Long-Term Thoughts on Short-Term Missions: Knowing the “Why” (Part 1)

Building1As I am in my second month (officially) as Short-Term Volunteer Manager, I am being forced (and rightly so) to clarify the “why” of short-term missions.

  • Why do we do Short-term Missions at all?
  • How do we hope to impact the following four groups: the participants themselves, the missionaries on the ground, the people of the city in which the short-term missionaries are serving, the churches and/or individuals sending the missionaries.
  • Why do we do Short-tem Missions within Extreme?

The appropriate and thoughtful answering of these questions aids greatly in answering the who, when, where, and how of short-term mission as well.  I would like to begin this series of “Knowing the Why” by answering this most basic question: Why do we do short-term missions?  Why spend the time and money?

Biblically, God has been moving people from one place to another for his plans and purposes since Abraham.  These people were not known as “career missionaries” but rather normal people willing to be obedient to their sovereign God.  Paul was known as the first missionary, but he was not only a missionary.  That defined a portion of his life, then became his defining role.  He was also a church planter, a pharisee, expert in the law, etc.

God’s calling to go from one place to another is truly a matter of obedience.  Especially in the case of building projects, it is often the case that the capital spent to get the short-term missionaries on the ground (flight, hotel, food, etc.) could pay local workers and have a chunk leftover for other expenditures.  While this may be true, you can’t just look at short-term missions through the human eyes of investment-return.  The first question of a Christian should not be “How much does it cost?” but rather “What would God have us to do?”  or “What kind of people do we want to be?”

God’s plans involve more than how we feel we justify our spending.  While we are to be faithful stewards of our money, there are some things that we are to do because God is asking, and no other reason.  I have met several people who came on a project with Extreme and when asked why, they simply attested to God’s leading and prompting. Their presence on the field was a result of their following.  When we are willing to be obedient when it all isn’t clear or spelled out as to why, God can really work with us a new and fresh way.

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list.  This list is truly just a beginning as God continues to reveal to me the why of this thing called short-term.  I am in a unique position to devote time and energy to this part of the ministry and look forward to the challenge of taking it from good to great.

Next time we will discuss the impact on and change in the participants themselves.

Questions/comments/thoughts?  Please let me know.  I’d like this to be a dialogue.

What have been your motives for doing short-term missions in the past?  If you are planning a mission trip in the near future, what are your motives?