Are Short-term Missions Worth the Cost?

You should also read Short-Term Missions: Blessing or Bother?
by Dan Iverson with Mission to the World

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"Are short-term missions worth the cost?" is a frequently asked question. It is followed with "Wouldn't it be more effective if the money spent on short-term missions should instead be given for use by career missionaries. "

This is a perfectly valid question and with so many needs on the mission field and the limited resources that most of us are faced with, everyone who gives needs to do so with confidence that they are being good stewards of their money. They want their dollars to count for the cause of Christ. This paper is intended to highlight the value of short-term mission efforts.

For those on a fixed income who do support career missionaries, please continue to do so and do not divert your funds elsewhere. Praise God for you!

For those who do have funds available to help support a short-term mission effort, by all means, take advantage of such opportunity.

Some reasons to support short-term trips are:

  1. Most career missionaries encourage short-term mission trips to fields where they labor.
  2. It is a great encouragement to missionaries and the believers they serve to have other believers come and join them in labor for the Lord.
  3. Those who spend time on a mission field become much more aware of the needs of the career missionary and the mission work and this results in increased giving, praying, writing encouraging letters, and other expressions of love and support.
  4. Short-term teams provide good fellowship for the career missionaries and their families who often experience loneliness and isolation.
  5. When career missionaries and the groups with whom they work, start preparing for the work of short-term teams, it provides a renewed focus of their own efforts. We all do better work when we know a peer will see what we are doing.
  6. Mission agencies invest a significant amount of money in placing career missionaries on the field. Those who go as career missionaries after having first gone on a short-term team have a much higher longevity rate than those who have not.
  7. A study of the missionary activity of the Apostle Paul reveals that he was in fact involved in a series of short-term missions.
  8. Churches from which short-term teams are sent benefit as mission work is no longer a theological concept or sermon illustration, but the visible effort of that church. It becomes a work in which their pastor and/or other members have actually participated. Check out a church that has sent short-term teams to the mission field and you will find a church that has increased its own effectiveness at home. A vision for touching the world will impact your vision for touching your own community.

When looking at the eight reasons above, you will see that effective short-term mission teams do not detract from career missions, but reasons two through six in fact help protect and enhance the dollars spent on career missions.

You should also consider that those who go on short-term teams do not spend all the funds raised on their own needs. For example, teams going to Uganda, use about half they raise on travel, food, lodging, etc., and the other half to support the actual mission activity while in Uganda. The Ugandan people are very poor and funds raised by short-term teams are used to provide scholarships, travel, food, and housing for Ugandan pastors, church leaders, and youth to attend team led studies, seminars, etc. Without such help, they would not be able to participate. Short-term teams commonly take benevolent items (medicines, clothes and materials) which are a direct benefit to those who receive them.

It is also helpful to note that support of short-term teams should come out of "over and above" giving. We ask that you do not divert your tithe from your local congregation to support our short-term teams. The tithe belongs in your own congregation where Godly officers are given the responsibility for its effective use in the kingdom.

The testimony of most believers is that significant change in their walk with Christ did not come as a result of the morning worship service, but in small groups, seminars, retreats, home Bible studies, the challenge of a guest speaker, etc. It is in this very context that short-term teams work.

It is also interesting to note that all mission efforts in the book of Acts were in fact, short-term mission trips. The face of missions is changing as we begin the 21st Century, some missiologists are suggesting the age old pattern of sending a missionary family to live in one area for many years can actually work against building strong, self supporting, self governing churches.

Finally, follow the contribution of your money with a river of prayer for those who will be going. All the money in the world will make no difference if there is not a foundation of prayer for those who go. It has been said, "If you can only do one thing, give money or pray, please let it be to pray." While this may sound overly pious, it is indeed a heartfelt attitude among missionaries.

I was very please to get the following comments from a career missionary to Guatemala who found this article to be of value in his ministry.

I ran across your brochure "Are Short-term Missions Worth the Cost?" on your web site and am very impressed. With your permission, I would like to link our website to this brochure or download a copy and put it on our server to use as a linked PDF. As career missionaries working to bring teams into Guatemala, we often are asked this question and this document summarizes a week-long conversation that I have had on many occasions.

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