Short-term Missions or Feel Good Vacation?

Melissa Leung, Mobilization Coordinator

A Japanese mother of three and a Serve Asia worker from Germany put their brushes together to make a church sign.

A Japanese mother of three and a Serve Asia worker from Germany put their brushes together to make a church sign.

Too often, short-term trips are reduced to an excuse to take a fun trip while doing some good or are seen as a spiritual milestone. Is that really what short-term missions trips are about? Why should we go on such trips? What makes them worth the investment?

Learning about self, God and the world

The most meaningful learning happens through first-hand experience. Principles and concepts can be learned in the classroom, but only when they are practised can they be deeply internalized: knowledge moves from the head to the heart and transforms our entire being. Many short-term workers return with testimonies like Suvin’s:

Through my short-term trip this summer, God deepened my understanding of who He is, my identity as His child and how He wants me to live as His disciple. He exposed my weaknesses, insecurities and personal areas of discomfort so I could learn to trust Him as He displayed His strength and faithful provision for all my needs through Jesus Christ. He also opened my eyes to see that there are still so many people (literally billions) who have never heard the gospel, and that He wants me to share His love and glory with them in obedience.

Meeting a need for a long-term purpose

Often, long-term missionaries work in areas with limited resources and require external help for various projects. Some may be in remote places with few believers and may need to be ministered to. Short-term teams provide temporary aid that will benefit the long-term work.

Confirming a call to overseas work

Some may have heard the call for long-term work but are unsure of which ministry they are called to. Short-term trips can help someone discern and move toward a long-term goal. The key to doing short-term missions well can be boiled down to one word: discipleship. The missions journey is lifelong; short trips cultivate a long-term vision for missions, whether for going overseas or getting involved in other ways upon return.

This requires:

  • understanding of missions and the purpose of short-term trips
  • proper training n a host missionary with a passion to disciple short-term workers
  • a comprehensive debrief n a missions-minded community for continued accountability

The Great Commission does not stop with one trip; it’s a lifelong journey of obedience to our Lord’s mandate to make disciples of all nations.

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