Over the years I have met hundreds of people traveling on short-term mission trips. By the end of the trip, some of them became more interested or confident that they should return for long-term service. Others have come to the field confident, but at the end realized that overseas living was not for them. A short-term trip is helpful when making the decision to become a missionary or not, and helpful in selecting the ministry location, sending organization, and ministry assignment. How much better to find out your fit cross-culturally before quitting your job, selling everything, and moving overseas!
Ideas for effectively using a short-term trip to prepare for long-term service:
- Select a short-term project in an area of the world that either has the same people group, or a similar one, that you’re interested in living among.
- Lead a team. All the skills of organization, communication, and leadership are essential skills on the field. Leading a team is great preparation for long-term service. This also creates more momentum for your church to focus ministry on the unreached people group.
- Get extra time with missionary families, preferably several of them. If possible get into their homes and meet their families. See how they live… can you see yourself doing the same thing? Try to get time with people who will have a similar ministry assignment to the one you’re planning on doing.
- Ask them about their sending organizations. What are the distinctives of the organization, both good and challenging? Ask them about the reputation of other sending organizations that you are considering. Are you ok with the challenging elements of the sending organization and its reputation? Are there areas of investigation that you need to explore before making a final decision?
- For situations where missionaries are “not allowed,” ask those ministering there how they explain their residence in that country to the local people. I’ve seen a number of missionaries stressed out to the point of resigning because they couldn’t get used to their local identity; saying they were missionaries at home, but reporting they were businessmen or teachers when among their local friends on the field. Are you OK with not saying you are a missionary if someone asks?
- Get time with local believers and ask about the reputations of the sending organizations that you are considering. Is there anything from their answers that you need to follow-up on?
- Get a feel for how local people relate to those from your culture. Can you handle the extra stress that comes from the attention you will get from being a minority ethnically or religiously?
- After the trip, evaluate: Did I seem to thrive when I was there or was I so stressed that I barely survived? What did my teammates think? Did they observe that I thrived, or was I like a fish out of water? Would they recommend that I move toward returning to the field long-term?
How many trips are necessary? It usually only takes one or two. After that, the extra trips don’t give much new information, and you should have enough to decide. Don’t become a short-term missionary trip junkie that just takes “vision trips” and never makes a decision to “go for it”. If that is the case, maybe your focus should be a ministry based at home.
What are other advantages for missionary preparation that you think come from a short-term trips?
Other posts in this series: