Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Thank you for joining us for our no banter, no blather podcast, 15 minutes of good missions content.  Today we welcome you to episode number 195 of Missions on Point.  And we find ourselves discussing short term missions.  This is not the first time we’ve talked about short term missions.  We can go all the way back to episodes 16, 17 and 18 to hear about short term missions philosophy, discipleship and strategy.  This time though we are considering short term missions in the context of our missions paths.  Missions paths help us to walk down various paths to discover our role in the church’s commission given to it by our Lord Jesus.  Perhaps you have already considered the previous two missions paths of the inquirer path and the personal involvement path, and now you are considering what it would mean to go on a short term trip.  Admittedly, these kinds of trips have become very popular in recent years, turning into an estimated 2 billion dollar annual effort, with more than 1.5 million trips taken, according to the Missiology journal.  And it’s not hard to imagine that a great number of those trips are not more than spiritualized vacations. 

Well, we are glad you are here, because that probably means that you are eager to avoid being one of the bad statistics.  We encourage you to read more in depth about this and many other missions paths on our website at  Since I’ve just mentioned the website, and before jumping into our topic, I’ll go ahead and draw your attention to some new features there.  One of the exciting features is that you can compile your own custom-made PDF.  Every question we have asked in our missions paths is available for you to select which ones you are most interested in having answered.  Select what interests you or choose one of our pre-selected topics, and you can get them all compiled into one downloadable PDF.

That’s enough with the commercial, let’s get into talking about short term missions trips.  I have eight aspects of short term trips I would like you to consider.

  1. The first aspect of short term trips to consider is The Value

First of all, short term missions is a valuable ingredient in any individual or church missions repertoire.  They can last anywhere from a week to a full year.  They have the potential to give a fascinating insight into missions ministry and the missionaries you serve, and they can be critical to considering your own personal calling.  You can learn a lot in a short time about a language, culture and ministry needs.  And hopefully your trip is always associated with some long-term missionaries in some way. 

  1. The second aspect of short term trips to consider is Advantages and Disadvantages

Some advantages of short term missions include the following.   

  • They help you make informed decisions about future ministry.
  • They can accomplish tasks that benefit long term teams, doing with many hands what they might not otherwise be able to do.
  • A well-designed short-term trip can play a significant role in helping a team of missionaries achieve its long-term church planting goals.
  • And you will return home with an increased knowledge of what God is doing in the world and help develop your commitment to becoming a Word Christian.

Some of the disadvantages include the following:

  • Costing a significant amount of money that might be better used elsewhere.
  • Participants can be immature and untrained, making mistakes that set back long term progress.
  • These kinds of trips can create dependency of members in host culture on such regular trips.
  • And last of all, another disadvantage is that many short term missions participants can think that they’ve checked off the box on their missions contribution.
  1. The third aspect of short term trips to consider is Safeguarding the trip

There are three guideposts for safeguarding the short term missions experience. 

  1. Number one is the local church. How does the short term missions ministry relate to your home church? 
  2. Number two, how does your trip relate to the long-term missionary on the field?
  3. And number three is the good that the ministry provides for the locals who receive the ministry.

The local church is responsible for ensuring that the short term trip fits into a larger strategy, and they are right to employ these trips as a part of discipling people to become world Christians and potential long term missionaries.  When making a short term missions plan, have a win-win-win vision in mind.  Make it a win for the participants, a win for the hosts on the field, and a win for the recipients of ministry too. 

  1. Next, we want to consider who is qualified to go on a short term trip and who is not. The fourth aspect is This is largely dependent on what the purpose of the trip is. 
  • Does the purpose require the Christian to be able to share their faith?
  • Is it a security sensitive place that will require maturity and discretion?
  • Some of the minimal guidelines for any short-termer would include the following:
    • a healthy spiritual life,
    • a servant’s heart,
    • no angst or upheaval in their personal life,
    • someone who will be a larger benefit to the team rather than hindering the ministry,
    • flexible,
    • and a learner.
  1. Our next area of consideration is identifying which trips are worthy of taking. The fifth aspect to consider is Quality Trips

There are too many trips to take and too little time to take them all.  And not all trips are designed equally.  We need discernment.  Quality trips include as many of the following benchmarks as possible. 

  1. The trip offers excellent pre-field, on-field, and post-field training.
  2. Those with whom the short-termers will work on the field have actively requested short-termers to come. The trip has not been forced upon field workers by a mission agency’s home office.
  3. The trip will perform ministry that as much as possible directly contributes to fostering church planting.
  4. The trip works among as least-reached people as possible.
  5. Where a national local church exists, the trip seeks to serve and accomplish ministry through the local church.
  6. The trip will neither foster financial dependence on the field, nor introduce ministries that cannot be duplicated or sustained by the national church.
  7. The trip will not replace employment opportunities for local nationals.
  8. The trip’s cost align as economically as possible with the trip’s purpose. If something can be accomplished without going on a trip, then don’t go. Make sure that the expenses for the travel are worth it.  Speaking of finances, that should be considered next. 
  1. The sixth aspect of short term trips to consider is Finances

Where do the finances for a short term trip come from?  Usually participants have to raise funds themselves.  Fundraising sales and events can help offset the cost.  Sometimes a church or an agency will supplement the trip.  Typically if the trip is for a crisis purpose there are often funds from relief and development agencies available.  And lastly, the individual themselves might choose to fund the trip. 

There have been recent debates questioning the validity and effectiveness of short term missions.  It’s true, funds may be more wisely used in other ways, and everyone should prayerfully seek discernment.  We should ask how gospel-driven is the trip?  Is this truly helping the larger long term goal of planting churches?  Are participants simply partnering with humanitarian or secular organizations?  Could the purpose of the trip instead be accomplished in cross-cultural contexts in the states?

  1. The seventh aspect of short term trips to consider is How is your preparation? 
  • As you prepare for your short term trip, be sure to pray. Learn about the spiritual challenges you might face, and anticipate how you’ll maintain a walk with God while on the field. 
  • Plan well for your travels. Make sure you have necessary paperwork and immunizations. 
  • Figure out what you need to know about the host culture and its language.
  • Prepare for your ministry too. Do you have speaking opportunities to prepare or activities you can rehearse? 
  • And prepare your finances too.
  1. Finally, let’s consider what you will do when you return home from your short term missions trip. The eighth aspect of short term trips to consider is Returning Home.

Don’t let the trip be a one-time isolated event.  There is much you can do to bless your church as you return.  Process what you’ve learned, and decide on the best way to communicate that with your church.  Think about how you can potentially continue any ministry that was begun.  And consider how you have grown spiritually, even gaining some insight into God’s calling on your life.  How has this trip informed you about where God may be sending you to in the future?  Not only that, but think of other people for the future.  Maybe you can help someone else to take their trip later.  And be careful that you do not simply go on trips because you like them.  If you return on the same trip later maybe it’s because you are serving as a leader or you offer unique and necessary services.  If that’s not true, perhaps you should let someone else take your spot or consider going to a new location next time.  Unfortunately, short term trips can become a replacement for longer term involvement. 

There is much more we could say about short term trips.  I hope you have found some helpful advice in considering these eight aspects of short term trips: the value of the trip, the advantages and disadvantages, how to safeguard the trip, the qualifications of the participants, the quality of the trip itself, the finances, the preparation and the return home.  My last piece of advice is that you keep learning.  There are plenty of resources to help guide you and sample policy guides available too.  Be sure to keep a healthy perspective on short term trips as fitting into the larger picture of missions, earnestly pray that God will use them, and diligently plan the multitude of details that go into them. 

We are thankful that you are listening to the podcast.  Please share it with others you might think would be interested in it.  We pray that your efforts in taking a short term missions trip bring glory to God, as you support the work of long-term missionaries, and as you  consider that possibility yourself.  Please contact us if you would like further assistance.  We are here to help you and your church.    

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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