Yesterday I wrote what may have seemed to some short-term
missions (STM) practioners a fairly inflammatory blog. Some readers may be forgiven for asking the
follow-up question, “Given the fact
that so many one-week STMs fail in their
intended result of mobilizing people, are they bad?” Here’s my response.
Short-term missions get a bad rap for three reasons in
- The missionaries
allow their needs and agenda to supersede the local needs.
missionaries are poorly equipped to do what needs to be done.
they’re doing has no lasting impact.
For the most part these reasons are valid or are at a
minimum should be grave concerns for any practitioner. The typical short-term project involves
construction or work that could be done cheaper by locals, begging the
question, “Why not just send them the money?”
A counter-argument is that STMs can impact participants enough
to justify the project. To which one
must ask, “To what end?” If, as I noted yesterday, the end is
to mobilize them to build the Kingdom, that is a good thing. But many do not. One good place to start would be for church youth groups to track those who
have been mobilized for ministry by their short-term projects. Let me suggest to youth pastors – if that is your goal, please measure your
So, do we scrap the concept of short-term missons? No, Jesus showed us how to do them in Matthew
10. They can work, but we need to look
much more closely at the various models of STMs and hold many to a more
rigorous standard of evaluation. In the
next few days I’ll look at models that are both effective and ineffective.