Christian Living

The Value of a Short-Term Mission Trip

Not Everyone Can Be a Missionary, but Everyone Can Support Missionaries

We’ve talked about four places—or ways—to be a missionary for Jesus. How does the idea of a short-term mission trip fit into Jesus’s command to be his witness (Acts 1:4-8)? Or his instruction to go make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)?

It doesn’t.

At best a short-term missionary trip is an ineffective response to Jesus’s instructions to his followers—and to us. Though it may address the part where he says to go—albeit for a week or two—it’s fully inadequate to make disciples.

Making disciples is a long term, even lifelong effort. It’s not possible to do in a few days.

Does this mean we shouldn’t go on short term mission trips? No. Even though a short-term missionary trip falls short in achieving Jesus’s Great Commission, there’s still value to it.

Here are the two key benefits of short-term mission trips:

Get a Taste for Missionary Work

Going to another country, culture, or environment for a week or two is a wise move to explore the possibility of long-term missionary work. It gives a brief glimpse into what it means to prepare for and fund a missionary initiative.

It provides the experience of leaving home to go someplace else to tell others about Jesus.

For this reason, a short-term missionary trip is a smart way to test the feasibility of responding to God’s call to go into all nations to be Jesus’s witness and make disciples.

Therefore, I’m in favor of people going on a short-term mission trip. But only once. Going on repeated excursions, even turning it into an annual practice, accomplishes little to determine whether missions work should become a long-term or even lifetime adventure.

Develop a Passion to Support Missionary Efforts

A secondary reason to go on a short-term mission trip is to spark a lifelong interest in supporting missionaries. Though this may appear as an ancillary benefit, it’s an essential outcome.

Long-term missionaries need support. This support is not just monetary. Yes, funding missionary efforts is critical, which looms as an ongoing struggle for many if not all missionaries.

Critical support also has an emotional and spiritual element. Emotional support for missionaries comes in the form of encouragement.

Spiritual support is even more important. It means praying for missionaries and their work. For maximum effectiveness, this prayer support should occur on a regular basis, even daily, not just when a prayer letter goes out or an imperative need arises.

The Truth About Short Term Mission Trips

Though not everyone is called to or wired to be a long-term missionary to all nations, everyone can support missionary efforts. If it takes a short-term mission trip to cultivate a desire to support missions, then that’s a great result.

But never think that going on a short-term missionary trip—even annually—is obeying Jesus’s commands to go into the world as his witness and to make disciples. That requires a long-term commitment.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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