I’m at our leadership training center in Mijas, Spain this morning. What a great place to launch people to bring the kingdom of God around the world. Along those lines, I saw this good article in the Christan Post about short-term missions. STMs are a good place to start, but not a good place to finish. More of us need to be going, but then we need to be asking the question we ask here in Spain, “What’s next?”
U.S. Christians Embrace Vacation-Mission Trip
of all ages are fueling a growing trend in U.S. missions where families
and individuals use their vacation time to go on short-term mission
trips, which some dub “vacations with a purpose.”
Many of the participants are young adult students who make the trip
during spring break or summer vacation. Another large segment of
volunteers are retirees who offer their professional skills to support
It is estimated that millions of American
Christians participate in short-term mission trips each year, with some
1.6 million believers contributing in labor worth about $6 billion,
according to Wycliffe Associates, a mission group that organizes
volunteers to support the work of Bible translators.
president and chief executive officer of Wycliffe Associates, in a
recent update said the ministry is completing a new Volunteer
Mobilization Center in Orlando that will be used to prepare thousands
of volunteers heading out on short-term missions.
built primarily by volunteers, the center will service a growing tide
of American’s seeking to use their free time more productively,” Smith
said in a statement.
The ministry devotes $10 million a year in
recruiting, training and sending volunteers overseas to help Bible
translators associated with its sister ministry, Wycliffe Bible
Translators. The ministry sends about 1,500 Wycliffe Associate
short-term volunteers to mission fields each year.
By no means is
short-term mission a new concept, but it has gained great attention in
recent years because of its phenomenal growth in popularity.
show that in 1965 there were only about 540 individuals from North
America involved in short-term mission, according to Roger Peterson,
president of STEM International (Short Term Evangelical Missions), in
his essay “What’s Happening in Short-term Mission?”
In 1989, the
number was estimated at 120,000 by a Fuller School of World Mission
doctoral student. Three years later, it more than doubled to 250,000.
In 2003, the number was estimated to be at least one million and by
2004 data suggest the number had ballooned to as high as four million.
Doug Cutchins, co-author of the book Volunteer Vacations: Short-term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others,
explained that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks brought greater
interest to this type of short-term, purpose-driven vacation.
2004, it was the tsunami disaster that devastated parts of Indonesia
and Thailand that sparked huge participation in this type of
But some mission leaders have raised
concerns about the effectiveness of short-term missions to the purpose
of advancing God’s kingdom.
Preeminent missiologist Dr. Ralph D. Winter,
founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission, said short-termers do not
have much impact on missions, but can benefit personally in faith from
Last year, Winter listed short-term missions as
one of the 12 past mistakes made by Western mission agencies that Asian
missiologists should avoid during a presentation at the Asian Society
of Missiology conference in Bangkok.
He specifically criticized
churches that send every family in the congregation overseas for a
two-week project. Winter called it a “marvelous idea” to educate people
about foreign lands, but “incredibly expensive” and “very questionable”
in its contribution to the cause of missions.
Nearly 2 million short-termers leave the United States each year
compared to 35,000 long-term missionaries. It costs at least five times
more overall to send a short-termer than a long-term missionary –
financial support that Winter suggested would be better invested in a
Winter resisted calling short-term mission a bad thing, but rather urged balance.