There are many concerns about short-term missions trips. Some argue that they are more harm than good. Many of the concerns are quite valid. But I will argue that such experiences are good when done right.
I understand the concerns. They include sending rich westerners to build something that takes away much needed work from workers in that community. The economic ramifications need to be thought through.
Another concern is about importing more western culture than gospel truth. Churches must not come in with a pompous attitude, attempting to displace what they see as an inferior culture.
Having said that, participating in short-term missions have been instrumental in my spiritual and ministry development. I wouldn’t be who I am without them.
My first mission trip was to London, England with Operation Mobilization. The emphasis was very much on discipleship development for the missionaries and in that it was very successful. We didn’t come to show the churches the best way to do things but to make ourselves available to what they wanted us to do.
My second trip was a part of a youth group going to Trinidad. It was a different context from my first one but like my time in London, we were there to help the local church with what they were already doing and not to tell them what to do. It was a great leadership experience for me.
Before planning or participating in a short-term mission trip, make sure to ask the purpose for the trip. Developing disciples on the team is a perfectly valid goal and is much needed. Of course it is good to help the people you are travelling to, but find out what they want and need rather than imposing your own agenda.
I believe there is still an important place for short-term missions. It just need to be done carefully.