Blog: Are Short-Term Mission Trips Good or Bad?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll receive different answers. The important question to ask is: what is the primary focus and purpose of the trip? Construction? Medical aid? Evangelism? Partnership with long-term missionaries?
Let’s think about the mission journeys we see in the Bible.
We do see what could be called ‘short-term mission trips’ in Jesus sending out the 70 in Luke Chapter 10 to “every town and place where He Himself was about to go.” And the focus? Proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
Paul also went on a few missionary journeys in the book of Acts, but these would not be considered short-term. However, we can still use him as an example for what mission trips ought to look like. The focus of these mission trips/journeys was always the advancement of the Kingdom of God through the proclamation of the gospel/evangelism, while also building up and encouraging the brethren and local believers in the area. If during our short-term mission trips, our focus is not on either of these, are we truly focusing on advancing the Kingdom of God?
Construction trips, disaster relief, or medical missions can be beneficial short-term, but they can often do more harm than good. Why is that? A number of reasons, including taking jobs from locals, creating an unhealthy dependency on American teams, etc.
Short-term mission projects can also take away from local ministry happening for missionaries in the area if they’re asked to lead and accommodate for the teams coming. As we plan and endeavor on short-term mission trips, it’s necessary to ask the question: “is this more for my benefit or more for Kingdom profit?”
What else can be the purpose of short-term mission trips? For some, myself included, it’s a source of casting vision and seeing the Father’s heart for the nations. When I went on my first mission trip overseas, I realized that going and sharing the gospel can’t just be something I do once a year in another country. When Jesus told us to go and make disciples, He meant everywhere! To our neighbors and to the ends of the earth. How can we expect the Great Commission to be accomplished if we won’t obey His commands where He has placed us?
And so, whatever mission trip we decide to go or not go on, we must obey the command to go and make disciples of all nations, and that means we have to share the gospel and teach people obedience (Matt. 28:18-20). If that is not the focus of these trips and the focus of our lives, we are missing the mark.
So, are short-term mission trips good or bad? They can be both. If we are not grounded on the word of God and led by the Holy Spirit on these trips, they quickly become our own trips and not kingdom-focused trips.
Learn more about how International Commission partners with nationals for local and international evangelism at internationalcommission.org