as godly and self-sacrificing, than it’s about supporting the long-term labors of the host group and the nation they’ve been known as to serve.
There are numerous superior methods ahead. Let’s do higher.