The number of people who take part in short-term missions projects has exploded in the last two decades. One recent survey indicated that 41% of all 15-20 year-olds have been on a mission trip. The number of people from the USA who go on short-term missions projects is now well over one million per year.
In Effective Engagement, the editor combines the work of twenty-five contributors to explore how short-term mission teams develop strategy, partner with field organizations, train team members, and in other ways improve their effectiveness. Specialized chapters refer to medical missions, involving children, urban projects, working with business professionals, and legal issues surrounding short-term mission project.
Some other insights from the book:
- While the number of people involved in short-term mission projects is skyrocketing, the number of US citizens serving as missionaries for 1-4 years is declining, and the number of long-term missionaries is only slightly increasing. The interest in missions generated by the huge number of short-term mission projects is not resulting in increased long-term missionaries.
- To be effective, short-term projects should EITHER be project focused and recognize that short-term team members can not develop significant personal relationships in a short time OR they should be relationship oriented and actively stay connected after the trip and return often to work with the same people. The ineffective projects are ones that assume that close relationships can be built cross-culturally in a short amount of time. Sadly, many short-term projects are in this category.
- The strategic ministry value of short-term projects is often diminished because the projects are designed around the needs of the sending congregation or their own members and not the strategic needs on the field.
- A common conception is that short-term projects are a vehicle to recruit long-term workers, but the evidence reveals that some people use short-term project involvement as substitute for long-term commitment. Instead of increasing the number of long-term missionaries, short-term projects may actually decrease the number.
- The notion that short-term mission trips are effective tools to help people grow spiritually has NOT been shown to be true by several research projects. It seems that soon after participating in a short-term project, people practice their faith nearly the same way as before the project.
The book is helpful and worth reading. Because it is a compilation of twenty-five contributors, at times it seemed more disjointed than integrated. Its 600+ pages could have easily been reduced without lowering the quality of the book.