As summer is rapidly approaching, those of us involved in church often receive letters from friends and family asking for prayer and money for short-term mission trips. As a matter of fact, I am helping to lead five groups this summer from our church to serve with a ministry in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
With this summer coming soon, the value of short-term missions is on my mind. Many people within my tribe (protestant Christians) often question the need and effectiveness of these types of trips. However, after 15 years of serving overseas and hosting many of them, I am an absolute believer in short-term mission trips.
There are many reasons why I financially support people going on these trips each year. However, the following are the six main reasons I see great value in short-term mission trips (and why I am excited about my summer in particular).
1. Short-term mission trips serve a specific and REAL need
If a church/group is doing missions effectively, they partner with ministries who have genuine and specific needs which can realistically be addressed through short-term mission teams. This was always the case for the groups I hosted in East Asia and this is definitely the case for our teams going to Bishkek this summer.
For instance, Kyrgyzstan is a country of deep poverty and is 90% Muslim. At less than 1% of the population, the Christian church is lonely, isolated, and in need of prayer and help in virtually all ways. In this case, we will be serving alongside of the biggest church among their over six million people. The church is about 120 strong. Additionally, Kyrgyzstan law forbids Christians from proselytizing outside of the walls of the church.
Our teams will primarily host a month of children’s day camps. Each week will see anywhere from 90-120 kids, almost all of which are Muslim and have zero exposure to the Gospel and the church. The Bishkek church uses short-term groups to not only serve the kids of the city (the week is a blast for the kids and completely free), but also see this as a primary way to reach into the families of the city. The kids are drawn to these camps through the curiosity of meeting Americans and the opportunity to take free English classes. The church will get to know some of their parent’s through this as well.
Given the fact that the church is only 120 people of which the vast majority are working hard to just survive, they would never have the capacity to host camps such as this. Without such camps, there would not be meaningful inroads towards reaching the families of Bishkek with the Gospel.
2. Short-term mission trips provide participants personal perspective and vision for the world
God is the God of the nations. He created and loves all people in every nation and tribe. The opportunity to travel and interact with peoples of “every tongue, tribe, and nation” provides a better understanding of our God.
It sounds cliché, but I honestly moved to East Asia in 1998 thinking I was going to help extend the church in that great country. However, I stayed because I loved how much God taught me by being a part of the local Christian church there. I grew more in my understanding of the Bible and love for Jesus by simply being there to experience my faith in community with Chinese believers.
It is a beautiful thing when you see firsthand how the message of the Gospel truly is for everyone. This is a wonderful thing and has helped me (and countless other Christians I know) grow in my faith and understanding of God.
3. Short-term mission trips lead to growth in Christ for the participants
There are very few ways more effective to focus on growth as a follower of Jesus than to pull away from your everyday life, challenge yourself in doing cross-cultural outreach, and be on a designated team of fellow Christians all focused on the same task; the expansion of the kingdom of God.
Also, growth happens during short-term trips by the teams being able to intensively focus on thoughtful Bible study during their trip. This summer in Kyrgyzstan, we will be working through the Biblical concepts of FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE; how this relates to our walks with God, the work in Bishkek, and our lives in Los Angeles. I am excited for us all to grow in Jesus this summer!
4. Short-term mission trips are an exceptional way for relationship building within your community and/or church
This is what I am most excited about for our summer of five teams serving together in Bishkek. We live in a busy world where relationships are often hard to grow with any sort of depth. Between work, family, hobbies, and social activities (even church), it’s difficult to get beyond a superficial level with the people around us.
When preparing together for months (as we have been doing), getting on a plane and riding for 20 hours (as we will do), rooming together, and serving alongside of one another 24/7, a mission trip can bond people in ways that sitting next to each other in church or attending the same community group for years will not. It is amazing.
I am honestly looking forward to the 40 or so people who are a part of these trips coming back to our church and sharing their experiences with each other and the rest of the church.
5. Short-term mission trips help better equip the participants for lives of impact back in their countries
On mission trips, we learn more about how to reach out to our own spheres of influence back in our home countries. Honestly, I learned how to reach out to my friends in America by going to China as a short-term missionary my junior year of college. I have never been the same since. I have seen this repeated countless times over the years. I am praying there will be 44 equipped and motivated evangelists in Los Angeles as a result of our teams this summer.
6. Short-term missions produce long-term missionaries
In my 15 years of serving in global missions, I can say that almost everyone in long-term missions started out with a short-term mission trip. This was my case in going to China in college and I have seen this repeated almost constantly since then.
Our ministry in Asia was built upon this strategy. We would host groups in Asia for a week or a summer. Then, a year or two later, many people would end up coming back long-term.
The goofy picture at the top of this article is a great example of this. I am the guy on the top row, far left (that was many years and pounds ago!). This was a short-term mission team I was a part of in Asia. As I look at this picture now, I know at least 13 of us ended up on the mission field for two years or more. Several are still serving. We were exposed to mission work on this short-term trip and many of us returned for extensive, effective service overseas.
When people return long-term, they are able to learn the language, culture, and have the time to meaningfully invest in local people. Local people become Christians, are able to grow in their faith, and will in turn become leaders of the local church.
I saw Asia absolutely transformed by this model over the course of two decades. I am praying the same will happen in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan!
So, that is why I support people who participate on short-term mission trips and why I think you should as well.