Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rethinking Short Term Missions: An Introduction

I read this post by Jon Acuff today and remembered that I had mentioned one time that I was going to write a blog about the different mindsets of a short-term and long-term missions (I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seat waiting for it). I’d like to expand that more and talk about short term missions as a whole. This is something that’s been on my heart for awhile. It’s, in fact, something that I’m deeply passionate about.

Allow me to preface this by saying: I am by no means an expert in this area and would never claim to be. I may even be dead wrong in my observations. There are numerous others who have written about this that are far more qualified to talk about this subject and can put it into words better than I can. However, I learned a lot living in Uganda the past two years. I learned what an absolute idiot I was on the short term trips that I had been on before. I was reminded of that by watching other short term trips come to Uganda, being embarrassed/horrified/surprised by the things they did and then realizing how I had done all of those things before.

I’m a big fan of short term trips. God used those trips in my life to bring me to this point now (despite my seriously idiotic moments). If you’ve been able to hear me talk about Uganda in person, you’ve been able to hear how much I encourage people to come and be a part of what God is doing. I encourage these trips…but I think it’s time for some rethinking.

I went to a conference this past October with a local church. I had some great conversations with one of the pastors about short term missions. We talked about the need to revamp these trips. Honestly, his reaction to what I said surprised me. Sometimes I worry that I’m like that person Jon Acuff wrote about. I’ve tried to bite my tongue and not come across as a know-it-all, haughty and/or making blanket statements that may not be true. I don’t think that I have any earth shattering insights. Again, not an expert here. But, for him, it opened his eyes to a different side of missions. It made him rethink how his church does missions. Through that, he’s encouraged me to talk more about this. And, I figure, if this helps spread the name of Christ throughout the world, then let’s do that.

Because, really, that’s what this is all about.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)

How can we make short term trips more effective? Really, the question is: how can we help spread the name of Christ through out all nations?

I’d like to spend a few blog posts on this going over various topics such as:

-       The point of short term trips: why are we even doing these?
-       The pre-trip planning: what can you do before you even get on the plane to prepare?
-       The on-the-field time and how do make that more effective and avoid cultural gaffes.  This is probably where I’ll park for awhile.
-       Oh you know, and more topics that I’ll probably think of along the way. I’ll take topic suggestions too so…suggest and I’ll make something up or give my best answer…or ask trusted missionaries that are wiser than me.

I’m about to embark on a three month travel extravaganza. However, I’m going to really try to keep up with this. Until then, I’d like to point you to one of those people that has already approached this topic and done so excellently. Check her out (and be reminded that she totally stole my title...or I stole hers. Whichever). You just must read her posts on short term missions that she has nicely put on one page here. Seriously, read it. Or, you can wait until I write and will probably use a lot of what she says. Just kidding. Maybe…

Perhaps in rethinking how we "go" we can improve the possibility of "making disciples".

Perhaps those one-two week trips can have an impact long past when the team flies away.

Perhaps we can better "all the nations" for Christ.

Ready for the journey?


The Davis Family said...

I'm all ears... can't wait to dialogue with you about this.

Cindy said...

I look forward to hearing more. I always struggle when I go on short term mission trips. Is it for them or us? Does it help?

Connie said...

Eagerly waiting to read what you have to say. I'll be happy to "weigh in" as well.

Wizzy said...

I love this. Can't wait to read more. I have some fairly strong opinions on this myself. I was going to refer you to the stuff done by Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary. My sister and I talk about her take on short-term missions all the time. Looking forward to the next post.