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Limits of a U.S.-based mission trip

Part 4 of a series on the subject of dependency in STMs. Many youth groups for whom a short-term mission trip (STM) has become a faddish part of their calendar are stuck in a U.S.-based project rut. These projects are good for a stunted faith and can provoke helpful th…
By Seth Barnes

Part 4 of a series on the subject of dependency in
STMs.

Many youth groups for whom a
short-term mission trip (STM) has become a faddish part of their calendar are
stuck in a U.S.-based project rut. These
projects are good for a stunted faith and can provoke helpful thoughts like, “Gee, maybe I shouldn’t be so selfish,” but they do little to expand a world
view or stimulate a passion for the Great Commission.

On many U.S. projects, whether in rural Appalachia or in the inner city, the host partners are
overwhelmed by the dysfunctional community around them. They probably don’t have a triumphant vision of
the future, rather they are caught up in a discouraging cycle of care-giving
and triage. The people they minister to
are either very young, very old, addicted, or in some way caught up in a cycle
of victimization. In these cases,
dependency is a given and the STM participants will likely be limited in what
they experience.

To really break STM participant
hearts, or to give them a vision for the Great Commission, or to confront the
pathologies attending their cultural paradigm, you need to get them out of the
country for a longer period of time. A
week in West Virginia
may begin the process of waking up your participants to the Kingdom, but in my
experience, it will not transform them into world changers.

Much better to take them
beyond the U.S.
borders for at least six weeks if you are serious about changing their
narcissistic perspective. The STM
paradigm needs to change from the lowest common denominator project of “one
week eye-openers,” to a longer term discipling experience. Unfortunately, most youth pastors are too
risk-averse and tactical in their discipling vision to do this.

If you are a youth minister
caught in a U.S.-based STM rut, consider really challenging your group next
year with something much longer and overseas.
It may seem wildly risky, but it will be the best discipleship you ever
do. If you’re interested, email me and I’ll
put you in touch with churches who have pioneered this model and made it a
mainstay of their discipling ministry. Or
if you’re serious, I believe so much in what I propose here, I’ll even help you
myself.

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