Dangerous STM question #3

Question #3: Where are short-termers going?

by Dr. Timothy Tennent

One of the challenges of short term missions is to send groups to places where they can be the most strategic. One of the inherent problems in local church missions programs is that due to time and budgetary constraints the destinations of choice are often places where the relationship between the Western church and the mission field is most problematic. While there are notable exceptions, many of the churches located in nearby places such as Mexico, Honduras and Haiti have, over the years, developed dependency relationships with the larger, more affluent North American church. The result is that, while never denying that these trips transform the lives of those who go and, on the surface, are accomplishing some worthy task such as a new roof on a church or a wonderful vacation Bible school, some of these trips also contribute to larger missiological problems which would not be evident by looking at the videos which accompany the group when they return home. This problem has been called, "doing harm by doing good." In other words, we send our short term teams out and undoubtedly accomplish many good things, but in the process may - in concert with dozens of other teams - be contributing harm by impeding the indigenous growth and initiative of the national church whom we are serving.

It is a fact that short-term mission trips often do not go to those places nor work among those peoples who most need long-term workers. This is often due to the cost difference between sending a group to Honduras, for example, as opposed to Istanbul. The growing disparity between where short-term mission trips are going and where our long-term mission commitments are directed is, in my view, an issue which every church should address.

Matt: Maybe this is a direct result of teams working with missionaries they are in relationship with, which is a good thing. This means the bigger question could have nothing to do with short-term mission, but rather where we are strategically placing our long-term missionaries. Perhaps a STM team would make it to Istanbul if we were sending long-termers there in the first place!

Agree? Disagree? Revolutionary thoughts?