Short-term missions can be one of the most heated debates in a church body. With the release of When Helping Hurts and similar works, the damage short-term trips can create was exposed, and some churches responded by axing short-term missions altogether. But short-term missions can also be an amazing (though certainly financially, physically, and emotionally costly) opportunity to witness Jesus’ dramatic involvement from a perspective utterly different from our own. Short-term mission trips establish an open space whereby people are more likely to hear God, be open to one-on-one discipleship, and pursue a life on mission.
Short-term mission trips (STMs) are an opportunity for establishing long-term discipleship relationships within the sending church, itself, and between two culturally different churches as partnerships are developed with ministries in other countries. The intentionality of journeying far to meet, learn from, and laugh with another congregation of believers can be extremely encouraging and inspiring to both churches. On STMs, Citylight does not travel to foreign cultures as a savior, but as an eager witness of Jesus, already present and active, amongst a foreign church body/people group, our God-given family. Family who we have simply never before met. This time of foreign interaction and connection is a birthing area for deeper discipleship among the people who go. Within our college ministry (CLU), STMs have inspired deeper community between students and leaders and established a culture of discipling a missional mindset. Our aim is to raise up, from the youth, adults committed to living on mission both locally and globally. May we never become an apathetic church, failing to care for the loved but lost people who are ignorant of Jesus’ Gospel. Effective short-term missions have only two main goals—establish discipleship relationships with people feeling the call towards missions and grow and develop partnership in the Gospel between two churches, cross-culturally.
STMs can act as a catalyst in the calling of future missionaries. In my life, it was a three-week time-period spent in Southeast Asia. For Maclae Jensen, our Citylight Missions assistant, her time in Guinea solidified a desire already there. And I doubt anyone can know Jacob Richardson, CitylightU Intern, for longer than a week without knowing his passion for Guatemala, which grew as a result of his time in Quetzaltenango. Because of the convenience in modern transportation, STMs are often what trigger a missional vision in the younger generation. STMs have potential to create problems, as witnessed in When Helping Hurts, but they also have the power to establish long-term partnerships and a culture of missional discipleship. For this coming summer with many STMs scheduled, this is our vision and desire. May we be a community continually falling more in love with the missional God.