Short Term Missions: Life-Transforming Service OR Harmful Waste?

The current Christianity Today carries an excellent forum-article arguing the potential benefits and hazards of short terms missions.  Below are the opening section of the three articles.  I’d encourage you to read through the three one-page articles, each of which carries important observations, HERE.



Churches should not abandon travel, but we should abandon most travel-intensive “projects.”  It is good for American Christians to visit Christians in other places to witness what God is doing around the world. It is good for American Christians to visit missionaries, learning firsthand about their work and how to pray for them. The opportunity to learn from all our brothers and sisters living and working around the world is a gift many of us have received due to our relative wealth, access to technology, and leisure time. We should accept this blessing gratefully…



If you’re primarily using a short-term trip to build awareness and engage people in mission, stay local. Research shows that you do not increase understanding about mission and culture more by going abroad than you do by serving nearby in a diverse neighborhood. But if your travel is tied to a larger missions initiative with overseas partners, the trip might be worth thinking about…


 BOTH HAVE PURPOSE by Robert J. Priest.

Mission trips and local projects are not competing alternatives. Each follows different temporal rhythms. Christians take advantage of brief slots of discretionary time—a few hours or a day—in the normal daily and weekly rhythms of work and school to volunteer for local projects.  By contrast, Christians utilize vacation blocks of time involving a week or two for dual-purpose mission trips: trips that both serve others and contribute to their own spiritual formation.  Like pilgrimages, retreats, and church camps, the mission trip functions as a sustained and communal time of spiritual formation away from the obligations, distractions, and routines of everyday life in home spaces….