Leading a Short Term Trip?
I am pro short term mission trips and I’m opposed to short term mission trips. This dichotomous posture has formed in me through observation and participation in a broad spectrum of short term trips. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The “good” should be your goal: changed lives; rescued souls; deeper convictions; renewed faith; expanded worldview; forever friendships; …
What can you do to ensure that your trip produces “good” results? Whether you have been leading trips for years, or are planning your first, start by asking the right questions.
5 Questions You Should Ask
Is my church supportive of the trip?
You are about to invite your faith community to give a lot of money, and commit themselves to supporting you with their personal prayers. If they believe in the “mission” of your Mission Trip, this will be a rewarding endeavor. However, if they are not on board, get ready for the pain and disappointment of trying to fund an unpopular project. The trip should be in line with the overall mission of the church and you should passionately share your vision for how this trip helps you all move towards that shared mission.
Are we wanted and needed?
When choosing a location and partner, be certain those who receive you, need you there at least as much as they want you there. Short term teams often produce much needed financial and human resources for missionaries and mission sites. Therefore it is vital that you ensure that your team is needed, and will be used for mission critical projects. It’s not unheard of for mission sites to receive teams that are of limited use to them, merely to acquire the funds that come along. That may sound cynical (or even sinister), but it happens. Do your homework when choosing a site and partner. Make sure your short term presence serves a long term purpose.
Do I see potential for a long term partnership?
There should be nothing short term about short term mission trips (other than the number of days). When choosing a location or partner for your trip, look for situations that lend themselves to ongoing relationship. This could involve return trips, a post trip giving project, child sponsorship, long term internships, or a reverse mission trip (bringing some of those whom you have served to serve and bless your people). I led teams to the same European city, to serve alongside the same people, and partner with the same church, for 10 consecutive years. The trust, value, effectiveness, and depth of relationship, grew exponentially every year. Our trips never felt like a one-off.
Do I have the right people for the job?
I think teams made up mostly of teenagers may not be best suited for construction projects. I’m not opposed to helping students engage in manual labor, but remember this is a “short term” trip. That means there is limited time to capitalize on the relationship building skills teenagers have in abundance. Knowing the people you bring are a good fit for the ministry you do, maximizes your limited time. If the project is not suited to your team, you will be ineffective and frustrated. Interview every applicant, keeping the nature of the trip in mind as you evaluate them.
Am I committed to cross-cultural training?
One can draw a straight line between the level of training short term participants receive, and the level of effectiveness they have on the ground. The ugliest examples of short term mission damage are typically traced back to a poorly trained team. Cross cultural training should be your highest priority in pre trip meetings. You will not only be preparing the team for what they will encounter on your trip, but much of what they will encounter in life. If you have not had any cross cultural training yourself, recruit someone who has a background in cross-cultural ministry to help prepare you and your team.
Get started by reading this book by Dr. David Livermore: Serving With Eyes Wide Open
James Grout is the co-founder of TeamSend.org, an online service created to assist those leading short term mission trips, by simplifying donations and amplifying communication.