Are Short-Term Mission Trips a Waste of Time and Money?

A few tough questions may be warranted to help you wrestle through this hard but important subject

“If $1,500 per teenager has to be raised so that a youth group can go on a short-term mission trip we need to make sure that it was worth the investment! A sure way of doing this is to make sure that, in addition to whatever humanitarian projects are being done, the lost are being reached and the believers are being energized, encouraged and, maybe even equipped, to share the Gospel!”

 

Okay, I know this is a powderkeg subject. There are two very divergent views when it comes to this question.

On one side there is an almost endless line of mission trip organizations that would chant, “No! No! No!” to the question of whether or not short-term trips are a waste of time. But, of course, their very existence is at stake if youth group leaders answer this question in the affirmative.

On the other side of the equation are some cash-strapped pastors, burnt-out youth leaders, as well as a handful of cynical seminary professors, who would say that short-term mission trips are a complete waste of time and money.

While I’m not going to attempt to fully answer this question in a short(ish) blog post, I think a few tough questions may be warranted to help you wrestle through this hard but important subject.

1. Is your mission trip doing good or doing the most good?

I love The Salvation Army. Their theme is “Doing the most good.” William Booth, who started this holy humanitarian organization in 1865 in London, had a heart to bring “Soup, Soap and Salvation” to the hungry, dirty and lost. He gave up the comforts of the pulpit to take the hope of Christ to the poverty-filled streets of London. For over 150 years this now global ministry has been the hands and feet of Jesus to countless underprivileged people.

A few years ago I had the privilege of preaching to a regional group of Salvation Army officers (what the Salvation Army calls their ministers.) During our time together I asked a tough question, “Are you just ‘doing good’ or are you truly ‘doing the most good’?

You could feel the tension in the audience as I used their slogan as a spiritual cattle prod.

I went on to say, “If you are just taking care of the needy you are doing good. But if you are taking care of the needy and sharing the Gospel you are truly doing the most good.”

What’s true of The Salvation Army is true of short-term mission trips.

2. Is your short-term trip going to make a long-term difference?

Dont’ get me wrong. It is good to do good!

As Galatians 6:10 reminds us, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

But, in addition to the good we are doing in the short-term we should make sure we are doing as much good (or even more) in the long-term.

There’s a certain R.O.I. that we should consider before agreeing to another mission trip. If $1,500 per teenager has to be raised so that a youth group can go on a short-term mission trip we need to make sure that it was worth the investment! A sure way of doing this is to make sure that, in addition to whatever humanitarian projects are being done, the lost are being reached and the believers are being energized, encouraged and, maybe even equipped, to share the Gospel!

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