I recently led a group of nine students and three other adults on a short-term missions trip. Over the next month or so I will be sharing several of the things that I believe are important to effective short-term cross-cultural experiences.
*Note: I will be intentionally vague about some of the details of the trip for privacy and protection purposes.
I believe that this particular trip was a very effective short-term, cross-cultural missions trip. Unfortunately, during my time in student ministry, I have heard of many trips that I would categorize as ineffective – or at least, not effective enough to be worth the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to pull it off.
The importance of VISION and PURPOSE
So what makes a trip effective? A clear vision and purpose! I believe you need to be able to clearly define a purpose (or multiple purposes) if a trip is going to be valuable. Often times we think of these purposes or goals being for the “receiving” side of the project OR for the “sent” side of the trip, but I believe the richest experiences have great benefit for both.
Here are a few examples of goals we had for this particular trip:
- To broaden our students’ Christian worldview (we want them to be “world Christians” not just “American Christians”).
- To push our students to consider the differences in service and leadership in cultures that are very different than theirs.
- To encourage missionaries who call our church “home”.
- To better connect our church with the missionaries they support.
- To encourage our students to consider whether God may be calling them into cross-cultural study, work or ministry in the future.
Different participants probably get more excited about different aspects of these goals. As the one responsible for the trip, I get jazzed about the big picture – that so much was accomplished in regards to the “senders”, the “sent”, and the “receivers”. I’m sure I’ll talk more about all of that in future posts!
As a matter of chat...
Have you ever taken a short-term missions trip? What was the purpose of the trip? Did it accomplish its purpose? How have you seen God change the lives of people who have gone on short-term