Emphasizing missions and evangelism has become a recent trend in modern Christianity.
While these are both great things and basic foundations of the Christian faith, mission trips often become more about the people serving than the people being served.
So why do Christians go on short term missions trips?
It is easy for evangelical purposes to become intertwined with a person’s own reasons for attending. Even reasons that might be good in other contexts, such as wanting to be in touch with the world or growing closer to God, are not always beneficial to the missions field.
The purpose of a mission is to make Jesus known and help those in need.
The goal should be long-term change, not a week of help that’s great while it lasts but doesn’t leave behind any sort of support system.
If the purpose of these trips is for American students to experience true poverty and a deeper awareness of God, then short term missions are a great option. But if the purpose is to enact true change and create sustainable solutions, then a one week mission trip just isn’t going to cut it.
Students raise hundreds and thousands of dollars for mission trips to foreign countries, when this same amount of money could be used to feed multiple children for an entire year. A far better and more sustainable solution is to put money to use in organizations that already have an established strategy and focus, or local missionaries who are already invested in these communities.
If nothing else, churches and other groups need to reevaluate what their goal is in sending students around the globe. There is no doubt that good can come from these trips, but if the goal is to use resources efficiently and stretch a dollar as far as possible, then there are far better solutions than brief missions trips. Money raised for the less fortunate should not be frivolously spent on “mission” trips that are really nothing more than glorified vacations.
Students don’t need to go to Russia or Africa to feed the hungry or clothe the poor. They can go across town, or even down the street. Poverty, hunger and abuse are everywhere. To create long term solutions to the world’s major problems, short term missions should be shelved in favor of sustainable options.