great post today from seth barnes on the faddishness of short-term missions. it’s especially gutsy, since seth is the founder and exec dir of adventures in missions, an organization that takes thousands on short-term missions trips each year. he starts…
Are short-term missions becoming faddish? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is: YES. I estimate that 75% of STMs are done poorly (that is, not meeting many of the standards of excellence referred to below). Robert Priest estimates that as many as four million a year go on STMs. You do the math on the waste there.
Those going are increasingly ill-prepared and what they do is of questionable value given the resources invested. Sadly, many participants are narcissistic, they have little cross-cultural perspective, and often their experience does little to advance the Kingdom.
many of the comments (interesting stuff, btw) seem to be implying that i don’t believe in short-term missions, or wondering if i don’t. many are taking time to defend stm’s. let me clarify: i’m a HUGE supporter of stm. i’ve taken thousands of teenagers on, litereally, hundreds of missions trips. i served on the board for adventures in missions (the organization seth barnes — the guy this post links to — leads) for 5 years. and i’ve rarely seen more lasting change in students than as a result of stm.
that said… i think seth (who is clearly also a massive propoant of stm, since that’s what his organization does) raises a good question (or, questions). i HAVE noticed a trend where youth workers and churches are adding stm as another program without really thinking through WHY they’re doing it, HOW they can do it effectively (without actually doing more damage to the culture they visit), WHAT should actually occur on an stm that makes sense for both the participants and those being ministered to, and so many more questions.
there’s some addition great reading on this. read dave livermore’s excellent book, serving with eyes wide open. it’s all about the damage that can be done by poorly executed stm, and how to avoid that.
AND, read the follow-up posts on seth’s blog. the one i linked to was only the first in a series!
what does an excellent missions project look like?
excellent mission team prep
and, how to follow up on your mission project