Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Short-term Outreaches (2)

I received a response on my previous post about short-term outreaches from a highly respected person whom I met about two years ago at a conference in the Netherlands. Please read her response here. You will find it under the second comment.

She raises a legitimate question by saying: “One of the benefits of short term missions is that it opens the eyes of the people going so that they can have a renewed sense of the mission of God’s church. How do we make this happen without spending all the money travelling?” What I like about her response is that they seem to be planning for a specific outcome, i.e. that they want the people going on a short-term outreach to “have a renewed sense of the mission of God’s church” and also that those going on a short-term outreach will come back as changed people, specifically how they live their lives. She doesn’t mention it specifically, but I assume that it would also imply that their lifestyles would then reflect something of what they had experienced on the outreach.

What I have found very often with short-term outreaches are that people almost  always come from a fairly rich background and although I have great appreciation for their attitude, they then come with the idea that they have a lot to give: money, knowledge, technological goods, etc. Probably close to 100% of the outreach teams that I have accommodated in Swaziland, when speaking to the teams afterwards, would say that they had prepared themselves to give and in the end they actually found themselves on the receiving end.

This as such should not be a problem, but for many members on an outreach team this becomes a crisis in their lives. They had spent so much on the trip hoping to give away something which they have in abundance, but then they were the ones who received.

Is Teresa correct in saying that short-term outreach teams should be better prepared for such an outcome? Is it wrong to take people on an outreach where the main goal would be to envision people for God’s mission or is that a legitimate goal?

I would like to hear your story. Have you been on a short-term outreach? What was your experience, positive or negative. I will be getting a visit from a short-term outreach team from Canada in August and it would be good te hear from you how we could ensure that this team is fully prepared for what they will experience in Swaziland.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - Posted by | Short-term outreaches


  1. I agree with both Dr Arnau and Teresa. Trips can always act as a catalyst for further work. Without going to a field you can never quite feel passionate enough about reacting to a crisis. There is only so much reading and studying we can do in a particular area of the world that will convince us to act. I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of Christians to find out where in the world a crisis is happening and to involve him or herself in some way in the name of Christ.

    In the case of short-term missions, if Christian ministry is involved, then every team member needs to be prepared. They need to have a solid understanding of God’s word with biblical training if they are to be teaching His word to anyone. Sadly, I have found that this isn’t always the case and even encountered team members teaching heresies. Short-term missionaries shouldn’t be preaching in Churches but rather should be reserved for sharing testimonies only.

    I’ve never been a fan of short-term mission trips, primarily because I always have the pulsing thought of the cost of my plane ticket being enough to support a native missionary for a year. I think that much of our discomfort with short-term missions is largely due to our mistakes in confusing the term “short-term-mission” with it’s biblical counterpart the “great comission”. At almost every missions conference I’ve been to, Matthew 28:19 is read and used as one of the primary supports in raising funds for short-term missions. There is nothing wrong with this but it is not being completly honest with the scripture cited. First, because there is no “short-term”mission example in the New Testament. Second, because the great commision is mandated to all Christians, from all walks of life, in every career field whether at home or in a foreign land. I believe that what is commonly referred to as a short-term mission trip, should be called a “Vision Trip”. A short-duration of time with the intent of giving the participants a chance to develop a vision that will lead them in a life-long walk with Christ through serving others.

    Comment by Bryan | Wednesday, April 11, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for your response. I totally agree with what you said in the first paragraph. After the earthquake hit Indonesia in 2006, I received a letter from one of the church leaders asking for help. Under normal circumstances I would probably have ignored it, in spite of the photographs which I saw. But I had been to Indonesia in 2000 and stayed in Yogyakarta where the most damage took place. I also visited a number of churches which were destroyed during the earthquake. I also know the moderator of their synod personally and furthermore I shared a room with someone from Indonesia in the Netherlands in 2005. When I looked at those photographs I could not help feeling that I had to do something, however small, to help them.

    I think this proves your point. But all this may mean that we need to re-define our goal with short-term outreaches.


    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, April 12, 2007 | Reply

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