I heard the remark the first time at a meeting regarding funding. The speaker said that “most of us agree that Short term mission trips benefit the goer more than they benefit the receiver”. Well maybe most agreed but not all. Up to that point I had never thought about Short Term Mission and benefit one way or another. When we started this blog in order to look at the partnerships between Minnesota North and North Dakota and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and the Missouri Synod I was fund raising and doing presentations around these Districts and became obsessed with the concept. I will say it again – I am stunned at how many short term mission trips are going on out there. Often the trip is carried out without any consultation with LCMS World Mission, the District or anyone else who might actually know what was going on in the area to which the trip is planned. Anyway, STM’s as they are called are big topics in the “missiological field” today with good reason. They cost big bucks that the ‘institutional church’ can use (sometimes more effectively) and sometimes they do harm.
Here is a quote from Greg Mckenzi the Editor of Missio Dei in volume 3.1 February 2012
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Short-term missions (STM) may be the most important missiological point in question, and at the same time the most seemingly unobjectionable practice, facing the church of the present century. It is, in other words, a subject both fascinating and pressing for those who care about the church’s mission. Why is it so important? Because of its sheer volume, its practitioners’ missiological assumptions, and its potential effects, both positive and negative, upon God’s mission. Yet, all three of these points—STM’s prominence, shape, and impact—are of such significance only because the church has found STM to be, in large part, a self-evidently good idea. The explosion of STM in Western Christianity often reflects the uncritical leap of individuals and congregations—not to mention other relevant organizations—into the practice.
Critical reflection on STM has taken many directions in the missiological literature of late, including the call for a moratorium. Yet, despite increasing, judicious criticism, STM has only grown in wider Christianity.
(and later)……critics must come to terms with the fact that churches will do STM. The statistics suggest that STM has moved out of the realm of fad, into the realm of operating assumption. While some church leaders may conscientiously object, they will not be the majority; at least not in the near future. The question shifts, then, from whether to do STM to how to do it. The literature considered above is indicative. Whatever one’s tendency in the debate, the assumption is that churches are going to do STM—so they had better figure out how to do more good and less harm.
Yet, there is a second sense in which STM is inevitable. If missional-church thinkers are right, then congregations must revision STM in terms of what it means to be a global citizen when the church is missional by its very nature. The globalization that has made STM possible as an operating assumption—including its economic, communication, and transportation possibilities—shapes every aspect of the Christian’s life. The missional nature of the church means that its members are always sent and always intentionally engaged. The global nature of the church’s existence means that Christians are constantly involved in short-term relationships that cross cultural barriers. David Livermore writes:
As we begin to be more honest about the fact that short-term mission trips are simply another piece of thousands of experiences in our lives that change us, we’ll be motivated in appropriate ways, which in turn will help us engage more effectively. Let’s stop thinking about short-term missions as a service to perform and see them as another expression of a seamless life of missional living that includes giving and receiving.