An estimated 1.5 million people from the US participate in short-term mission trips each year, spending upwards of $2 billion in the process. That’s a lot of people and a lot of money. The question is, does it really help? If teams contribute to feelings of inferiority or superiority or perpetuate the cycle of poverty, they may be doing more harm than good. By learning to alter your thoughts about short-term missions, you have the chance to be more effective and support positive change. Here are six things you might not know.
Developing Countries Need Partners, Not Heroes
When traveling to a foreign land, remember that you are not a hero. By allowing yourself to foster a hero or god complex, your good works will be diminished. Developing countries need long-term partners to foster growth and learn to support themselves. Short-term heroes need not apply. By focusing on encouraging gospel work and glorifying God over our own experiences, short-term ministry becomes an unselfish venture.
We Are All Poverty-Stricken
If your trip makes you grateful for the money and material items you have because those you helped had so little, you’re missing the point. Everyone is poor in some way. You may have material belongings but suffer from spiritual, physical, or systemic poverty. Acknowledging our need for God is the only way to heal ourselves and serve others.
You Should Do Things With People, Not For People
Just because someone lives in a developing country doesn’t mean they can’t do things for themselves. Instead of offering to paint a wall, invite them to help. Everyone needs a sense of self-worth and equality.
You Should Always Know the History of Where You’re Going
Understanding historical context is just as important as the immediate context in short-term mission trips. Before traveling to another country, you should look into the history of the country or neighborhood. Study the role the United States and the Church have played there. Find out what their current issues are so you can give them exactly what they need to succeed.
Raising Money Long-Term Is Better Than Contributing for a Week
Money may not be everything, but it certainly helps. Used wisely, it can make a huge difference to the country you’re visiting. So, don’t just fundraise for a one-week trip. Keep up the momentum and try to match every dollar spent on that trip to continuously serve that country over the course of the year.
Reciprocal Relationships Breed Learning Opportunities
Building personal relationships should always be prioritized over completing projects. Sharing information about your family, your needs, and your pain helps others understand that not everyone in the United States is rich and happy. Be open to being honest and vulnerable and willing to ask questions about their culture. It’s the best way to learn. Along the same lines, don’t take pictures of kids in situations you wouldn’t want your own children to endure. Show respect and come home with names and stories, not photos of random kids.
Short-term missions are special and important, and shouldn’t be discouraged, but going into it with the right mindset can help you make a bigger difference. When you’re ready to leave the comfort of your home and be among the people, following in the steps of Jesus, In-Motion Ministries can help you get there. Check out our ministry options for an adventure that suits the talents of your particular group.