Avoiding the Pitfalls of Short-term Missions. Counting the Costs & Getting Short-term Missions Right.
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Counting the Costs &
Getting Short-term Missions Right
There are few subjects in the mission world as controversial as short-term missions and their impact on field mission work. Few would argue with the powerful impact that short-term missions are having in mobilizing pastors, churches and young people to support missions or to go as missionaries themselves. There are, however, many questions that still swirl around the effectiveness of these short-term mission efforts and their sometimes detrimental effects to ongoing mission work on the field.
Missions Frontiers Magazine
Could it be true that a good portion of our short-term missions effort actually hinders God’s work?
Rick Johnson, Director of
International Action Ministries
Thinking That Short-term Activities Equal
Short-term Missions: one week to two years involved in supportive activities
Career Missions: life time calling to vocational ministry of establishing and strengthening new congregations
Each of these activities is valuable in their own right and have their place in supporting mission endeavors.
We affirm the commitments and sacrifices of those who take part in these activities.
But we realize they are not the same, nor do they fulfill the functions of the church planting missionary.
some drama, hold a meeting. They turned to us to arrange it . We were supposed to organize all the permits, to rent a hall, to arrange and distribute the leaflets -- they generously paid for it, performed their act -- and went back home. Then we received their newsletter about how they “did a mission campaign” in Eastern Europe. They did not bother to consider if their activity was really worthwhile, what its real impact was, if it was really the thing we needed, and if we would not have been able to do the same thing better …”
We are all witnesses. But we are not all missionaries, in the classical sense.
Example: we use terms like youth or summer “missionaries” but wouldn’t use terms like summer pastor/teachers or summer elders because we understand the difference between a young person doing summer witnessing and a trained and biblically qualified minister of the gospel doing church planting discipleship.
“In other words, the worker from afar is not, in a classical sense, a missionary - he or she is not in such cases going “where Christ is not named.” Such workers from afar are, however, often very valuable to the work as doctors, dentists, or professors from afar.”
Dr. Ralph D. Winter
U.S. Center for World Mission
Thinking Short-term Activities Can Take the Place of
The Long-term Presence of Career Missionaries in Fulfilling Our
Great Commission Responsibilities
We are not replacing the career missionaries that are now retiring with other career missionaries that can take their place.
As good as many short-term activities are, they cannot begin to replace the ministries established by the career missionaries.
Using up Resources Doing Short-term Activities
Which Should Be Reserved for Establishing and Strengthening New Mission Congregations
Average round trip air and expenses: $3200
(for 30 individuals)
Two weeks -- 1year, 8 weeks
The cost of an average career missionary presence for
two families for 1 year
Annual Support per family: $35,000Building, maintenance for bases, churches, etc.: $1000/month
(for two families)
Two Families -- Two yearsDo the Math!
total costs: $2,231,700.00 for 860 volunteers for 14 days
could have provided 47 missionary families with $35,000 support and $12,000 project funds for 1 year
A short-term Youth agency will send 7000 teens to 32 countries for two months each summer at the range of cost/youth of $1500 to $3500
total cost $17.5 million
could have provided for 372 missionary familiesConsider these examples:
Sometimes short-termers change but not always in the best direction. Instead of increasing their support of missionaries involved in establishing and strengthening churches, they begin saving for their next short term cross-cultural experience or worse become disillusioned and never go back.
short-term ministry opportunities which promise rich benefits to the volunteer who is only asked to ‘commit’ to what sounds a whole lot less than a year and which can usually be financed by othersWhat a contrast!
Develop discernment in evaluating short-term opportunities
Help shape your church’s mission policy to avoid the pitfalls
Promote and participate in proper short-term and pay for it yourself
Consider the joy of lifelong service and ask God to let you have the privilege of going yourself
Short-term service is no substitute for the bedrock of long-term missionary commitment.
International Director of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement
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or call 828-735-0013
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