Are short-term mission trips worth it?

As one who takes folks regularly on short term mission trips, I occasionally have a sitdown with myself and ask if it is really worth it.

From a personal perspective it is a mixed bag.

As the organizer and leader of such groups it is a tremendous amount of work. I tend to feel like the mother hen herding her flock of little chicks. The questions, the misunderstandings, the “drama,” the little details that no one else thinks about… after a week or so, it can begin to drive you crazy.

From a pure financial standpoint I’ve had to wrestle with feelings of guilt and waste. All that money, just to take a group of Americans to a place that they will stay for a few weeks. How effective will they actually be to the work they are visiting? Will there be any real Kingdom work that takes place? Imagine what you could do with those resources if you could apply them directly to the work instead of paying for airfare, food and transportation for visiting Americans.

Of course, reality says that those funds would not be available to the work if the individuals did not make the trip. Most people will not forgo a trip and donate the same funds for use in-country without their presence. It doesn’t diminish, however, the effect this straw man has on my psyche.

Then there is the issue of the spiritual maturity of the traveling guests. For most American Christians who travel outside of the U.S. to a place where Christianity is a rather new commodity, they are ill prepared for what they encounter. Their only basis of reference is their experience in the American church; what they encounter can be upsetting, frustrating and even frightening. While I consider that to be an excellent springboard for the deepening of faith, it isn’t always a pleasant experience.

Next up: so, are short term mission trips a waste of time?


12 responses to “Are short-term mission trips worth it?

  1. So, would you rather have the money or the herd?

  2. patrickandchristy

    Joe, YOU know the answer to this question. I know the question is really for US as the Body of Christ to answer.

    On the surface, this seems like such a simple question but underneath it lies a mountain of spiritual teachings and answers that can transform our faith and take it to a whole other level. Good question. I get asked this a lot when I talk to people about our trips. I think it’s good material for a short-coming post for me. Thanks for always challenging us. We love you brother.

    • Patrick,

      Simple questions often have tough answers. I know we’ve talked about this very issue in the past on some of the trips. Sometimes it isn’t that one answer is more correct than the other as much as a particular answer may be better or may change given the circumstances.

      • patrickandchristy

        And that’s what we have to be willing to do as disciples of Christ – seek the truth, the answers regardless of how hard or painful they may be for us. I agree that it’s not a question of who, or what is right or wrong if we are geniunely seeking God, His direction and will for our lives.

        If you’re involvement isn’t centered in God’s will or plan for your life, then I believe that’s when it becomes counter-productive, and we begin to make a mess of it or get it wrong. God can still find the good out it and use it but we will usually find the wrong answers if we’re asking these questions without God’s involvement.

        But it’s also true that we could both be walking in God’s will and fulfilling his plan for us and get different answers, both right for us.

  3. We have asked the same questions about our visiting teams and came to the conclusion that it is an investment in future missionaries. Some will actually return as lifetime workers; others will become strong advocates of our work and support in prayer, finances; others spread the word that we are doing what we say we are doing: lives changed, souls saved. Yep. It’s worth the investment.

    • Jean,

      My bottom line is that I agree with you! I’m going to list some of the reasons why in some upcoming posts. Thanks for stopping in and posting!

  4. wow… wow… deep stuff. From the heart stuff… do not be dishearted if you are Brother Joe. Cause I’m sensing a mixed bag here. Just like you said….


  5. patrickandchristy

    God doesn’t give us mixed bags. When HE gives us a “bag”, it’s filled with truth and righteous answers. We’re the ones that want to add stuff to the bag or interpret the stuff in the bag through worldly glasses/lens.

  6. And your right patrick. I may have said that with rose colored lenses. But also true the mixed bag I referred to was that of emotions… kind of a happy and sad… at least in Bro Joes POV. But again I may be wrong… I have been many times… since I am one to jump guns so to speak. Anyways, let’s just wait for his next post… im excited… aren’t u? haha.

  7. patrickandchristy

    Gotta cha. True Jude, emotionally, missions is a roller-coaster of feelings. I experience that a lot in my job. I wrote a post on 1/20/09 that is a perfect example of that. Check it out if you get a chance.

    Yea, I’m excited too and enjoy that truth searching posts.

  8. Pingback: So, are short-term mission trips a waste of time? part 1 « ru·mi·na·tions

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