Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Understanding and Commitment: Short-term vs. Long-term

Our current debate revolves around the effectiveness of short-term versus long-term missionary activity:

There are those who believe short-term missions are a “feel good about yourself” way to make a brief impact on the world, while long-term missions require submersion into a culture and an opportunity to develop deeper relationships to make lasting change. Others believe long-term missions produce missionaries who are so focused on an area that they are “out of touch”, while the impact of short-term missions keeps missions workers grounded in both realities. So what is the most effective role of short- and long-term missions?

Week #1 suggested supporting short-term missionaries and week #2 explored some of the strongest arguments against short-term missions. What will today’s topic add to the discussion?

Week #3: As a result of the conversations, fund-raising, and actual time spent on short-term missions, many individuals, families, and churches have grown in their understanding of and commitment to long-term cross-cultural missions.

The evidence clearly shows that short-term missions can be wasted time and money when they are approached selfishly, lazily, or with an eye toward, “What’s in it for me?”

However, when the focus is on serving God and neighbor, short-term mission projects can also have a positive impact on long-term missions including:
- Increased knowledge of and sensitivity toward different cultures and how hard long-term missionaries have to work to learn about and acclimate to their new environments.

- Firsthand knowledge of just how huge the cause of evangelism and missions work really is around the world—hopefully building a stronger commitment to raising awareness, funds, and support for career missionaries.

- How powerful and important prayer is to missionaries and the people, communities, and countries they serve.

- What the current needs are among long-term missionaries so that resources and funds can be raised and sent to the areas of need (including temporary—short-term—workers to help on strategic projects).
When organized with the big picture in mind, short-term mission projects help churches have conversations regarding their missions strategy and focus and about the individual’s role within that structure. That way, short-term workers have the opportunity to serve, and long-term workers’ initiatives are furthered.
“They didn’t come to tell us how to do things, which is what the gringos have always done in the past,” said Toribio Dub√≥n, a peasant leader in Nueva Victoria, a rebuilt village in the Honduran province of Santa Barbara. “These people came to sweat in the sun with us, to listen, to treat us as equals. We felt blessed by their presence beside us.”
One long-term missionary stated, “Those who spend time on a mission field become much more aware of the needs of the career missionary and the mission work and this results in increased giving, praying, writing encouraging letters, and other expressions of love and support.” [3]

So what do you think? Please join in the discussion by clicking on the comments link below!

[1] Miriam Adeney, research professor of missions at Regent College and associate professor of cross-cultural ministries at Seattle Pacific University, at the Fellowship of Short-Term Mission Leaders (FSTML) 1998 Conference.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Tim,

Have you seen the Mission Maker Magazine?? I just happened to see the 2009 edition at the ECFA office where Joy works. I copied several pages of very interesting statistics. I don't remember for sure but it seemed like there was an article on Short-term vs. Long-term missions. Their web site is:

Blessings on you,

Carol Trachsel