Thinking Out Loud

April 17, 2012

Short Term Mission Trippers as seen by Full Time Missionaries

Jamie Wright calls herself “The Very Worst Missionary,” but she’s in prime form when it comes to seeing short term mission projects through the eyes of someone serving as a full-time worker. 

I linked to one of her articles on the link list a few Wednesdays ago, and I have another one scheduled for tomorrow; but I’m sorry; you guys don’t click; and I know if you’re clicking or not because WordPress tells me. 

And this stuff needs to be read.

So help me legitimize today’s cutting and pasting by doing three things:

  1. Read these at source
  2. When you’re done, click the banner and read more of Jamie’s writing
  3. Consider subscribing to her blog

So first of all we have the one from a couple of weeks ago.  There’s a several paragraph set up, but for you non-clickers, a group of kids are in a downtown square ‘handing’ out free hugs when Jamie and her friend — who was shooting a documentary — decide to engage them in conversation.

We asked them, “If someone accepted a hug and was so moved by said hug (and subsequently knowing that Jesus loved them) and they wanted more information, what would you do?”

And they weren’t really sure.

So we helped them out with a suggestion, “Would you, y’know, maybe refer them to a local church?”

“Oh, yes! Yes. For sure. We would refer them to a church.”

Cool. Which church?

“Oh. Costa Rica has tons of great churches.”

OK. Do you know what any of them are called? Or where they are?

“Well… No. But, they’re everywhere around here.”

Oookaaay… Do you go to a church here? Like, a church that you could invite people to attend?

“Um…yeah. Hey, you guys? What’s that church we go to? Like, on Sundays. What’s it called again?”

So you don’t even know where YOU go to church?

And then, a leader came up and tapped her watch and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got to go do… a…thing…” And then they split.

All of the above!

She concluded, “Perhaps the first step to creating healthy short-term missions can be found in stripping them down to their most basic form, creating them to look more like part of the discipleship process. What if we unashamedly refocused the dynamics of a “mission” trip onto the one being sent, and removed pseudo-humanitarian efforts (which are often more harm than good) altogether? “

…And then, after a couple of posts that actually aren’t all that profound, she comes back to the subject with the one a few days ago.  (You’re supposed to click the underlined thing, okay?)  After quoting the section of Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the disciples, she observes:

Where Jesus appointed, we take volunteers.

Where Jesus sent pairs, we send herds.

Where Jesus admonished for danger and quiet humility along the road, we opt for vacation destinations and loud self-congratulations.

Where Jesus asks to be bringers of peace, we often bring chaos.

Where Jesus designed an opportunity for a disciple to lean into a new family, learn a new culture, and serve under the head of a household (who best knows his own need), we march in with a plan and the resources to git’er’done – completely missing out on the gift of being “a worker worth his wages”.

What if the original picture of “short-term teams” was meant to show us this valuable step in the process of discipleship, where we can learn dependance on God, love for others, and how to serve

And what if we’ve taken that picture and turned it into a billion dollar industry, creating dependance among the poor – not on God – but on the ourselves, damaging Christ’s image in the world, and missing the point entirely?

Again, before you question this, remember they are working on the mission field and you’re not.  They are seeing this through a lens that is completely different from how missions trips look when they’re announced at your weekend services or youth group meetings

If you dare, forward this to the short-term mission trip coordinator at your place of worship. Comments can be left here if you wish, but leaving them at Jamie’s blog would be even better.


  1. Let’s talk for just a minute about cost. Monetary dollar values. What does it cost, per person, to fly into another country and stay in a hotel for one week? Let’s say you each spend $1,000 flying round trip and renting a block of rooms. Each person will also be buying food, souvenirs, etc. And for what? You drop a thousand dollars to spend a week handing out tracks, come back with a mission trip t-shirt, and tell everyone you “did missions” over summer break.

    Now imagine what a local church pastor could do in India for $1,000. Imagine what a church in Haiti could do for the community with a thousand dollars (after their heads stopped exploding). What I’m driving at is this: Is budgeting (or fund raising for) short term mission trips the way to be a good steward of our resources? Is “doing missions” the same as preaching the Gospel to every creature? I wonder.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — April 17, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

  2. […] sure to also read today’s examination of the subject of short-term mission trips at Thinking Out Loud. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Leave a […]

    Pingback by Jesus: After the Order of Melchizedek « Christianity 201 — April 17, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

  3. […] previous recent article on this topic was the link to Jamie Wright’s excellent piece on April 17th. There was also a link listed devoted to this topic on November 27, 2008. Like this:LikeBe the […]

    Pingback by Another Critique of the Short Term Missions Movement « Thinking Out Loud — June 25, 2012 @ 7:04 am

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