Short Term Trips go Awry

I have been thinking about mission trips a lot since I read THIS ARTICLE. Since becoming a Christian I have been exposed to hundreds of mission projects. Early on I was taught that the term “missions” can have scores of definitions. It could mean kindness to others, traveling far away places, handing out tracks and an endless list of sanctified actions. Each year thousands of American short-term missionaries travel local or abroad to participate in projects that are completely divorced from the establishment or advancement of any local church. They are not apostles, sent out by the Holy Spirit like Paul and Barnabas in acts thirteen , so what are they? Well the article indicates that they are vacationaries and they have been created by well meaning churches and pastors.

A Princeton University study found that 1.6 million people took short-term mission trips — an average of eight days — in 2005. Estimates of the money spent on these trips is upward of $2.4 billion a year. Vacation destinations are especially popular: Recent research has found that the Bahamas receives one short-term missionary for every 15 residents. At the same time, the number of long-term American missionaries, who go abroad from several years to a lifetime, has fallen, according to a Wheaton College study done last year.

The vast majority of these trips, though conducted by churches are not doing anything to plant, assist or enhance any church in any way. I don’t mean to say that short-term trips are bad because they’re not…  I also know that places like the Bahamas (or Iceland) needs the gospel just as desperately as Indonesia. That said though, I think it is safe to say though that not all is well in the world of short term missions.


  1. Reply
    Becky Porter says

    I found this very thought provoking along with the article that accompanies your thoughts. Both sides of this short term mission trip issue have validity. No doubt there are times people go simply “to go” and experience a different culture, see the sights or whatever, “vacationaries” as the article stated. Also some go to “do the right thing or appear to be doing the right thing”, seeking approval. This is where I struggle. We just have to be careful whose approval we are seeking as we go. “Purify my motives, Lord Jesus.” I mentioned to my sister many months ago about the mission trip to Cancun that our association just made and her comment was “Wow, that will be a great vacation”. At that time it was a possibility that I would go. But knowing how anything “Christian” turns my sister completely off and knowing she was ridiculing the trip, trying to make it seem like I was going to lay on the beach (if you saw me you’d know that I surely wasn’t), it caused me to completely drop the idea of going. And maybe I shouldn’t have. Twice I have been on short term mission trips, once we went to Iceland with you Clint and then last December we went to Johannesburg, South Africa and now we are planning to return to Johannesburg again next April. On both trips we had a time of enjoyment, riding on the glacier and watching Bro. D and Gwen fall in the crack, and in Africa Bro. D saw that we went on safari. Those were great BUT the heart of the trips was looking into the faces of the people of Iceland and seeing the discontent with the “church”, not Jesus, but the “church” and giving your all to tell them what a precious Savior they have and what He has done for them. And then in Africa hearing the stories of the missionaries. One named Jeff told us at the table eating how hard it was where he and his family were, finally he said “Sometimes I just hate it there”, you could see it on his face. But then, like a curtain opening and the Son shining in, his face completely changed and he said “But it’s right”. WOW, double WOW. But it’s right. YES…that is what missions are all about, short term, long term, at home, abroad, wherever…it is the right thing to do. Sorry I wrote an article, I’ll try to do better next time.

  2. Reply
    Michael says

    Did these studies take into account the impact of CHOIR TOURS? Cause I’ve been on a few, and those rock the world ya know.

  3. Reply
    clintclifton says

    wow… thats a funny question. We’ve been on a few of those together!

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