Short Term Missions Trips and Their Standards For Excellence
Short term mission trips have often been regarded as philanthropic endeavors used to help people and spread the gospel.
However, today there are some who criticize short-term mission trips. Some people question their effectiveness and even wonder if they can be more harmful than helpful.
While it’s true that short-term missions can be ineffective at times, if done correctly, they can also be supremely beneficial.
This article will discuss the many benefits of short term mission trips, and the Standard of Excellence you can use to ensure that your trip is highly successful.
What is a Short-Term Mission Trip?
While everyone who believes in God has been called to live a missional lifestyle not everyone is able to do this by vocation, that is to pursue full-time missionary work. Many Christians may feel led to serve as missionaries in their local communities and in distant countries. They know that God has called them to the mission field and their intention is to spend years or even a lifetime in that ministry. Others haven’t had any experience with missionary work and do not know if it is something they’re interested in or not.
That’s where short-term mission trips come in to play.
Short-term mission trips can be as short as a few days, to weeks or even months of working with a group of people and sharing the gospel. Many people define short-term mission trips as international pursuits, but they can also be national or even local. Some of Jesus’ parting words to his disciples invites us to be his witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Short-term mission trips are centered on sharing the gospel, but they’re also intended to help communities and people. Often people on mission trips will offer aid to an area, help build schools, orphanages, infrastructure, churches, and many other things. Mission teams might drill wells, develop agriculture, provide medical help, run eyeglass or medical clinics, or offer educational classes such as ESL. Additionally many short term mission trips partner with the local church to coordinate evangelistic outreaches and Vacation Bible Schools, and the like.
What are the Benefits of Short Term Missions?
If done well, a short-term missions trip can be exceedingly beneficial both for the community and for the participants in the mission trip. Here are some ways that short-term mission trips can be extremely useful and worthwhile.
They Benefit Local Churches & Their Communities
It can’t be denied that there are some countries and communities in the world that are deeply impoverished and in need of aid. While their need for the gospel is paramount, their physical and emotional needs are important as well.
Short-term mission teams can provide much-needed support to long-term missionaries, local peoples, established churches and the community as a whole. A community that needs medical help or clean water will be blessed by a team that is able to partner with them to address these issues.
It should be noted that mission teams should always provide aid humbly. As guests in a new country, they should think of themselves as aids to functional people living in a culture and community of their own.
Many of the most successful short-term mission trips are in fact ones that help work with a local group of believers who are reaching out to their own people.
They Build Relationships and Share Christ’s Love
One of the great benefits of short-term mission teams is that they can help build relationships with other people in the world. These relationships can provide opportunities to share Christ’s love and share God’s word.
The effects of a trip may not be immediately evident, but the seeds that are planted may produce fruit down the road. Many mission teams are offering support to local believers or lifetime missionaries. These people will continue to work with the local community, and the support that the mission team provides may have long-term effects down the road.
They Benefit the Participants
While a mission-trip is primarily meant to help others, it can also be extremely beneficial to the participants.
Many people who go on short-term mission trips learn a great deal about the world and are able to expand their world-view immensely.
As Christians, it can be difficult to think globally when our experiences are very narrow. When we’re around people who think, act, and look like us, it’s hard to understand other people’s perspectives. These mission trips are excellent at expanding perspectives.
Not only that, but many people who travel on mission trips express greater gratitude for what they have. It’s easy to find reasons to complain, but these trips are often eye-opening. Things that people in western culture take for granted may be considered luxuries to people in other areas.
More importantly, spending time with other believers in third-world countries can help participants learn the difference between happiness and joy. While many of the people in the world live with less desirable conditions, many of them still express deep joy.
This helps teach Christians from western culture that joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. While happiness is fleeting and connected to circumstances, joy is consistent despite circumstances.
Short-term Missions Leads to Long-term Missions
For many, the first experience of a short-term mission trip inspires them to want to continue helping other people.
For many, hearing about the world’s needs is very different than experiencing it first hand. Once they have an understanding of other people’s needs, they’re ready to continue serving.
These participants may choose to become long-term missionaries, or they may find ways to continue supporting the needs of other missionaries.
What are the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions?
The Standards of Excellence in Short-term Mission (SOE) is a partnership that seeks to make mission trips more successful using The Seven Standards. The Seven Standards are a guideline for people to use when they coordinate, plan, and execute a short-term mission trip. Teen Missions ascribes to these seven standards and is a member of SOE.
The Seven Standards are outlined below:
An excellent short-term mission (STM) seeks first God’s glory and His kingdom, and is expressed through our:
- Purpose — Centering on God’s glory and His ends throughout our entire STM process
- Lives — Sound biblical doctrine, persistent prayer, and godliness in our thoughts, words, and deeds
- Methods — Wise, biblical, and culturally-appropriate methods which bear spiritual fruit
A mission trip that is not centered around God will not be successful. There are far too many diverse, difficult, and unexpected situations that arise in missionary work to be effective without God leading the work. Christians may plant the seeds, but God makes them grow (1 Corinthians 3: 6-9).
Over the years Teen Missions has accomplished this particular goal by thoroughly equipping and training every team they send at a Christ-centered 2-week training camp called the Lord’s Boot Camp. With this training complete, each team proceeds to their field assignments and quickly establish daily routines, which include dedicated times for personal devotions, team prayer, scripture memorization and biblical study.
2. Empowering Partnerships
An excellent short-term mission establishes healthy, interdependent, ongoing relationships between sending and receiving partners, and is expressed by:
- Focus — Our primary focus is on intended receptors
- Plans which benefit all participants
- Mutual trust and accountability
A short-term missions trip is most effective when they work to support their receiving partners. It should be the goal of the short-term mission to support the work of the long-term missionaries or local believers. Likewise, the receiving partners should work to establish trust and communication with the short-term mission team they’re hosting.
Since the first teams went out with Teen Missions in 1971, over 50,000 North American youth have assisted in a variety of evangelistic and building projects with over 200 established missions in over 110 countries. Through the formulation of these partnerships many have come to hear the gospel and come into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ
3. Mutual Design
An excellent short-term mission collaboratively plans each specific outreach for the benefit of all participants, and is expressed by:
- On-field methods and activities that align with long-term strategies of the partnership
- Goer-guests’ ability to implement their part of the plan
- Host receivers’ ability to implement their part of the plan
Again, the short-term mission is most successful when the mission team works in harmony with their long-term partners. They should each have a well-established understanding of their goals and should work together to achieve them. For instance, Teen Missions established a relationship with Marilyn and Shirley Lazlo, who spent much of their lives translating the Bible with Wycliffe Bible Translators in the jungles of Papua New Guinea at Hauna Village . The shared vision of mobilizing the church into overseas missions work created an excellent partnership between the missionary and Teen Missions. For many years Teen Missions provided teams that helped build the airstrip for landing MAF planes and the infrastructure to run the medical care and educational services.
4. Comprehensive Administration
An excellent short-term mission seeks first God’s glory and his kingdom, and is expressed through our:
- Truthfulness in promotion, finances, and reporting results
- Appropriate risk management
- Quality program delivery and support logistics
No mission trip would be possible without planning well beforehand. This includes raising funds as well as many other important administrative tasks. These should be performed honestly and effectively.
5. Qualified Leadership
An excellent short-term mission screens, trains, and develops capable leadership for all participants, and is expressed by:
- Character: Spiritually mature servant leadership
- Skills: Prepared, competent, organized and accountable leadership
- Values: Empowering and equipping leadership
Those who lead a short-term mission trip should be equipped and ready to lead. They should be spiritually mature and have the skills necessary to lead the trip. They should also have instilled values that make them qualified to be a leader.
6. Appropriate Training
An excellent short-term mission prepares and equips all participants for the mutually designed outreach, and is expressed by:
- Biblical, appropriate, and timely training
- On-going training and equipping (pre-field, on-field, post-field)
- Qualified trainers
Another important element of a short-term mission trip is proper training. A team of missionaries can’t be expected to perform tasks or understand the community they’re working in without training beforehand.
7. Thorough Follow-up
An excellent short-term mission assures debriefing and appropriate follow-up for all participants. This and is expressed by:
- Comprehensive debriefing (pre-field, on-field, post-field)
- On-field re-entry preparation
- Post-field follow-up and evaluation
A mission trip can develop a lot of thoughts, feelings, and takeaways. It’s vital that a team of missionaries is given time to discuss their experiences with a comprehensive debriefing. These conversations should take place before, during, and after a mission trip.
It’s also important to give participants preparation if they’re planning on re-entering the mission field.
Short-Term Missions For Many
Short-term mission trips may not be for everyone, but they are an opportunity for many people to experience working with a global community of believers.
If done properly, short-term mission trips can be extremely beneficial and have a lasting impact. The seeds planted in both the participants and the community they serve may flourish over the years.
For some, these trips can be a stepping-stone for some to become long-term missionaries. For others, the experience will deepen their love and soften their hearts towards all of God’s people. While they may not go on to continue in the mission field, they will have more compassion for others and a far better understanding of what it means to have joy in Christ.