Ten ways to ruin short term mission trips

Unhealthy attitudes on short-term mission trips

Believe it or not, it's possible to have a bad short-term missions experience. Most times, this is not the fault of the situation or organization. Often, the root cause is the short-termer's own attitudes and expectations.

To maximize your short-term experience, AVOID doing the things on this Top Ten checklist:

  1. Keep narrowly focused on "spiritual" activities. Since you want to win people to Christ, focus on only the loftiest of things. Avoid menial work like data entry, loading trucks, or working on buildings. Such things will distract you from your primary task.
  2. To tighten up your schedule, eliminate personal prayer and Bible study. You will be so rushed away that you probably won't have time. Besides, can't you get all the spiritual food you need from group devotions and from church services?
  3. Stay organized and on schedule. Set detailed goals before you go. Establish schedules and refuse to deviate from them. Do not accept delays, last-minute changes, and impromptu visits and invitations. Those things will just keep you from getting things done for God.
  4. Help the missionaries by pointing out their mistakes. Bring them up to date on what you've heard are the latest trends in missions. Some missionaries are stubborn. So, you may need to enlist some support among the nationals for your views about how things should be run.
  5. Get involved romantically with someone. Being away from family and friends makes this the perfect time to get involved romantically. While it may distract you slightly from the work, you will be able to expose national Christians to America's progressive dating customs.
  6. Don't embarrass yourself by trying to pick up the local language. People are always saying that English is spoken all over the world. So, insist that those people use it with you.
  7. Immediately begin pointing out your team members' faults. Time is short. It will be difficult for people to make the needed changes if you don't help them right from the start. Focus your helpful criticisms on team leaders.
  8. As you go all out in warring against dangerous germs, don't eat any of the local food. To be sure, you may miss some friendly opportunities with "the natives," but you'll keep those awful germs at bay!
  9. Keep your distance from team members who couldn't raise their full support. They may try to mooch off you. Don't give in. Sweating over finances builds faith!
  10. When you return home, scold your home church and friends for their lack of commitment, for their weak prayers, and for their inadequate giving to missions. This may be one of the few times you will have their deferential respect. Make the most of it.

If you'll do all of these Top Ten things (or even some of them), I can promise you a bad short-term mission trip.

adapted from Commissioned, January/February/March 1995

Do people actually do the things on this list?
   Yes, they do. Recently, a friend wrote to me: "I had a woman on two of my trips who has consistently done 5 things on your list. Last year I actually prayed that she couldn't come. God answered my prayer."

One short-term mission leader makes his team members memorize this "mantra:"
No rights. No control. No power. Whenever. However. Wherever.

10 commandments for world travelers

Next"You shall not let other group members get on your nerves." [ read more ]

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Copyright © 2002 - Last Updated: April 13, 2014 | URL: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/ruin.htm

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