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?