My Struggles with Traditional Missions – part 4

This is part 4 of this topic:

  • You can read part 1 HERE.
  • You can read part 2 HERE.
  • You can read part 3 HERE.
  • You can hear the sermon where I talked about some of these things HERE.

For ten years some things about traditional missions have bothered me
– at least my understanding of traditional missions. I'm not sure I
have the answers, but I struggle with several things. And I'm open
to continued correction and feedback.

Another question I have about missions…

4) Shouldn't we be more cautious about sending short-term teams to mission fields?

I think there are many positives about sending short-term teams to visit mission fields, but I think those positives are almost all for the short-term team. I'm not sure of the long-term benefit a team is to the missionary – especially considering the amount of time they take to get ready for and follow up from the short-term team.

The books "Toxic Charity" and "When Helping Hurts" tell a lot of stories of the dangers of short-term missions as well as acknowledging some of the benefits.

Should short-term teams be doing for mission churches what the believers of that church should be doing? I've worked on too many mission trips where our team was doing the work, but the people of the mission church never joined us. I'm not sure that really helped them.

Is it possible that short-term teams create an over-dependance and infatuation with Americans and American Christians rather than a trust in God?

I don't feel very strongly about this one, except those two books made me think differently about short-term trips. I have been on many, many trips and they have been life-changing. And the more I've thought about it – the more I've realized that they were life-changing for me and those I took on the trips, but I'm not sure how much we helped and how much we may have unintentionally hurt.

  1. I have seen short term missions done very well, and I think the key is that both those who go and those who receive them know from the first that the purpose of the trip is primarily for the spiritual development of those who go.

    On trips to Guyana we worked with a local pastor who was very intentional about working with the trip leaders to design a good experience for the goers, while using their assistance for practical projects his church was already working on. His understanding of short-term missions was much more mature than our own, and that understanding made the trips a blessing to all involved.

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