The Problem with Short-Term Missions Trips and How to Solve It

Dariana Alvarez
Managing Editor

If someone attends an Evangelical church, chances are that their church plans to have a mission’s trip that year. Though these trips can spark servitude in a devout Christian, short-term global mission’s trips have sparked arguments on its effectiveness.

Most short-term global missions are annual trips that churches have to help those in third-world countries. Many churches do these trips because of Matthew 28:19-20 which talks about the Great Commission – a mandate that Christians must go out and share the gospel.

“If you have too much of something, the price of the product will drop… an East African country used to have a large clothing industry that employed many people. Then, in our generosity, the West started donating clothing. As a result, people lost their jobs, and if you drive around major cities in Africa, you will see hundreds of vendors selling donated shoes, belts, shirts, and more for less than a dollar,”

The Gospel Coalition.

However, some of those who have been on mission’s trips report positive outcomes from visiting these needy countries.

Norman Altz, a college student at Evangel Temple University, has been to the Dominican Republic, Rwanda, and Puerto Rico in order to serve vulnerable groups of people.

“When I went on my first mission’s trips, I saw that missionaries can have such an important impact on the people that they are working with. Just knowing that God can use me in such a mighty way like that is the main reason as to why I want to be a missionary,” said Altz.

Despite the obvious benefits missions’ trips carry, the problem still stands that these trips may do more harm than good if the focus is not on relief or if the trip is viewed like a getaway.

“Short-term mission trips are often nothing more than glorified vacations… They can be sightseeing tours filled with sporadic service opportunities that give people an opportunity to pat themselves on the back while doing little to advance the gospel in a reproducible, sustainable way in another culture,” said David Platt, American pastor and author, in an interview with the Institute of Faith, Work & Economics.

There must be a focus on both community and spiritual development. Though mission trips are usually good intentioned, it is not always carried out in a way that’ll truly assist the community because of wrong attitudes, not being fully weary of potential economic impacts, and not truly looking to make an impact in the lives of those who need change in their lives.

With my own desires, I aspire to do missionary work and to seek to fix these issues that seem to become prominent throughout modern missions’ trips. One of my biggest passions in life is to help others who feel forgotten and have needs that I can help them meet.

Altz summed up our interview with the following statement: “Sometimes people will only go on a mission’s trip if it’s to some place that is a tourist attraction… I believe that an effective mission’s trip is when you see God move in the lives of the people that you are ministering to. When you know that you’ve made an impact on them, you’re doing something right.”

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