Short-term missions - STM

"All mission trips have the same themes: Love the people; sweat. Love the people; spend money. Love the people; eat weird food. Love the people. —Dave Bucher, missionary to Saipan

Planning and preparing for a Christian mission trip . . . and enjoying a successful one

Short term mission experiences are those cross-cultural missionary assignments ranging from one week to up to two years.

From a handful of people who were involved annually a half century ago, short-term missions now draw more than a million Americans each year.1 Is this a good thing? What can you learn on a missions trip?

Why short-term missions? "I support short-term missions," says noted author Philip Yancey. "Despite their drawbacks, such trips provide two distinct cultures a taste of the harmony that exists between members of the Body of Christ." Mission trips also give prospective future missionaries a taste of life on the field.

Every organization has a title for its short term missions program. Within the Church of the Nazarene, for example, thousands of people go on one- to two-week "Work & Witness" trips which may be focused on construction projects or evangelism events or medical service. Two hundred or so people serve each year as Mission Corps volunteers in assignments ranging from 90 days to two years. (The old acronym NIVS stood for Nazarenes In Volunteer Service.)

You should prepare yourself spiritually, mentally and financially for your short term missions experience. Here are resources for your short term mission preparation.

Short term mission mobilization and recruiting

Some opportunities

Short term trip training: Preparing to go on an STM (short-term mission)

Raising money

Planning: Travel issues

Team and group dynamics: Being a short-term mission team member

Crossing cultural barriers

Spiritual preparation for short term missions

Coming home: re-entry

Practical issues

"Every mission trip I've ever taken has opened my eyes to the beauty and complexity of our world. I've always been challenged to re-think my life and my response to God's Kingdom." -- Marty Michelson


1Statistics for the Church of the Nazarene alone indicate that in a recent year almost 790 short-term Work & Witness mission teams had more than 10,000 participants who served from one to three weeks. That same year, there were almost 300 Nazarenes serving as Mission Corps volunteers from 21-90 days on mission fields and another 250 people serving from 91 to 365 days. In addition, there were nearly 500 Nazarene university students worldwide who gave part of their a summer to volunteer service in various cross- cultural missionary efforts around the world.

Links to Internet resources on short term missions

Printed STM resources

Nazarene Missions International has published a number of small paperback books on short term missions. In chronological order of date published, these include:

While most all of these are out-of-print, they can be obtained through used bookstores.

Macedonia: Summer ministry miracle

by Alissa Gilmore

With a miracle from God, the country of Macedonia and the New Student Institute (NSI) program became remarkably intertwined as a result of one student's summer ministry experience.

The miracle began more than a year ago when junior Nathan Holloway obeyed the call of God to apply for his second Youth in Mission trip. Macedonia had not been Nathan's first choice, but it became his destination.

Fundraising efforts for the $3,000 trip expense left him $1,500 short just three weeks before departure. Nathan's first miracle came a week later when he received the remaining funds. He left for the trip May 29, thanking God for His supply, and believing as well that his financial needs had also been taken care of for the upcoming fall school term, after his return.

When Nathan re-entered the U.S. July 29 after his service in Youth in Mission debriefing, he called home and discovered something different was unfolding. Sadly, finances for his schooling that coming year had not come together as expected. He still needed $5,000 to attend SNU in the fall.

Nathan began questioning his earlier decision to go to Macedonia instead of staying home to work all summer. He knew God wanted him at SNU, and he had felt sure that God had wanted him in Macedonia. It was time for the second part of the miracle.

Nathan had been accepted early in the spring semester of that year to serve as a NSI mentor for incoming freshmen in the upcoming fall semester. When he now began to worry about finding the money to go back to school, he went to Kathy Lebsack, the SNU mentor-to-the-mentors, to submit his resignation from NSI leadership.

"I believe the Lord wanted you to go to Macedonia, and He's going to work out everything else," Kathy told Nathan.

She would not accept his resignation, allowing Nathan more time to see how God would work things out. And, God's hand could be seen in the way things worked out. Though Nathan's school bill was not completely paid, he was able to return to school with a commitment to work to pay for the rest, and decided to follow through on being an NSI mentor and help incoming freshmen with their adjustments to university life.

To make Nathan's miracle complete, Nathan saw on the list of freshmen in his group the name Nikolce Gjoreski. Nikolce was a new student from (where else?) Macedonia. Only God could have brought these two together along converging paths that had been filled with obstacles and, more importantly, with the miracles of God.

Photo of
Nathan and his Youth in Mission team members

Nathan Holloway (front right) in Macedonia with Youth in Mission team members

from an issue of Southern Light, an alumni publication of Southern Nazarene University. Used by permission.

Interested in long-term missions service?

next Short term mission service is one component of how the church works to complete the Great Commission. However, the planting of clusters of churches and the development, nurturing and mentoring of local leaders is usually done most effectively by a career, long-term missionary force. [ more ]


Parable: Society for the Picking of Apples     10/40 Window explanation and map     Seeking God's will?     African martyr's commitment     Praying for missionaries     PowerPoint presentations     John Wesley's self-examination questions    Nazarene Missions International resources