If you fly anywhere in the United States during the summer, you will almost inevitably see groups of short-term missionaries headed on a mission trip. You can’t miss them, a group of week long missionaries. Teenagers and chaperones in bright neon t-shirts, brand-new passports, and an enthusiasm for all that they will accomplish for the Lord. Maybe you’ve seen them and asked yourself what those eager young people could possibly accomplish during their 5-day stay in whatever developing nations they were headed to. Perhaps the thought has even entered your head that those kids should just stay home and send whatever money they raised straight to the mission field, where it could be put to better use!
This idea of sending money rather than sending people is a hot topic in the missions community. As the directors of a children’s home in Guatemala, we often hear the question, “What do you need from my church, money or people?” Our answer: “Both!” We are big believers in short-term missions, and in the nearly ten years we have been on the mission field in Guatemala, we have seen the Lord accomplish so much for His kingdom through the partnership of short-term missionaries with a local organization.
Yes, short-term missions is a lot of work. It requires months of training, coordination, and preparation. It requires finding a reliable host organization to partner with. It often requires many hours of travel, and it almost always requires a significant financial investment from the church or from those participating in the trip. Is it all worth it for your church? Our experience says that if it’s short-term missions done right with a focus on Christ and on serving, yes, it’s absolutely worth it!
Let me give you 3 reasons why your church should take a short term missions trip:
1. Short-term missions gives your church accessible, achievable goals.
We have witnessed countless short-term missions teams come together across differences in age, socio-economic class, theological disputes and political perspectives to serve the children at our orphanage. They band together through pre-trip training, travel, and serving others, in order to accomplish a common goal. Achieving the goal of the missions trip, whether it be providing dental care in an underserved village, holding Vacation Bible School at an orphanage, building a home for a homeless family, or training local workers in best practices for hygiene and sanitation, is a hugely rewarding experience for a group of church members when done in the name of Jesus Christ. We’ve witnessed that these short-term missionaries almost always take this sense of unity and accomplishment back to their local church after the trip, and their enthusiasm serves as a true boost of energy and momentum for the entire congregation.
2. Short-term missions is a faith-building experience for participants.
Often, short-term missionaries are in over their head, which isn’t a bad thing! Out of their comfort zone and in unfamiliar territory, short-term missionaries are forced to rely on the Lord in a way that often do not at home where life is familiar and comfortable. As an organization that hosts missions teams from around the United States, we have seen hundreds of men, women, and teenagers encouraged in their faith while on a missions trip to the children’s home. We often hear “I came to serve and be a blessing, but the Lord has taught me so much about relying on Him during this trip that I am the one who was blessed!” Cliché? Perhaps. But it’s also true! We have even seen the Lord call people to adoption, the ministry, and even full-time missions at Casa Shalom! Former short-term missionaries at Casa Shalom have gone on serve full-time in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand and Italy! Although short-term missions can be uncomfortable and even daunting, we don’t need to fear it, as the Lord tells us in Isaiah 41, “Fear not, I am the One who helps you.”
3. Short-term missions trips are a fantastic way to truly be a blessing to the host organization in a developing nation.
In Acts chapter 1, Jesus makes it clear that missions is not optional. He uses his very last words on Earth to tell His followers that they would be witnesses for him in their city, their region and in the whole world! At this critical moment, He could have spoken on any topic, but He chose to emphasize missions one final time. Ministries like our orphanage absolutely need donations of funding to provide critical care for those we serve. But we also need man- and woman-power to accomplish what we cannot on the ground, and to provide the love of God and spiritual encouragement and refreshment! Short-term missions teams provide both funding to support the day-to-day operations of the orphanage, and workers to accomplish tasks we simply do not have the staff or funding to accomplish. We need men, women, and teenagers on fire for Christ to be witnesses for Him to us on the mission field!
Missions done right is a church or organization partnering with an existing ministry to accomplish what the ministry needs done. The ministry doesn’t need anyone to paint? Don’t insist on painting! The ministry doesn’t need someone to do door-to-door evangelism? Don’t insist on doing door-to-door evangelism! Take your cue from your hosting organization and focus your trip on what they truly need accomplished. Keep the focus on Christ and not the glorification of any one individual or of your church. Take the leap into short-term missions and watch how the Lord blesses your ministry!