Is short-term mission right for me? | Christian Vocations

Is short-term mission right for me?

Short-term volunteers can make a valuable contribution to work overseas. Short-term mission cannot replace the involvement of those who share their lives in long-term committed relationships, but it can be of immense value if done hand-in-hand with, and contributing to, a longer-term vision. Short-term involvement is a great way to see and feel the needs around the world and perhaps even test a call to long-term service. It can give you the chance to grow in your knowledge of God and get a taste of living and working in a different culture. And you may even find that going on a short-term programme changes you profoundly and that you come back a different person as a result.

Most people don’t get a bolt of lightning from the sky, a booming voice from heaven, or see their name flashing in some kind of divine neon light. And if you’re waiting for a ‘burning bush’ experience, like Moses had in Exodus 3, it will never happen! Maybe it will just start with a gut feeling – an ‘inner witness’ in your spirit. Maybe something someone has said in a sermon or just a conversation is what’s motivating you. Perhaps you’ve know someone who’s been on a short-term team and it’s provoked an interest. Could it be that God has spoken to you from his Word about your commitment to him? Or might it be that the knowledge you have of the needs that exist in the world around you has been enough to move you to action?  

Even if none of these scenarios connect with your personal experience, it's important to remember that as a disciple of Jesus, you do have a calling.  Jesus summarises the commandments as being 'Love God... and love others' (Matthew 22:37-39) and the Great Commission tells us to 'Go... and make disciples of all nations'.

And don't forget your local church - right from the start it is vital that you seek wisdom and advice from your local church leaders/mission support team to help you think this through fully. Some further information on the subject of call and guidance can be found here.

You might think that this is an odd question!  But in this age when ease of travel has made so much possible, we do need to ask ourselves the hard questions about the appropriateness of overseas short-term trips. Are we a real help or a hindrance? Do we realise that we will probably learn far more than we will give? Do our one way trips from “here to there” just perpetuate the mistaken idea that mission is something that is done to people by better educated and better off Westerners? Are we listening to the voices on the receiving end of our mission efforts, no matter how uncomfortable that is? 

The desire to make a worthwhile and lasting difference within the local community is usually high among the priorities of those going on short-term mission trips. But if we are not careful this can lead us to unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve, and lead to us seeing mission just as an activity or an event. Short-term mission cannot replace the involvement of those who share their lives in long-term committed relationships, but it can be of immense value if done hand-in-hand with, and contributing to, a longer-term vision. Short-termers often comment that they gain more from their experiences than they’ve been able to give.

Keep your focus on God and His purposes for the trip and on what He is doing, rather than on how you might be benefitting personally or being changed. Whatever you do, do it with a heart to honour God and serve others, taking on board the advice given to you by your chosen mission agency. And understand that how you do a short-term mission trip may, in fact, matter more than what you do - things no-one normally tells you about going on short-term mission trips is a great little article to read on this subject.

First, you need to establish what is behind their objections. It is perfectly natural for other family members to be concerned about their loved one taking off somewhere they know little or nothing about with a bunch of strangers. If your family is not Christian then you need to be sensitive in how you handle the situation, but if this is the case then they may never agree with any Christian activity you engage in. If their concern is for your protection and safety, then do what you can to address their concerns. Get the agency you’ll be serving with to talk to them and give them every possible reassurance. Involve your church leaders if necessary. Talking to others who have had similar concerns may also help them. If at the end of this they still object, then you need to ask yourself questions about what’s most important. If God clearly has placed his call on your life for Christian service then you may need to just go for it. Maybe they’ll come round to the idea in time. However, God asks us to respect and honour our families, and you should do what you can to protect your relationship with them. Seek advice from people you respect – they may help you find a way through the difficulty. It’s also worth saying that the world is a much smaller place now and the prospect of travelling thousands of miles to serve on an overseas project isn’t as scary as it used to be.

Questions to ask

If you are considering getting involved in short-term mission, you need to think through what you have to offer, why you want to go, and where, and be aware of some of the possible pitfalls.
Avoiding unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve that may lead to us seeing mission just as an activity or an event.