Is short-term mission right for me?
Short-term mission cannot replace the involvement of those who share their lives in long-term committed relationships, but it can be of immense value if done hand-in-hand with, and contributing to, a longer-term vision.
Short-term involvement is a great way to see what God is doing around the world, to listen and to learn, and perhaps even test a call to long-term service overseas. It can give you the chance to grow in your knowledge of God and get a taste of living and working in a different culture. And you may even find that going on a short-term programme changes you profoundly and that you come back a different person as a result.
Do take a little time to look through the various questions and the links from these pages. How we do short-term mission trips may, in fact, matter more than what we do or where we go.
Most people don’t get a bolt of lightning from the sky, a booming voice from heaven, or see their name flashing in some kind of divine neon light!
Maybe it will just start with a gut feeling – an ‘inner witness’ in your spirit. Maybe something someone has said in a sermon or a conversation is what’s motivating you. Perhaps you know someone who’s been on a short-term team and it’s provoked an interest? Could it be that God has spoken to you from his Word about your commitment to him? Or might it be that the knowledge you have of the needs that exist in the world around you has been enough to move you to action?
As you seek to discern what God wants you to do, you must involve your local church - right from the start it is vital that you seek wisdom and advice from your church leaders/mission support team and others who know you well to help you think this through fully. Further information on the subject of call and guidance can be found here.
In this age when ease of travel has made so much possible, we need to ask ourselves the hard questions about the appropriateness of overseas short-term trips overseas.There are serious issues involved when relatively rich and inexperienced people want to ‘make a difference’ in situations which are usually far more complex and nuanced than they realise. Equally, this should not stop us from doing so – it should just push us to do things better.1
Are we a real help or a hindrance? Do we realise that we will probably learn far more than we will give? What about our environmental concerns?
Our desire to make a difference can lead us to unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve, and cause us to see mission just as an activity or an event. Short-term mission cannot replace the involvement of those who share their lives in long-term committed relationships, but it can be of immense value if done hand-in-hand with, and contributing to, a longer-term vision. Short-term involvement still is a great way to see what God is doing around the world, to listen and to learn, and perhaps even test a call to long-term service overseas.
Keep your focus on God and His purposes for the trip and on what He is doing, rather than on how you might be benefitting personally or being changed. Whatever you do, do it with a heart to honour God and serve others, taking on board the advice given to you by your church and your chosen mission agency. If environmental concerns are top of your list, then choose a mission agency who shares theses concerns and is doing something about it.
And finally, understand that how you do a short-term mission trip may, in fact, matter more than what you do - things no-one normally tells you about going on short-term mission trips is a great little article to read on this subject.
1 Eddie Arthur in Who is serving whom? A Dilemma for Short-Term Mission?
First, you need to establish what is behind their objections.
- It is perfectly natural for family members to be concerned about their loved one taking off somewhere they know little or nothing about with a bunch of strangers. But it’s also worth saying that the world is a much smaller place now and the prospect of travelling thousands of miles to serve on an overseas project isn’t as scary as it used to be.
- If their concern is for your protection and safety, then do what you can to address their concerns. Get the agency you’ll be serving with to talk to them and give them every possible reassurance. Involve your church leaders if necessary. Talking to others who have had similar concerns may also help them.
- If your family does not share your Christian faith then you need to be sensitive in how you handle the situation, but if this is the case then they may never agree with any Christian activity you engage in.
- If at the end of this they still object, then you need to ask yourself questions about what’s most important. If God has clearly placed his call on your life for Christian service then you may need to just go for it. Maybe they’ll come round to the idea in time. However, God asks us to respect and honour our families, and you should do what you can to protect your relationship with them. Seek advice from people you respect – they may help you find a way through the difficulty.