There are so many abuses when it comes to short-term mission trips, and oftentimes these abuses obscure the tremendous value of short-term missions. The goal of short-term mission is always long-term impact…on a variety of different levels.
Long-Term Impact Abroad
First, we want to be a part of long-term impact in other contexts in the world. Obviously, we are not going to be able to go into another setting and make disciples in a week or two. So our goal should always be to connect relationally with long-term disciple-making processes in other contexts. Whether it is missionaries who have moved into another country/context, or nationals living in another context/country, we want to connect with brothers and sisters who are carrying out long-term disciple-making in that country/context. They know what the best uses might be for a short-term mission team, and there is great confidence in going to a place and serving alongside brothers and sisters like this, knowing that you are a part of supporting a long-term disciple-making process in that country/context for the glory of Christ.
Long-Term Impact at Home
But the long-term impact is not just about what happens in that country/context during that week or two on a short-term mission trip. We also want to promote a long-term impact in the people who are going on that short-term mission trip. This is a part of the disciple-making process in our own churches. In the church I pastor, short-term mission trips are a huge component of our long-term disciple-making processes. We want people that we are teaching and training in Christ to go into other contexts in the world, to see the glory of God in ways they may have never seen before, and to expand their understanding of the global purpose for which God has created them. So for anyone that is looking to go on a short-term mission trip, the goal is not just to focus on impacting another part of the world; the goal is to focus on impacting the people you take with you to another part of the world, so that when you come back to your own context, you and the people who traveled with you are that much more committed to obeying the Great Commission in the context of where you live every day. In addition, many people will come back from a short-term mission trip and decide to go into more mid-term or long-term missions. Almost all of the people who have gone out from our church to serve in another country/context for 6 months, a year or two, or a lifetime, started by going on a short-term mission trip.
In all of these ways, short-term mission trips can be hugely valuable for supporting disciple-making processes in other parts of the world as well as right where we live. Through short-term, mid-term, and long-term missions, we join together with our brothers and sisters around the world as we work with all our hearts to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.